A Celebration of PIFF Posters

Along with each year’s films, many people look forward to the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) poster, which sets a mood for the discovery to come. For 20 years, Portland designer Steve Sandstrom has created the posters, often collaborating with such internationally known artists as Philippe Lardy, Josh Gosfield, Amy Guip, Mark Hooper, Jeff Foster, Leigh Wells, and Ken Orvidas.

As the Film Center celebrates its 40th anniversary, it seemed fitting to ask Sandstrom to pick out a few of his favorites and tell us what he likes about each one.

By Steve Sandstrom Sandstrom Design

Some of the festival posters have been created by other designers at Sandstrom Design, but of mine, a favorite remains the 20th, which was inspired by Russian avant-garde design. The three black and white photo elements were reproduced from Polaroid prints by photographer Mark Hooper. The eyeball is actually mine.

This poster for PIFF 26 features a paper sculpture made from a map of the world that’s formed into a rose—a single object to represent both the city and the world— simple and powerful.
Another execution that is simple and powerful is the cup of coffee with the foam on top forming the continents of the world. This poster so impressed one man that he tracked me down and called me to say how clever he thought it was.

I’m usually a fan of the single, strong concept. However, some of the illustrative posters have been stylishly abstract, bizarre, and complex. Colin Johnson’s painting for the 30th is crazy and fantastic. I’m not sure where Colin’s inspiration comes from, but it’s hard to pass by this poster without stopping to explore its detail and humor.PIFF_28

While creating this year’s poster I was reminded of the graphic strength of posters from the early ‘60s, especially those of Paul Rand and Saul Bass. And it made me think how repetitive and predictable the majority of Hollywood movie posters are. I can’t imagine Hitchcock approving of anything like that.

This year’s Portland International Film Festival runs February 9-25, 2012. For information on passes, tickets, schedules, parties, and more, visit nwfilm.org, pick up a schedule at the Film Center, the Museum, or call the Film Center at 503-221-1156. Programs will not be available until the end of January, tickets on sale beginning February.

PIFF_30The Portland International Film Festival is sponsored by The Oregonian, LAIKA, The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Alaska Airlines, Wieden+Kennedy, The Rose. Tucker Charitable Trust, and many others.


  1. […] the grey winter doldrums of Portland for 35 years now. PIFF recently asked Steve Sandstrom to talk about his favorite posters: Some of the festival posters have been created by other designers at Sandstrom Design, but of […]

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