So Much Tenderness
Poster and title design for feature film
Role: Graphic Designer, Title Designer (Opening and Closing Credits)
This project is part of an ongoing, working relationship with filmmakers Lina Rodriguez and Brad Deane, and their production company, Rayon Verde. Jump to the bottom to explore other projects from this collaboration.
So Much Tenderness is a Canadian drama film released in 2022. The film stars Noëlle Schönwald as Aurora, an environmental lawyer, who having fled Colombia after her husband was murdered, rebuilds her life in Toronto with her tempestuous daughter (Natalia Aranguren), only to risk losing everything when her traumatic past re-surfaces.
Though both Lina and Brad live in Toronto, this was their first project that would be set and filmed in Canada.
My work on So Much Tenderness was focused on two key areas of the film's design:
Part One: The Credits
So Much Tenderness was filmed in the spring of 2020, and by mid-summer — once a preliminary edit was complete — we had begun work on the credits for the film.
Lina had a very strong vision of how she wanted the opening credits to function. She wanted the opening titles to sit over top of some footage from the film, so that viewers could see the footage through the credits themselves, but not quite enough to decipher it
For this to work, we would need to use a typeface with letterforms that had enough interior space to create that 'window' for the viewer to see through.
Which meant typographically we had to go in a very different direction that where I would have instinctively gone (tenderness = thin letterforms).
I immediately pictured the opening title being massive, all caps text that occupied as much of the frame as possible.
However, this was sure to feel quite the opposite of tender, so I tried a number of others with varying weights, alignments, sizes, just to see the different feelings created by each variation.
After a lot of trials, I sent a number of examples to Lina and Brad to see how they felt.
Lina and Brad gravitated toward three of the examples: Akzidenz‑Grotesk (hard, impactful), HWT Artz (soft), and Rift Soft (almost exactly between those poles).
Based on their feedback, I tried a bunch more explorations: I redid the tests with their preferred typefaces, plus another half-dozen variations that I felt could function similarly to those three.
That second round of tests led to a few more rounds, until eventually we had winnowed it down to one option (Hallo Euroboy). At this point I handed things off to the filmmakers and visual effects artist Alex Cananzi who worked to adjust the timing and colouring of these credits integrated seamlessly into the opening of the film.
We then began work on the film's closing credits. We tried countless colours, gradients and textures before ultimately settling on the idea of repeating the visual from the beginning of the film (text overlayed on the film itself).
After I completed the layout of the text, Alex Cananzi developed some new footage to go 'under' the text which would work with the various sizes of type required for the full complement of credits.
This is a brief clip of the final credits (without music).
Part Two: The Poster and Promotional Materials
During the film's production, on-set photographer Jeff Chiu had taken many stunning shots, but when reviewing them in search of poster ideas, the filmmakers and I agreed there was one that stood out: an arresting photo of the film's main character, Aurora. In the photos Aurora has head on a man's chest as she looks intensely at the viewer — and all of this is framed by a beautiful lens flare.
As soon as the credits were complete, I began work on So Much Tenderness's key artwork, which would be used to create marketing material including the film's poster, press kits, social media promotions and more.
In my work with Rayon Verde there is often an image that I prefer or think will work better than others, but to test this theory I usually try a handful of different images in my initial concepts. However, for all the poster concepts I put together for So Much Tenderness, I never experimented with any images other than this photo by Jeff.
Instead the challenge here was to find a layout and typography that would do justice to both Lina's beautiful film and Jeff's beautiful photo, while conveying some of the spirit of the film. Luckily, Jeff's photo already had a lot of the film's spirit baked into it.
From the outset I was confident I would use the negative space beside Noelle's face to house the poster's necessary text, but I still wanted to experiment with some other options.
In this first round of mockups I tried a handful of half-cocked ideas — many of which completely undermine the power of the original photo — but it was pretty clear to both me and the filmmakers that the strongest direction was to use the geography beside the face.
It was a short hop from deciding on this location to determining a preferred layout for the text.
Once the general text layout was set, it was time to explore different typefaces and colour combinations. HWT Artz, which we had used for the credits, was inappropriate here and something softer was in order. This stage actually took quite a while: I tried a lot of very subtly different font and colour choices, and over many conversations, the filmmakers and I slowly hemmed in on a grotesk sans serif named Acumin Pro.
Somewhere during those conversations, I had the idea to borrow the image-within-text technique from the opening credits, and used the film's title as a 'container' for a close crop of Noëlle Schönwald's eyes.
Lina, Brad and I all agreed this was a great option to keep the poster 'soft', but it took quite a while for us to find a balance between that lightness and legibility (so audiences could actually read the film's title!)
And with that the poster was completed!
When the time came for audiences to see the film, I worked with the filmmakers to develop press and marketing materials, including a postcard, press kit and social media assets.