I tracked down that artist himself, Stuart Manning and asked him all about how he comes up with these and where can my lil Whovian hands on one.
How/When did you first get into designing?
My background is magazine design, where I’ve worked for the last 10 years, at both Doctor Who Magazine and Radio Times. These days I’m a full-time freelancer and trying to shift more into general illustration rather than layout.
What drew you to designing Doctor Who posters?
I’ve always liked retro design, particularly stuff from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Much like early Doctor Who, there’s a sense of fun and directness that comes from that typical pulp combination of high enthusiasm and naivety. compared to a lot of the affected coolness of modern design, I find that very appealing, plus it allows one to create less literal images. Often, someone striking a pose in front of a Photoshop explosion is, by its nature, fairly absurd, no matter how well executed – I’ve done my fair share of those images over the years too. When I occasionally posted retro-styled pieces online, I noticed that they tended to get noticed more than my straightforward work, and with some encouragement from colleagues from Radio Times, the idea of creating posters to tie in with new Doctor Who episodes took shape.
What do you about Doctor Who? Who is your favourite Doctor?
Doctor Who is a great stimulator of imagination. More than any other TV show, it encourages people to be creative, and I think the trajectory of my life would have been very different without it.
Creatively speaking, Doctor Who lends itself to any style – it can be funny or serious, modern or retro. Compared to most TV formats, the restrictions are non-existent.
My favourite Doctor is probably Jon Pertwee, He was the first one I watched and I still think he’s great. He the first actor to play the Doctor unequivocally as a hero and to make the character dynamic and cool.
Not many action heroes can pull off a grey bouffant, a ruffled shirt and an Inverness cape, but Pertwee makes it look like the most natural thing in the world. The Green Death is the blueprint for so much modern Doctor Who – a human drama with relationships at its heart, social conscience and looming monsters. I love it.
How do you come up with your designs?
Unlike most Doctor Who design and branding, my posters tend to depend on a combination of words and pictures. That relationship is a big part of their impact – as standaloneimages, they tend not to really work. I think that comes from my magazine background – I just find it more natural to work that way. So usually I start with the episode title and try to think of treatments that reflect that, or ways to express it visually. Often that requires a degrees of lateral thinking, as ideally you want something that fits the episode but isn’t immediately obvious. For example, The Magician’s Apprentice ended up being somewhere between a playing card and a music gig poster. That was taking the magician bit a little literally, but it gave me a way into what was otherwise a rather enigmatic episode. Something like The Zygon Inversion was less conscious. I drew a version of the Osgood Box in vectors, not necessarily knowing how I might incorporate it, but thinking it would be useful. The whole time I had a slight sense that it reminded me of something, but couldn’t place it. Then, trying to make it look more interesting on the page, I turned it on its side and suddenly saw the Tom Baker diamond-shaped Doctor Who logo looking back at me. Bingo!
** Check out Stuart’s posters so far.. wow!!! **
How are they created?
The work is almost entirely digital , primarily done in Photoshop, with the typography usually created using Indesign. The images themselves are built up from manipulated photography, combined with hand drawn or adapted elements.
A lot of the retro ‘look’ comes from using a restricted colour palette, so I tend to work initially in black and white and shades of grey, adding the colour further down the line. I seem to have settled into working that way, and I find it helps me concentrate on the composition and overall image better, preventing things from getting too fussy.
Finally, to give the designs a more analogue, lo-fi look, I’ll overlay old paper textures and blemishes, and sometimes round edges of the fonts to make them look less precise and digital. It’s usually a case of pushing the image about seeing what feels right.
How long does each one take to complete?
One average, each poster takes about a day – sometimes more, sometimes less. If I have a clear immediate idea. I’ll do a sketch and something might come together pretty quickly, but sometimes it’s a case of trying a lot of stuff out and waiting for an idea to emerge.
When the posters started gaining a little momentum online, I remember being a little worried that the BBC wouldn’t look too kindly on someone effectively presenting their very glossy re-launched series in a way that could be seen as tongue-in-cheek or just a bit old-fashioned and tatty. But one of the great things about social media is that it allows you to there like never before, so you can connect with thousands of people by sending a singly tweet.
The posters for Series Eight were picked up for marketing as licensed limited edition prints and Silva Screen included a booklet of them with last year’s soundtrack release.
I’ve had some very generous feedback from actors, writers and directors from the series – Steven Moffatt sent a message to say how much he liked them and others have framed copies in their homes or offices as souvenirs.
That really blows me away – to have people display your work is a very sincere compliment. It’s great to do anything that connects with an audience and fortunately people generally seemed to get the joke and take the work in the spirit it was intended.
Are you designs available for sale anywhere?
The entire Doctor Who poster series is available as limited edition printed from Big Chief Studios:
Thank you so much Stuart for your insight into your awesome Doctor Who illustrations. I may just have to order myself one of your prints.
You can follow Stuart (and his artwork) on: