The Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema History

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Have you ever thought of what makes you remember a certain movie or TV show? Of course, it’s the story being told, you’ll say. But what about movies such as Goldfinger, Seven and Snatch? What’s the first thing that comes to mind? We are pretty sure their opening title sequences stick out for many of you.

Today we’ll take a closer look at that short space of time between the moment the lights go down and the first scene of a film, the part that so often sets our expectations of a movie, that sequence that speaks to our creative side: the art of the film title. We’ll look at the evolution of title design and some particularly interesting titles from various periods in the history of cinema and animation.

Film titles can be great fun. In them we see the bond between the art of filmmaking and graphic design — and perhaps visual culture as a whole. They have always served a greater purpose than themselves: to move the overarching story forward. Whether you are a motion graphic designer, a digital artist or a connoisseur of design, we hope you are inspired by these film titles and the ideas they suggest to your own creative endeavors. At the end of this post, you’ll find a listing of relevant typefaces and Web resources.

For this post, we reached out to David Peters, a San Francisco-based designer and media historian who, more than a decade ago, began a project called Design Films to research the subject. David generously contributed to this article.

Titles In Silent Film

Words and lettering played an enormous role in films of the silent era. Film titles made their appearance in the earliest silent films, along with letter cards (or inter-titles), which provided context. These cards were the responsibility of the lettering artist, who collaborated with the scriptwriter and director to create narrative continuity so that audiences could follow what they were seeing. Distinct from these inter-titles was the film’s main title, a vehicle of particular concern to film producers because of the legal, copyright and marketing information this footage had to bear.

Here is the main title from D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance” (1916), which many reviewers and historians consider the greatest film of the silent era. Note that variations of the director’s name are featured in five ways:

1

Film titles and letter cards had to provide essential information to the viewer. For reasons such as ease of production and clarity, artists favored mono-stroke letterforms or characters with small serifs. White lettering on a black background is another characteristic of this era, because titles simply looked better this way when projected with live-action B&W film.

The following inter-titles are typical of silent movies. A shot from the comedy The New Janitor2 (1914) featuring Charlie Chaplin is on the right, and the silent western West of Hot Dog3 (1924) is on the left:

4

In addition to hiring lettering artists, the biggest film studios began to employ typesetters in the production of title cards. Among the fonts often adopted for titles and inter-title cards were Pastel (BB&S, 1892), National Old Style (ATF, 1916) and Photoplay (Samuel Welo’s Studio, 1927).

Regardless of the method followed, we see the emergence of typography that seeks to match letterforms with the subject matter and even the zeitgeist — including typefaces inspired by art movements such as art nouveau, art deco and expressionism — as well as the commercial vocabulary of packaging design and advertising.

The main title from the American release of “The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari” (1920) is much less expressive than the title from the influential original German film (restored original version5):

6

The sans-serif title (for a later restored version) of the classic horror film “Nosferatu” contrasts with the art-nouveau treatment of the film’s promotional poster of the time. The font, Berthold Herold Reklameschrift BQ (digitized version7) was created by German typesetter Heinz Hoffman in 1904. You can see the original German version of the title still from Nosferatu here8.

9

Animation effects like the ones you see in rotoscopes actually pre-date film. But the power of filmmaking was enormous, and it tempted thousands, including many artists, to try their hand at this new medium. One of the earliest known title animations is seen in the work of J. Stuart Blackton.

“Humorous Phases of Funny Faces” (1906) — video on YouTube10 — was directed by J. Stuart Blackton, who many consider to be the father of American animation. Not only is it one of the first animated films, it is among the first to feature an animated opening title, making it a precursor of the modern title sequence:

11

Other important early filmmakers such as Emil Cohl and Winsor McCay were accomplished draftsmen who dedicated years of their lives to discovering the dramatic potential and practical techniques of animation. Their focus was more on character development and story visualization than on title animation per se. So, while we see innumerable novelties in main titles and inter-titles during this period, the big innovations of title animation and motion typography don’t really emerge until well after the Second World War.

