February 5, 2019
The difference between structure and content in a movie, and in design
As a graphic designer, my main interest is structure, not content. That is, if you ask me to design an ad, it doesn't matter if it's for puppy food or pineapples, what matters to me is the structure - which would be things like the exact size, whether it needs to have a photo or an illustration, what fonts I should use. And this is typical of designers, which is why it doesn't really matter what the content is, we can design for anything. Need a brochure to sell penguin hats? I can do that? What? You meant to say purple tigers? No problem, I can do that, too!
I'm that way about most things. When I look at a poster I see the fonts, the colors, that sort of thing. It really doesn't matter to me what the content is, it could be for blue jeans, or lipstick. Yes, I get a lot of enjoyment walking around malls! But oddly enough, when it comes to movies, I tend to look at content, not structure. That seems strange, but that's just the way I am.
The structure of a movie is all about things like: the actors who are in it, the music, the scenery, that sort of thing. The content is what the movie is about, for example if it's a mystery story, or a romantic comedy. And that's why I often draw blank looks from people when I'm asked about a particular movie that I like. I can rarely remember the names of the actors, or whether the animation was done by Pixar, or Dreamworks, or whatever. I will often use the name of the characters instead of the name of actors when I'm describing it.
I've seen a lot of movies, and usually when I describe them, I'm describing content, not structure. I really don't know enough about how movies are made, acted, and have music put to them to be all that observant. I know people who have a tremendous expertise in this, and they can not only name all of the actors, but what other roles those particular actors were in. They may even know the name of the composer of the music, or the director. These people can often describe to me how something was done, whether it's CGI, or as in the case of the original Jurassic Park, puppets (that one surprised me!). I'll often go onto the Internet Movie Database and look up this kind of stuff, because even for me it's fun to know.
Most of the people that I've ever known have seen mostly the structure of movies, not the content. That is, for them a movie is a movie, whether it's Snow White or Dracula. You sit in a theater, and eat popcorn. When someone says that they don't like John Wayne movies, I will often ask if they had seen "The Searchers", to which I am immediately told that it's a John Wayne movie. And structurally it is. And if that's all that they see, my insisting that the content is different will just make no sense to them.
So that's content and structure. If you see me in an art museum I'll be looking at structure - brush strokes, that sort of thing. If you see me watching a movie, I'll be looking at content. Being able to see both is a project that I've been working on my whole life, and will continue to work on that.
Posted by Brad Hall