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These rejected Shining posters by Saul Bass are wonderfully spooky

A rejected poster for The Shining.
(Image credit: Saul Bass/The Design Museum)

The Shining is one of the most famous horror movies of all time and its poster, designed by Saul Bass, is equally as iconic. But what if we told you that there were a number of rejected posters for the Kubrick classic. 

A handful of posters designed by Saul Bass for Stanley Kubrick's movie The Shining have resurfaced online just in time for Halloween. The posters, spotted at a London exhibition back in 2019, feature a range of Shining-related designs as well as handwritten notes by Kubrick himself. In the small collection of posters, you can see the similarities between the potential designs and the final design. If you think you can design a poster as iconic as some of Bass', then why not check out our roundup of the best poster makers and have a go yourself. 

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One of the rejected posters for The Shining.

This eerie hand and trike are "too irrelevant" according to Kubrick (Image credit: Saul Bass)
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One of the rejected posters for The Shining.

Kubrick's notes here suggest that Bass should not use the maze concept (Image credit: Saul Bass/Bobby Solomon/The Design Museum)
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One of the rejected posters for The Shining.

Kubrick's notes say that this design is "too abstract" (Image credit: Saul Bass/Bobby Solomon/The Design Museum)
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One of the rejected posters for The Shining.

We think this design would look nice as a Christmas card - the film is set during winter after all! (Image credit: Saul Bass/Bobby Solomon/The Design Museum)
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One of the rejected posters for The Shining.

According to Kubrick, this design looks like it's for a science fiction film (Image credit: Saul Bass/Bobby Solomon/The Design Museum)

Alongside the handful of rejected designs, you can see a number of handwritten notes by Kubrick himself, which point out why the poster resulted in being rejected. Some say that some of Bass' designs included drawings that were "irrelevant" or "hard to read". 

The posters were on show at a Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum in London back in 2019. According to the Design Museum, Bass designed over 300 different potential posters for Kubrick before he was satisfied with the iconic poster of the terrifying pointillism face in the lettering of the word 'The' (see below.)

The official poster for The Shining.

(Image credit: Warner Bros/Saul Bass)

We love all the rejected designs but can see why Kubrick chose the one we recognise today. With its incredible design that captures such a threatening expression, it's a simple yet effective poster. Not to mention the genius use of blank space that creates a sense of terror and a supernatural aura which keeps perfectly in theme with the movie. 

The exhibition also had letters from Saul Bass to Stanley Kubrick (see below.) In the letters, Bass explains some of the designs and talks about the changes he has made to the designs to cater to Kubricks demands. The entire collection of posters and letters are an interesting insight into Bass' workflow and Kubrick's commanding character that helped him direct so many influential movies. 

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A letter from Saul Bass to Stanley Kubrick.

We love Saul Bass' fish signature. (Image credit: The Design Museum)
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A letter from Saul Bass to Stanley Kubrick.

Bass writes "I think it's looking good" about the final poster – and we agree. (Image credit: The Design Museum)

The rejected designs have recently resurfaced again on Twitter and have been dividing users. While some love the designs, others are not as keen. 

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We love the designs though and reckon that they would look brilliant framed and hung (even if they are a little bit spooky.) If you are looking for some more poster inspiration then why not check out our roundup of the most inspirational posters?

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Amelia Bamsey

Amelia Bamsey is the Staff Writer for Creative Bloq. Cornish born-and-bred, Amelia has a passion for all things art, design, photography and music.