The Silence Is Broken

As movies grew more popular, their titles evolved. Movie producers invested considerable sums in film production and sometimes resorted to fixing a dog of a film by rewriting the inter-titles. For a time, “film doctor” Ralph Spence12 (1890–1949) was the highest-paid title writer in the industry, earning $10,000 a picture for his one-liners.

During the 1920s and ’30s, European cinema was deeply influenced by modernism, and aspects of this visual sensibility were brought to the US by filmmakers who were fleeing the Nazis. Meanwhile, the studio systems operating in Europe and Hollywood also delighted in creating titles that featured vernacular graphic novelties. As much as possible, they liked to convey the tone of a movie through the “dressage” of its main title. Thus, blackletter fonts in the opening credits were used to evoke horror, ribbons and flowery lettering suggested love, and typography that would have been used on “Wanted” posters connoted a western flick.

Here is a title still from the oldest surviving feature-length animated film “The Adventures of Prince Achmed” (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) by German animator Lotte Reiniger:

13

And here is the opening title in the talkie “B” Western Outlaws of Boulder Pass14:

15

Hollywood animation studios, including Warner Brothers and MGM, did give some license to their artists to indulge in title antics. But one can also see that life for the titling crew at Disney was strained by the weight of its foreign-language versions and that film exports rarely encouraged innovation in titling.

The first Mickey Mouse cartoon, circa 1929, features both Mickey and Minnie, but its main title, “Plane Crazy,” is lackluster:

16

Over time, the very appearance of white-on-black title lettering became a visual trope, recurring as it does in practically every Woody Allen film. Allen relies on the device primarily to build a visual identity, although its economy is a practical advantage, too.

Allen uses the Windsor font for most of his films, as illustrated below in “Annie Hall” (1977). Read more17 about typography in Allen’s films and also an interesting story about how the renowned director chose this typeface:

18

The incorporation of audio into movies — making them “talkies” — didn’t revolutionize how film titles were handled, at least not immediately. However, we do see one avant-garde animator and painter of German origin, Oskar Fischinger, give serious thought to the relationship between visual effects and music. Fischinger’s practice of subordinating the visual rhythm to the audio was repeated often in motion graphics and title design.

The concept of score visualization first conceived by Oskar Fischinger in his film “Studies” anticipates the effects created by Saul Bass in “The Man With the Golden Arm” (1955) and later by Susan Bradley in “Monsters, Inc” (2001):

The (True) Birth Of The Title Sequence

Breakthrough ideas in titling, such as timing the typography to interact with metaphorical imagery or to create its own world, were largely innovations that came from outsiders to the Hollywood studio system. Figures such as Saul Bass, Pablo Ferro, Maurice Binder and Richard Williams arrived on the scene in the 1950s, at a time when the studios were starting to flounder in their fight with TV. At that time, independent filmmakers made commercial headway by doing things differently, spreading utterly fresh ideas about the possibilities of title sequences. This is the era in which the discipline of film title sequence design was actually born.

Maurice Binder worked on the title designs of 14 films about Agent 007, including the first episode, “Dr. No” (1962). Binder created the famous gun-barrel sequence, which became a signature for the Bond series:

If there were a hall of fame for film title design, Stephen Frankfurt’s sequence for the 1962 film “To Kill A Mocking Bird” (below, upper row) would have a seat of honor. Cameron Crowe referenced it in “Almost Famous” (lower row):

19

Experimentation on the fringes, where title sequences really thrive, have led to all kinds of innovation in what a title can be and how it can serve the story and the director’s intent. Perceptive directors like Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, Blake Edwards and Stanley Donen embraced these innovators and gave them the reign to surprise audiences from the opening shots. The Bond films, the Pink Panther series, Barbarella: the sequences for such films became enticing and often sexy popular amusements. By the mid-1960s the top title designers were celebrities in their own right, people who could be relied on to deal with the messy business of credits with playful panache.

