Portraits trilogy Project cover

The sto Shleep Kit Image ry of Portraits Trilogy

06 / 15

A 2021 Project

  • Illustration
  • Poster Design

Case Study


The Challenges

The project aims to design promotional posters that capture the essence of the abstract and captivating operas in The Portrait Trilogy, created by renowned American minimalist composer Philip Glass. Each opera in the series, namely Satyagraha, Akhnaten, and Einstein on the Beach, portrays the lives of historically significant figures who have made profound impacts in the realms of politics, religion, and science. The posters will strive to visually convey the essence and intrigue of these operatic works.

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Project Goals

  • Visualising Sound

    This project utilize Processing to visualize the soundtrack of each of the opera to create unique graphic pattern. These are the central elements of these compositions.

  • Poetic Rhythms

    Glass is know for his repeating and pulsing atonal sound that echoes and transform over time. The composition should reflect this pattern in the music.

  • Lyrically Dense

    Each opera's libretto reflects the ideology and cultural context of each historical figures. Each poster should embrace these lyrical and apply them to the composition and creating layered meanings.

Goal Targets

The journey

The process

The design process started with researching each piece of work carefully. Phillip Glass is known for his meditative and hypnotic patterns that sounds abstract mathematically experimental.

The typography of the series is also mainly inspired by movie posters of the 70s, the period of time where most of the Portrait trilogy was composed in. A serif typeface was tell a story that is classic and timeless.

The color dark scheme is inspired by sci-fi book covers. This is to reminds the viewer of the epic journeys that these historic figures went through, as well as the romantic soundscape of each of the operas.

Book back cover
Book back cover

Akhnaten tells the story of the forgotten Egyptian Pharaoh Akhnaten and his religious conviction. The three-act opera tells the story of how Akhnaten rise to power and his vision of a monotheistic religion worshipping the Sun God. The poster layout's echoes the triangular shape of a pyramid and focus the composition on the circular form of the radiating sun. One of the opera's most signature scene (by the MET production) —featuring the pharaoh ascending on a stair in communion with his god-is also represented in the poster. As his act defies the priesthood of Egypt, his name is cross out from the tombs of ancient Egypt, which is also reflected in the typography of the tile in the poster.

Book back cover

Satyagraha is the journey of one Mahatma Gandhi and his influential political movement that eventually led to the liberation of India. The poster reflects the cultural context of these events: from the three thousand different social castes that divide India's cultural and social landscape, to the influence of imperial Britain cascading to the complex layers of society. This is represented by the three concentric rings in the composition. The opera also employ liberal use of puppetry and hanging props, which is reflected by the many string-like strokes that span across the composition.

Book back cover
Book back cover
Book back cover

Einstein on the Beach is the first piece of the Portrait trilogy that Glass wrote. This four-hour long opera reflect on the lives of genius physicist Albert Einstein and his contribution to the science. The poster reflect this very abstract and non-linear narrative by using a circular motifs that appear in one of the last scenes in the opera. The two main rectangular elements not only echo one the most signature scene in the opera. They also symbolise the two atomic bombs that dropped on Japan by the U.S, which is an important motif in the staging of the opera. The typography also play with this idea of the two diagonal strokes with diagonal italic text elements and thin strokes that are sprinkled throughout the typographic lock-up.

Portraits trilogy Posters mockup

The Conclusion

This project was a lot of fun for me as it offered me the chance to experiment with Processing and Illustration. I am really pleased with end result as the Portrait trilogy is one of my favorite collection of music and theatric staging.

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