Movie Poster of the Week: “Atlantic City” and the Letter Forms of Gerard Huerta

The movie poster work of the man responsible for the typographic look of heavy metal.
Adrian Curry

One of my favorite contemporary designers is Jessica Hische, a lettering artist whose best known movie poster work is her typeface design for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. Hische is a prodigiously talented and endlessly inventive artist who has brought renewed recognition to the art of lettering and whose covers for Barnes and Noble Classics and Penguin Drop Caps are gorgeous. I mention this because I recently discovered the poster work of another extraordinary letterform artist from an earlier era, via this magnificent poster for Louis Malle’s Atlantic City.

Gerard Huerta is a letterform and logo designer who got his start with CBS Records in the early 70s where he created album covers and logos for Boston, Ted Nugent, Rick Derringer, Bob Dylan and many others. His greatest claim to fame might be that he forged the “look” of heavy metal typography with his logo for Blue Öyster Cult in 1975. As he recounted in a 2012 interview with Smashing Interviews Magazine, while designing the type for their live album On Your Feet Or on Your Knees, the cover of which featured a black Cadillac in front of a church, Huerta had the idea of using Bible-style lettering rendered like a bevelled-edged metallic automobile logo. He refined the idea two years later with his lightning bolt logo for AC/DC which the band has used ever since. Over the years he has also designed corporate logos for Nabisco, HBO, Pepsi, Spelling Entertainment, Calvin Klein as well as the mastheads of numerous magazines. He also designs watch faces for Swiss Army and illustrates vintage electric guitars in his spare time.

Huerta’s movie poster work seems to be limited to five posters, with his 1980 poster for Atlantic City being his masterpiece. For 25 years Heurta shared a studio with illustrator Roger Huyssen and they collaborated whenever possible. Though his signature is not on the poster, I’m guessing that Huyssen illustrated the figures of Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, as well as the car, while Huerta designed the title treatment. Based on the swoops and circles of the iconic Loop-the-Loop roller coaster which existed on the Atlantic City boardwalk at the turn of the century, Huerta’s beautifully symmetrical design reimagines the film’s title as dazzling neon-lit signage illuminating the otherwise black-as-night poster field.

Huerta and Huyssen worked together even more closely on the one sheet for Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy—art directed by the great Bill Gold—that same year. This time both artists have their signatures on the poster, Huerta’s on the bottom left of the poster within the poster. Huerta designed the lettering—based on 1880s style circus posters—for both the poster and the film itself (the Bronco Billy logo appears on Eastwood’s truck).

In 1984 Huerta designed the poster for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock for which he “logoized” Mr. Spock’s face with bevelled edges reminiscent of his hard rock logotypes.

And he also designed two poster title treatments, for Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) and Friday the 13th Part III (1984).

Below are the two album covers Huerta designed for AC/DC in 1976 and 1977, which led to the logo which Huerta has described as “Gutenberg Bible-inspired lettering... with a bit of a rock twist.”

A self-portrait of Heurta in “Spencerian-style” calligraphy:

And a calling card he created for his own work:

You can see more of Heurta’s work on his website and I recommend everybody interested in lettering design to visit Jessica Hische’s website and pick up a copy of her remarkable book In Progress.

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Movie Poster of the WeekGerard HuertaLouis MalleClint EastwoodColumns
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