Here is a still from the Saul Bass20’ title sequence for “North by Northwest,” his first project with director Alfred Hitchcock:

21

A great draftsman and visual storyteller, Saul Bass ran the gamut of techniques for his title sequences: montage, live action, cut-out paper animation, typography in motion, to name a few. Whatever technique he used, Bass summarized the film as a metaphor that often shone with creativity. (In January 2010, David Peters, Kai Christmann and Dav Rauch, all of Design Films, gave two presentations on the work of Saul Bass at the 12th Future Film Festival22 in Bologna, Italy.)

In an interview, Kyle Cooper listed three opening sequences that made a big impression on him. Saul Bass’ title sequence for the 1962 film “Walk on the Wild Side” (watch on MySpace23) was among them:

24

It could be argued that typography lost importance in this era of title design. The imagery behind the credits received a lot more attention. Still, the interplay of typography and images was by no means ignored. Popular trends of the 1950s were using three-dimensional lettering and embedding type in physical artifacts such as embroidery and signage. In contrast, Saul Bass often approached the lettering of a main title as he would a logo, making it function as the core element in a full marketing campaign. While the variety of solutions increased considerably, their anchor was always the relationship of on-screen typography to the movie itself.

The power of minimalism is shown in the opening sequence for Ridley Scott’s “Alien”25 (1979). Credit for this design goes to Richard Greenberg, with creative direction from Stephen Frankfurt:

26

The main title for the French film classic “Le Dernier Metro” (1980), directed by Francois Truffaut, is austere and modern but has a generic quality not so different from a Woody Allen title:

27

The Digital Era, And Modern Trends In Film Title Design

Every sphere of contemporary life — and especially the film business — has been affected by computers. For designers, creating film titles meant participating in the apprenticeship tradition — learning by doing, on the job; that continued unabated into the mid-1990s. At that time, dynamic openers by Kyle Cooper and others showed what the next generation of design-educated, film-literate, tech-savvy creatives could do. That apprenticeship tradition has largely been overshadowed by the rise of popular technology, the Internet-enabled archiving of everything and the plethora of schools that propagate countless design disciplines. Most significantly, we see designers working like filmmakers and filmmakers working like designers.

The revolutionary title sequence for “Se7en” (1995) by Kyle Cooper was named by New York Times Magazine as “one of the most important design innovations of the 1990s”:

A consequence of this digital era seems to be that modern title design will forever rely on progressive technologies. Yet, in one of his interviews, Kyle Cooper states that while the power of computer graphics is obvious, he still likes experimenting with live action, because there is something special about the imperfection of making things by hand.

While Cooper was working on the sequence for “Darkness Falls” (2003), some glass he was using suddenly split, and the crack cut across the eyes of a girl in an old picture. The incident added suspense to the effect:

28

In his title sequence for the 2005 crime-comedy “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (watch on YouTube29), designer Danny Yount made use of Saul Bass-style graphics to recreate the atmosphere of 1960s detective stories:

30

The potential of digital graphics and typography has attracted some of the most creative minds to motion design. Pixar and Disney have reserved crucial parts in the branding of their films for the title sequences. Using animated characters to introduce viewers to the story became a popular trend. Such talented graphic designers as Susan Bradley (Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., WALL-E, Ratatouille), Jaimi Caliri (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events), Dave Nalle (Corpse Bride), Michael Riley (The Back-Up Plan, Kung Fu Panda) and Michael Curtis (Brother Bear) use all manner of tools to test different approaches to designing titles. One thing these individuals have in common is a drive to find a strong metaphor and tell an exciting story with their sequences.

For the end sequence of “Ratatouille”, Susan Bradley (read an interview with her31) drew the typography, inspired by the slab-serif typeface Rockwell32. For the opening titles, she used a hand-drawn cursive intended to evoke Paris.

