Sabri Akin's brilliant pro-bono poster designs for indie Istanbul culture

We've long admired the work of Sabri Akin, an Istanbul-born, New York-based graphic designer, typographer and art director.

Having graduated from the Visual Communication Design program of Bilgi University in Istanbul and MFA Design Entrepreneurship program of the School of Visual Arts in New York, he's clocked up a client list featuring the likes of Mother Design, Pentagram, Red Antler, and Gretel.

His poster work for independent films and theatre plays in Istanbul is particularly striking, and much of it is created pro-bono outside of his day job working in branding for corporations in New York. "Partnering up with innovative filmmakers, film programmers and theatres, we create unconventional posters that make difference in Istanbul design scene," he says.

Here, he talks us through a few highlights:


"This poster was designed for the short film Çürük [translation: Rotten]. Çürük is a story of a family who faces livelihood challenges in the shadow of dense city life and pungent odors. The poster was created in collaboration with illustrator Jiayue Li, and we created a cluster of rotten elements to reference the odors."


“This was created for the short film Vultur, written and directed by Barış Fert and Hikmet Güler, Vultur is a story of Emin; a helpless Syrian refugee who crosses paths with Ines; a half-French, half-Turkish journalist in Istanbul. Being Latin for the vulture, Vultur is a symbolic name to describe one of the characters in the film. My approach was to carry that symbol into a poster in a literal yet striking design behaviour. I commissioned the charcoal drawing of a vulture claw to Jiayue Li, used red as a background to emphasize the tension and typographically laid out the title and the information around the claw.”

Poster Series for Dwell

“These posters were created to promote Dwell, a short film written and directed by Barış Fert & Hikmet Güler. Dwell is a story of a girl who desperately tries to adapt herself to a timeless landscape. She takes different paths to understand the meaning of her existence in a particular territory. In the storyline, there are two distinct phases that the protagonist goes through to adapt herself to nature. I created four posters: one graphic and one photographic for each phase."


"This poster was designed for a theatre play, Tezgah, a story of three celebrity roommates. Tezgah means a tricky market in Turkish. Characters are in a corrupt relationship with a love triangle in their private life; they create impeccable friendship imagery to press and on social media to keep their Instagram sponsorship contracts. I referenced the situation using characters' devious photography they plot to sell their image and framing their photo with frivolous typography of Tezgah."

Vincent Dieutre

"This poster design was for filmmaker Vincent Dieutre's talk event hosted by FOL and IKSV as a part of 36th Istanbul Film Festival. Dieutre is an avant-garde filmmaker who creates docu-dramas he stars as the protagonist. I designed a custom lettering for this poster to represent Dieutre's experimental approach."

Meriç Öner

"Meriç Öner is a programmer and a researcher who focuses on subjects such as material culture and urban issues. For the poster, I was inspired by 'Istanbul's urban structure which I interpret as unconventional but consistent' and by 'one of Meriç Öner's previous talks about Istanbul's gentrification problem."


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