Akiko Stehrenberger on Her Famed Illustrated Movie Posters, From Funny Games to Dune

Plus, 'Laura Hasn't Slept' and having more room to play in poster design

Akiko Stehrenberger is a 15-time Clio Entertainment Award-winning movie poster illustrator and designer who works with directors and movie studios, as well as movie and advertising agencies respectively.

Stehrenberger was deemed the "Poster Girl" by Interview magazine a decade ago, and that title has only become more apt since. Vanity Fair included her posters for Funny Games and Kiss of the Damned in its list of best movie posters of all time. Her poster for Da 5 Bloods is on view at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and her book is available at the museum's curated gift shop.

Stehrenberger studied illustration and design at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. She lives and works in Los Angeles. Be sure to catch Stehrenberger's new solo exhibition, "Made of All This," at the Show Gallery in Los Angeles. 

We spoke with Akiko for our Backstory series, where we chat with folks in the entertainment industry about their creative inspirations and more.

Akiko, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I moved around my whole life in different parts of California, but Los Angeles is where I lived the longest and continue to live.

Your first job in the industry.

I started out as a junior designer for Crew Creative Advertising Agency, with zero experience other than being a freelance editorial illustrator.

A breakthrough moment in your career.

My Funny Games poster changed the course of my career forever. It was also the first time I did an illustration digitally!

Three movies you couldn't do without.

Welcome to the Dollhouse, Rushmore and Step Brothers. Welcome to the Dollhouse and Rushmore solidified my love for indie films at a young age. I can watch them over and over. With Step Brothers, I'm pretty sure I have every line memorized.

Your favorite movie quote.

"Did we just become best friends?" —Will Ferrell as Brennan Huff in Step Brothers.

Your favorite movie trailer or poster.

Oh wow! This changes every week! I think in general my favorite movie posters will always be anything Polish!

A classic TV show and a recent TV show that you loved.

I grew up on The Three Stooges, so I'll never tire of slapstick. As for recent shows, I really love HBO's Barry, Netflix's Living With Yourself, and can't wait for the new season of Tiger King.

A recent project you're proud of.

I was really happy when Mondo hired me to do a Dune poster. Originally I was a bit intimidated, but once I knew other artists were also making Dune posters for them, I knew I could be less responsible with my creative choices, and wanted to go away from what would be expected for the film.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

I really love Laura Hasn't Slept, designed by Olivier Courbet. It's so simple, clever and I wish I did it!

One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.

I love how with posters being seen now in so many different areas—online, IG, streaming—there's more room to play! This also means there is more room for illustration because now just one poster doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting. 

What would you be doing if you weren't in entertainment marketing.

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd be sculpting in a cabin in the woods with my 4-year-old, permanently in my PJs, and Postmating sushi and In-N-Out.

Backstory is a weekly Muse series, publishing on Fridays, where we chat with folks in entertainment marketing about their creative inspirations, favorite movies, video games, trailers, posters and more. To learn more about Backstory or our Clio Entertainment program, please get in touch.

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