The title sequence for “Thank You for Smoking” (2005) is a modern manifesto on typographic style in title design. The idea for using cigarette packaging for the opening sequence was suggested by the film’s director, Jason Reitman, and implemented by Shadowplay Studios33. Typographica goes through the trouble of pointing out the fonts34 in the sequence:

In the title sequence for “Up in the Air” (2009), the designers at Shadowplay Studios rely on aerial photography:

35

The title sequence for the 2009 adaptation of the comic book “Watchmen” drew a loud response from the public. It creates an alternate history, depicting the involvement of superheroes in all major events of post-World War II America. The sequence was shot by the film’s director Zach Snyder, while credit for the title’s integration goes to yU+Co:

36

Conclusion

Throughout the history of cinema, film titles have evolved with the film industry, as well as with social trends and fashion movements. But the measure of a title design’s quality is the same now as it was in the silent era. Whatever function they perform, titles remain an essential part of film.

Granted, in recent years the business of film titling has been terribly strained by the control of producers over commissions and their persistence in demanding speculative work as the price of admission. Creatively speaking, though, as filmmaking consolidates into the most powerful international cultural phenomenon of the 21st century, ingenuity in titling is a certainty. As designers have always known, the opening moments can make a deeply satisfying contribution to any film.

Typography Resources

Below you’ll find links to some downloadable typefaces that were used in or inspired by film titles from cinema history. Please read the legacy notes before downloading.

HPHLS Vintage Prop Fonts37
An amazing collection of revived vintage fonts, many of which were used in early cinema. Among them are faces based on the National Old Style, Colwell Handletter and Post Monotone no. 2. Only some fonts can be downloaded for free, although the entire collection is available on CD at an affordable price.

38

Silentina39
The Silentina font family is a great modern take on typography from silent film inter-titles. Designed by Ray Larabie in 2004.

Hitchcock40
Hitchcock was created by designer Matt Terich as an homage to the lettering style of the iconic Saul Bass. The font is available as a free download, and you’ll find a selection of other typefaces in the same vein.

Movie/TV Related Fonts41
Here is a collection of free fonts styled after the main titles of famous films and TV shows.

Waltograph42
Waltograph was created by Justin Callaghan in an attempt to capture the spirit of the familiar Walt Disney signage.

43

The Disney Font List44
On MickeyAvenue.com, Justin Callaghan shares a definitive list of typefaces seen in Walt Disney movies and places.

Meyer 245
Meyer 2, originally drawn in 1926 as one of the five fonts cut by linotype to Louis B. Meyer’s personal specifications, was revived in 1994 by type designer David Berlow.

46

ITC Korinna47
The Korinna font family has an art nouveau heritage and looks similar to the Pastel48 font, which was often used for title cards in silent films.

49

Futura Extra Bold50
Stanley Kubrick’s favorite typeface.

51

Gisele52
This font looks similar to the one used by Winsor McCay for his 1914 animation Gertie the Dinosaur.

53

54

CCMR Mamoulian Blather55
A font that recalls the typography in the title of the 1924 animated movie Felix Dopes It Out.

56

57

That’s All Folks58
Here’s a cheerful Looney Tunes-inspired font family called That’s All Folks.

59

60

Coolvetica61
Coolvetica looks like the sans-serif typeface in the title sequence for Catch Me If You Can (2002).

62

63

Resources And Reference Material

The Art of the Title Sequence64
A comprehensive and authoritative resource on film and television title design from around the world. Plenty of excellent designs and material available.

Forget the Film, Watch the Titles65
One of the first online resources dedicated to film title design. You’ll find a lot of amazing examples, reviews and interviews with the experts.

Title Design Project66
In this showcase gallery are title sequences from both classic and recent movies.

Movie Title Stills Collection67
A large and diverse collection of film title stills from between 1920 to the present.

Taking Credit: Film Title Sequences, 1955–196568
An essay by a London-based writer and curator with an interest in graphic design, Emily King.

Letters of Introduction: Film Credits and City Scapes69
This essay covers the textuality of film credit sequences and their relationship to the expressiveness of urban life.

Credits

I’d like to thank David Peters, who kindly agreed to contribute content as well as references to this article. David is the founder and director of DESIGN FILMS70, a team of creatives committed to researching, collecting and presenting film programs about design, typography and film history. David is also a principal and design strategist at the communication design firm EXBROOK71.

