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The official poster for the upcoming Season 6 of "Mad Men" (shown above) is very cool… but not as cool as the story behind it.
Since AMC's Emmy-winning drama is set in the world of 1960s advertising, creator Matthew Weiner often looks back at ads from that era for inspiration. And to create this new poster, he eventually turned to an artist from that era: 75-year-old English illustrator Brian Sanders.
As first reported in Sunday's New York Times, Weiner wanted the Season 6 poster to replicate the feel of vintage TWA flight menus he remembered from his youth. But AMC's marketing team couldn't quite get it right. "Finally, they just looked up the person who had done all these drawings that I really loved," Weiner says. "They said: 'Hey, we've got the guy who did them. And he's still working. His name is Brian Sanders.'"
Sanders was in disbelief when AMC came calling; in fact, he's a fan of the show, having lived through those times himself. (His response to seeing "Mad Men" for the first time: "I almost wanted to reach for a cigarette, and I haven’t had one for 30-odd years.") A renowned ad illustrator in the '60s and '70s (he was hired by Stanley Kubrick to illustrate scenes on the set of "2001: A Space Odyssey"), Sanders has a uniquely colorful, impressionistic visual style that really makes this poster pop. Looks like the old guy's still got it. (Bertram Cooper, take notes.)
But enough with the history lesson: What does Sanders' poster tell us about what's next for Don Draper? (Weiner and the "Mad Men" team are notoriously tight-lipped, so we have to dig up clues wherever we can.) Don is in the foreground, facing in the opposite direction of a "One Way" sign, hinting that he's swimming against the tide again this season. Headed the other way is another well-dressed man… wait, is that Don, too? If so, we can expect Don's lingering identity crisis to bubble back up to the surface as well. (Nice to see you again, Dick Whitman.)
We see a few cops in the background, perhaps alluding to the civil unrest that's about to explode in the late 1960s. But here's the biggest hint of all: Don is holding a woman's hand! We can't see the woman's face, so we can't tell for sure if it's Don's young wife Megan or someone else entirely. But it does look like Don's romantic life is leading him away from the hustle and bustle of Madison Avenue… and he doesn't look too happy about it.
Thanks for indulging us in this bit of freshman-level art analysis. Luckily for all of us, "Mad Men" will be back in just a few weeks, so we can stop speculating and get some real answers -- not to mention some great television.
Season 6 of "Mad Men" premieres Sunday, 4/7 at 9 PM on AMC.