The ‘Stranger Things’ and JWU Connection: Edzer Roukema '15

JWU alum Edzer Roukema in front of his poster series for the Netflix series, “Stranger Things”

Some ad campaigns on social media take off with such force and speed that it’s easy for some to miss the details behind the scenes. That’s where you’ll find Edzer Roukema ’15 — a Graphic Design alum currently working as a digital designer at Ralph and Co., where he’s been the mastermind behind such popular projects as Netflix’s “Stranger Things” 80s movie theme poster campaign.

With the release of “Stranger Things 3” set for later this week, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to reconnect with Roukema to get a sense about what it’s like to work on such an iconic and fun project.

What’s it like for you to work on a project for such a popular show?
It’s super humbling because when you graduate all you want to do as a graphic designer is have your work noticed. Not necessarily because your name is behind it, but because you can look back at it and say ‘Hey, I designed that.’ I know millions of people saw my work and that’s kind of humbling and it’s exciting.

“I know millions of people saw my work and that’s kind of humbling and it’s exciting.”

Some of the Stranger Things posters Roukema created.

More of Edzer Roukema’s teaser posters for the Netflix series “Stranger Things”

AdWeek included your work on its “25 Most Popular Stories About Creativity in 2017” and in “Netflix is Making Stranger Things Versions of Classic 80s Movie Posters and They’re Amazing.” How did that make you feel?
You have to take a step back because everything happens so quickly when you’re working on these campaigns — you’re constantly working. The workflow doesn’t stop, and soon you’re onto the next project and sometimes you don’t have the time to take a look back and see what you’ve done. But with all the recognition that I got from AdWeek it was hard not to [look back], because obviously my boss made a big deal of it. Now the printed posters are hanging on our office wall. This has been one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on. It’s definitely one of my most favorite things I have worked on here in the last three years.

One of the posters was put on a Louis Vuitton T-shirt for Paris Fashion Week and one of the models walked down the runway wearing it. That was really exciting. The main designer for Louis Vuitton loves “Stranger Things” and he saw my posters and he was like ‘oh my God, I want to put one of those on a T-shirt.’ So, I sent him my working files and then he printed them on a T-shirt. It was cool being part of the runway show like that. It was also on the Louis Vuitton homepage for that day, which was great.

Stranger Things t-shirt using one of Roukema’s designs

The poster series was based on classic 1980s movies such as “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Firestarter,” “The Evil Dead,” “Jaws,” “Alien," “Stand by Me” and “The Goonies.” Tell us about the process of selecting images and artwork to mimic the original posters?
Netflix asked us to come up with a concept for their social media campaign for “Stranger Things 2” creating a series of 80 movie posters that paid homage to classic 1980s movies. We had all this preexisting photography, it’s not like we had the option to just shoot any new photos with the cast. We had to use pre-existing materials to make the posters and that was probably the hardest part [because we] went through four bags of thousands of photos and to actually find photos that we could work with. It was quite a feat, and I worked on those for a few weeks.

“This has been one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on.”

I designed all the posters by myself but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a group effort, because other people had eyes on it. I did all the design work, but other people had input as well and that’s how we get to the end product. Each poster probably went through three to four iterations before we arrived at the final design.