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/intolerance.jpg
  2. 2 http://www.archive.org/details/CC_1914_09_14_TheNewJanitor
  3. 3 http://www.archive.org/details/westofhotdog
  4. 4 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/intertitles-example.jpg
  5. 5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRBv2PjnUEM&feature=related
  6. 6 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/caligari.jpg
  7. 7 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/berthold/herold-reklameschrift-bq/
  8. 8 http://www.annyas.com/screenshots/updates/nosferatu-eine-symphonie-des-grauens-1922/
  9. 9 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/nosferatu-package.jpg
  10. 10 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dRe85cNXwg
  11. 11 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/humorous-phases-of-funny-faces.jpg
  12. 12 http://ralphhspence.wordpress.com/
  13. 13 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/prince-achmed.jpg
  14. 14 http://www.archive.org/details/outlaws_of_boulder_pass
  15. 15 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/western.jpg
  16. 16 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/plane-crazy.jpg
  17. 17 http://kitblog.com/2007/12/woody_allens_typography.html
  18. 18 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/annie-hall.jpg
  19. 19 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/mocking-bird-and-untitled.jpg
  20. 20 http://notcoming.com/features/saul/
  21. 21 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/north-by-northwest.jpg
  22. 22 http://www.futurefilmfestival.org/intl/festival/2010/xii-ed-reportage/
  23. 23 http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=12366607
  24. 24 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/wotwsHQ.jpg
  25. 25 http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xc9u6n_alien-opening-titles_shortfilms
  26. 26 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/alien.jpg
  27. 27 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/le-dernier-metro.jpg
  28. 28 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/darkness-falls.jpg
  29. 29 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bpP9sI72bM&feature=player_embedded
  30. 30 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/kiss-kiss-bang-bang.jpg
  31. 31 http://www.thunderchunky.co.uk/articles/pixar-titles-and-type-with-susan-bradley/
  32. 32 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rockwell_(typeface)
  33. 33 http://www.shadowplaystudio.com/
  34. 34
  35. 35 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/up-in-the-air.jpg
  36. 36 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/watchmen.jpg
  37. 37 http://www.cthulhulives.org/toybox/propdocs/propfonts.html
  38. 38 http://www.cthulhulives.org/toybox/propdocs/propfonts.html
  39. 39 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/typodermic/silentina/
  40. 40 http://typographica.org/2007/on-typography/saul-bass-website-and-hitchcock-font-are-back/
  41. 41 http://www.typenow.net/themed.htm
  42. 42 http://www.1001fonts.com/font_details.html?font_id=2272
  43. 43 http://www.1001fonts.com/font_details.html?font_id=2272
  44. 44 http://mickeyavenue.com/fonts/disney-fonts-list/disneymade
  45. 45 http://www.fontbureau.com/fonts/MeyerTwo/
  46. 46 http://www.fontbureau.com/fonts/MeyerTwo/
  47. 47 http://www.itcfonts.com/Fonts/Classics/Korinna.htm
  48. 48 http://cg.scs.carleton.ca/~luc/BBS-1907/
  49. 49 http://www.itcfonts.com/Fonts/Classics/Korinna.htm
  50. 50 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/agfa/futura/
  51. 51 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/agfa/futura/
  52. 52 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/t26/gisele/
  53. 53 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/gisel.jpg
  54. 54 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/gertie1.jpg
  55. 55 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/comicraft/mr-mamoulian/blather/
  56. 56 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/mr-mamoulian.jpg
  57. 57 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/felix-dopes-it-out.jpg
  58. 58 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/comicraft/thats-all-folks/
  59. 59 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/thts-all-folks.jpg
  60. 60 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/looney-tunes-first.jpg
  61. 61 http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/larabie/coolvetica/
  62. 62 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/coolvetica.jpg
  63. 63 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/catch-me-if-you-can.jpg
  64. 64 http://www.artofthetitle.com/
  65. 65 http://www.watchthetitles.com/
  66. 66 http://www.titledesignproject.com/
  67. 67 http://www.annyas.com/screenshots/
  68. 68 http://www.typotheque.com/articles/taking_credit_film_title_sequences_1955-1965_1_contents
  69. 69 http://strawresearch.mcgill.ca/LettersofIntroduction.pdf
  70. 70 http://www.designfilms.org
  71. 71 http://www.exbrook.com/

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Julia May is a freelance writer now working with FlashMint, the top-class provider of Flash templates.

