Kubrick – Inspiration from the master filmmaker

Lessons on craft from the Design Museum’s Stanley Kubrick Exhibition

Design | 5 minutes read | Gary McIlwaine

Kubrick – Inspiration from the master filmmaker
Kubrick – Inspiration from the master filmmaker

Whether you’re familiar with Kubrick’s work or not, this exhibition offers plenty of insight into filmmaking and the creative process in general.


For starters, we were struck at how each of his films has a distinct look and style. Cinematography, costumes, sets, soundtracks – each element contributes to a consistent whole. 

Even the film posters, especially the wordmark, reflect something about the world of each film. Barry Lyndon’s extravagant flourishes.The popping eye of Clockwork Orange. The rigid angles of Full Metal Jacket. Many have become iconic references for designers today. Often copied, seldom bettered.


Kubrick Wordmarks


On top of the typographic delights, three things resonated from Kubrick’s approach and process.  

Meticulous detail

The extent of research and planning was impressive. Fully laden box files. Annotated books. Drawings, models and shot lists. Even specially made candles with three wicks (to burn bright enough to light the set). The extent of Kubrick’s research and planning is impressive.

One definition of design is to plan. In this sense Kubrick reminds us of one of our core tasks as designers – be prepared and think ahead.  

Barry Lyndon Candles

Ruthless editing

Even with so much research and planning behind every shot, Kubrick captured hours of footage. For him, editing was as ‘creative’ as other parts of the process: 

‘When I’m editing, I’m only concerned with the questions of “is it good or bad?”, “Is it necessary?”, “Can I get rid of it?”, “Does it work”. I am never concerned with how much difficulty there was to shoot something, how much it cost, and so forth’

‘When you’re editing, you want to get rid of everything thing isn’t essential’

At Sparks, we’re big on simplifying well. Kubrick was a master at this. 

Editing machine


Spirited collaboration

The joys and perils of working with Kubrick have become the stuff of legend. But filmmaking is a collective effort, and he couldn’t have created such films on his own. Collaborators and partners are credited throughout the exhibition. 

It’s clear that Kubrick had vision and ambition, but in such a way that inspired and provoked others to push their craft to new levels. Like a good client, he was aware that he couldn’t do everything and needed the expertise of others to bring his vision to life.

letter to IBM


The exhibition runs until 15th September. It’s riveting stuff. You’ll need at least two hours to see all the clips and get full enjoyment from it. 

Go on, be inspired by a master of his craft.

Stanley Kubrick at the Design Museum


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