With Ghost in the Shell now available in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in the United Kingdom and Ireland, we took some time to chat with the man behind the release’s incredible artwork, Matt Ferguson.
Matt Ferguson is a graphic designer and artist from Sheffield in the UK, and is best known for working with Marvel Studios and Disney, including designing artwork for Marvel’s WandaVision and official Star Wars promotional posters.
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He’s also the co-founder and creative director of Vice Press, and has had exhibitions at galleries in the United States and UK, including Bottleneck Gallery, and is well known in the industry for his beautifully stylised creations for established film and TV properties.
Let’s begin with the most important question, what is your favourite anime?
Ferguson: My favourite anime is probably AKIRA. It’s such an impactful film. I’d love to do some art for it one day. I also really love Studio Ghibli. Me and my daughter love watching Totoro.
Can you tell us about your creative journey and how you got to where you are today?
Ferguson: I guess I’ve always liked to draw and make images. I can remember teaching other kids how to draw Turtles when I was at junior school. I really just made a lot of this stuff for myself, and then when I started posting my work online I got lucky and was noticed by Marvel quite early on in my career. Working for Disney gave me the confidence to take up this as a full-time job and I haven’t looked back since.
Where do you primarily draw inspiration from?
Ferguson: Everything. Films, TV, other artists, books, comics, music. I think every creative person is inspired by their surroundings and what they like. I’ve not had any real formal education in design or art, but you come to realise there’s no rules. All I do is make something I’d like myself
Of all the projects you’ve been a part of so far, what has been your favourite and why?
Ferguson: I’d say the most intense was doing the Star Wars Empire 40th art. That one really connected and I loved working on it. I really like when I get given the freedom to essentially art direct myself. It’s actually been like that with the Ghost in the Shell and Transformers projects with Funimation, I’ve honestly really enjoyed the whole experience.
If you weren’t creating all of these incredible designs, what do you think you would be doing?
I don’t really know. I’d probably be a bum? There’s nothing else I can do. I did say recently I’d like to be the guy that gets to demolish old buildings. So I’d maybe go for that? Digger driver.
How did you come up with the designs for the Ghost in the Shell poster and SteelBook? Can you run us through your creative process?
Ferguson: Well, I had a conversation with the team at Funimation, they told me what they’d like. If memory serves it was all about trying to evoke the serious tone of the film. Then I watched it and made note of sequences and elements that I liked.
I really liked when Major’s body is built in the opening credits. That floating, featureless body was very affecting. So that’s where I jumped off from. It all spun out from that central theme of “what makes a person”
When you think of Ghost in the Shell, what is the first thing that always comes to mind?
Ferguson: I’d say it would be that theme of what makes us who we are. It goes hand in hand with Blade Runner in that regard. So it’s not the visuals, or the action. It’s the deeper philosophical themes that I instantly think about.
What do you think makes Ghost in the Shell such an important piece of cinema?
Ferguson: It’s got a tone to it, very serious and dramatic. The world is meticulously thought out and it all seems very plausible. It’s also hugely influential, you see it in a lot of science fiction films and stories that have been made since its release.
Finally, do you have any words of advice for budding creatives out there?
Ferguson: You’ve got to put yourself out there. Post your work online. Also the best artistic advice I ever got was “contrast”… think about the contrast between light and dark, bright colour and muted.
You can define an image and make it impactful if you think along those lines. I think they call it colour values.