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Matt Ferguson Talks Poster Designing for Marvel, Star Wars, Transformers & More

Today sees the launch of TF Nation, Europe’s largest convention for Transformers fans, so it’s fitting that on today’s Engaging Marketeer Podcast, I’m interviewing Matt Ferguson.

Matt’s an amazing designer of posters that you may well have seen, especially if you’re a fan of the animated Transformers films, but he’s also designed posters for Marvel, Star Wars, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Halloween, Flash Gordon and Escape From New York. I’m going to be talking to Matt about how he got into this industry and what processes he uses to create these iconic works of art.

Check out the podcast in full, and listen out for these highlights:

Matt on his first memories of art

Darren: For a living you’re effectively doing what many people would dream of being able to do. What were you doing as a as a child when you were in school and when you first started art?

Matt: I just like drawing, so I guess my early memories of school was art. I didn’t really do very well in class, but I did use to teach a lot of other kids how to draw [Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles! I always had a sort of thing about drawing things that I liked.

Darren: So in school, were you not considered good art in your class?

Matt: Not really, I failed GCSE and A Level! But I always wanted to do it because I like drawing, so I saw it as an excuse to make pictures and stuff. At school you’ve got to kind of show your working to get a grade and I’ve never been one for that.

…on moving into digital art

Darren: When you made the transition into digital, I imagine that was a big thing for you?

Matt: It was, because I started out doing it more as a hobby editing computer games and stuff so changing textures in video games, then that led on to doing posters because you learn these techniques on how to make things inside Photoshop because people think Photoshop is like editing a photo, but you can actually draw and paint and use it much more organically, so you can build things within motion if you’ve got the talents.

Yeah, Photoshop can do great things but you still need to be able to draw!

Yeah, it’s not the tools it’s the person. If people think Photoshop’s cheating, it isn’t. There’s no rules – it’s just what the end product looks like. If it looks good it doesn’t matter how you made it.

…on getting his first professional work

Darren: So how did you manage to get your first professional commissioned work for posters?

Matt: That was through Marvel. I did an Avengers picture for fun and I put it online – it’d be 2011 or 2012 – and they just saw it and I guess liked it, so then hired me to make more posters.

Simple as that?

Matt: Yeah, I was really lucky! I was just in the right place at the right time.

Darren: I’ve interviewed quite a few people who’ve had stories where they were in the right place at the right time, but obviously you still need to be able to put the work in and have that talent to have that luck.

Matt: I still had to make the picture, obviously, but I think a lot of the way things have gone have helped. Back in the old days I’m assuming you would have needed an agent and credentials to get your foot in the door, but since the advent of social media it’s changed. It got seen by the film studio on social media, so it’s kind different nowadays – you can get noticed. Plus I can work from here in England, I don’t have to live in America or anything like that!

…on his influences

Matt: Bob Peak is a huge influence on me – he was a poster designer who painted a lot of really classic posters, my favourite being the Star Trek motion picture poster.

Darren: Oh, with the coloured lights coming down?

Matt: Yeah, which actually is an influence on the WandaVision poster composition and also the colours – I wanted that rainbow effect. There was another poster artist called John Alvin and he did some really good posters, like the E.T. poster and Empire of the Sun. He was quite graphic and very influential on me. I suppose I didn’t know who these people were – I just saw the posters as a kid and they had influenced me. As I’ve got older and people have given me art books and stuff with them in, I’m like “oh, it’s that person who did half of my favourite posters!” So then I know their name.

Darren: Definitely, and there’ll be kids out there now realising who you are and how you’ve done most of their favourite posters!

…on Transformers

Darren: One thing we have to talk about is Transformers. You are a big Transformers fan, aren’t you, and you got to work on Transformers posters as well?

Matt: Yeah, I did a bunch of work for the 35th anniversary of Transformers: The Movie, so that’s like my entryway into Transformers. My older brothers had the toys and watched the cartoons, and I never really liked the cartoons that much, but when the movie came out we rented that video every week for years and I know it off by heart. So the film is the thing I like best about Transformers.

Darren: What was it like working with Transformers?

Matt: The Hasbro people were good. There were just a few times where I was going on a really deep dive into things for the film and they were a bit like “I’m not sure”. I was obsessed with having Hot Rod fishing on it and I think they wanted something a bit more action-packed, so it’s that sort of back and forth because they’re trying to sell it to people and I just sort of did my dream Transformers pictures!

…on current projects

What projects have you got lined up that you’re going to be working on next?

Matt: A couple of Marvel projects. I’m working on some new Blu-ray stuff that’s going to have posters with it, as well for some biggish movies. I’ve got a Blu-ray coming out for another old ‘80s movie that I love as well.

Darren: So you can’t tell us any of these?

Matt: No, sorry. NDA!

Absolutely gutted!

…on films and TV he would lose to work on

Matt: I want to do Star Trek. There was the new ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ Directors Edition 4K UHD Remastered – a bit of a mouthful! – and I really wanted to work for that to the point where I was shouting on Twitter at random Star Trek people! I didn’t get that one sadly, but that’s not to say I won’t get it in the future when they do another 4K or 8K!

…on how to get into the industry

Darren: Have you got any advice for anybody who’s in the position you were in back when you started and how they could actually get into this industry?

Matt: It’s kind of impossible to give advice because everybody’s experience is different. The only real advice I can give without knowing people’s individual skills is to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to try stuff and be a bit cheeky in a way – just ask for it!

Matt says the best way to get in touch with him is via his Twitter account @Cakes_Comics. He admits he’s much more likely to reply if you drop his handle in a public tweet than if you DM him! He’ll also be at TF Nation in Birmingham this weekend if you’re going.

For more interviews and tips from high achievers, be sure to subscribe to the Engaging Marketeer Podcast on your platform of choice.

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