The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at
The latest content and news from the Barbican. Book tickets at

Designing Cheap Thrills

From an eyebrow raising Divine to a shimmying Liz Taylor, you may have noticed some rather ‘vulgar’ characters around the Barbican. We speak to illustrator Verity Slade about bringing some style to the trash in our Cheap Thrills campaign.

‘My brief from the Barbican was to create some artwork for the upcoming Cheap Thrills film season. The season was looking at exploring the dynamic between good taste and bad taste in films, and the acceptance the medium lends to certain vulgar or transgressive themes that may be avoided elsewhere, but in many ways are embraced and legitimised by being on film.

I was initially asked to pitch three creative pathways for the campaign to present to the team at the Barbican, I loved the whole concept of the season and it definitely matched well with the kind of work I do, so I had loads of ideas coming to mind and really enjoyed this part of the process. The idea I liked the most was chosen by the Barbican team too so that was great!


I then worked on refining the different aspects of the design and characters and worked on storyboards for the trailer, which Alex Dobbin animated and made look absolutely amazing. As a process in general, I sketch everything initially a few times in pencil, use brush and ink for the line work, and then scan, fill and arrange it all together on the computer.

I love that style of movie poster aesthetic…


In terms of the inspiration behind the design, when I was looking at the line-up of films that were going to be in the season, I started looking at a lot of 70s posters and the awesome kind of painterly illustration style ensemble designs that a lot of the Blaxploitation films used. I love that style of movie poster aesthetic and wanted to draw on this a little with all of the distinctive characters that come up in the Cheap Thrills season films. Mixing elements of photography and illustration seemed a good way of giving the design some different layers and depth, and the colour palette was intended to be trashy, but not too over the top. The kind of kaleidoscope effect of the reflection also links to that 60s / 70s aesthetic and was meant to be a bit subtly suggestive, especially in the animated trailer for the season where the images open out from the centre, maybe I’d been looking at too much Georgia O’Keefe at the time…

You can’t get much more of a raised eyebrow than Divine’s…


Divine’s character in Female Trouble particularly appealed to me too, reacting to the idea that the feel of the season was very much a kind of raised eyebrow reaction to quite extreme themes, and you can’t get much more of a raised eyebrow than Divine’s, it became quite a key graphic in the artwork and I animated this into GIFs for the website too.

It’s been such an excellent project to work on! I love the content of the season so much, and can’t wait to catch some of the upcoming films and talks.’


Cheap Thrills: Trash, Movies and the Art of Transgression takes place from 28 October–6 November.

Cheap Thrills complements The Vulgar: Fashion Redefined, currently on display in the Art Gallery until 5 February 2017