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  1. 1

    Excellent Topic. I love the Walt Disney Lion. My mom told me that when I was young I start roaring like the lion when I wanted to watch the TV. Because at childhood watching TV was meant to be watching Cartoons only. Thanks for this article.

    -DJ

    5
    • 2

      Thanks for the comment! You probably mean the MGM’s mascot Leo the Lion, don’t you? At least that’s the roar I remember too :)

      3
      • 3

        I think there was an episode of Tom & Jerry where instead of the lion Tom was meowing and hissing. Haha!

        0
  2. 4

    Thank you for this article ! Very interesting lecture.

    2
  3. 5
  4. 6

    Inetesting, informative and well-researched article, thank you.

    2
  5. 7

    Just wanted to say that I loved this article and I hope more similar articles will follow, thank you :-)

    1
  6. 8

    Nice post.

    Chalet from House Industries could also be the font used fr Catch Me If You Can… http://www.houseind.com/fonts/chalet/fontspecimens

    0
  7. 9

    The opening titles for Eurotrip was excellent, much better than the movie. It was done like the safety sheet you find in airplane seats.

    0
  8. 10

    I’ve ever thought about film titles article – and it is :-)! Good job, thank you.

    0
  9. 11

    Awesome! I always noticed that font style tricks, this information gave some answers to questions I had. Great, well-illustrated work. Thanks a million! =)

    0
  10. 12

    This is an amzing list for those of us who may go to movies just to watch the title sequence. Thank you Julia for putting this together! .. 1 miss from the list is Zombieland. But maybe you could do another list focused on movies in which typography is integral to the plot. :)

    4
    • 13

      I believe many of the typographic titles of that kind are featured here, but I like the idea of putting more typography-focused sequences together :) Thanks for commenting!

      0
  11. 14

    Very interesting post! Thanks a lot !

    0
  12. 15

    Michael Piechota

    October 4, 2010 5:06 am

    I’ve always loved those from Mickey Mouse.
    This topic reminds me an opening from the movie Dr. Strangelove, with beautiful hand-written typography :)

    1
  13. 16

    Great article! Really interesting and cool, thanks a lot!

    0
  14. 17

    For a Cinemaniac like me, this is an beautiful Topic, ty! :)

    Movies are more complex than only animated pictures. Movies are visual compositions of animated pictures, great Scores, good actors and, above all, nice opening sequences. Yesterday I was watching *Catch Me If You Can* and this movie has one of the greatest opening title sequence i have ever seen :D

    cheers

    8
  15. 18

    The intro to Se7en has always stuck with me and been one of my all time favorite designs. I remember seeing it in the theaters when I was around 14 years old and it blew me away! That imagery and style has always stuck with me.

    At the time I did not know I wanted to be a designer but something about that style really inspired me. Once I got into this field I did tend to gravitate towards designs that subtly mixed in grungy, textured elements and imagery into the design. After watching the opening scene along with some other Kyle Cooper interviews I can safely say that his intro to Se7en has influenced my more than I thought.

    Great post!

    2
  16. 20

    Super-amazingly-awesome Excellent Post!
    Thanks for such a wonderful, educational resource!

    0
  17. 21

    Very interesting post. Outstanding job. Thanks for the education.

    0
  18. 22

    The Watchmen titles are still some of my favorite titles ever. And Pixar always has great end titles.

    1
  19. 23

    Julia,

    Excellent topic and thumbs up for the research you have put in. It feels good to visit the age of title designs. I have started to wonder if title designs have met their untimely death. It surely feels like it. These days, movies are all about the action, and not much thinking or work goes into making movie titles.

    Abhinav Kaiser

    1
    • 24

      You are right, modern cinema has plenty of one-day movies. But if you think about it, the movie industry has always been like this, with ratio of remarkable to mediocre being close to “one in a milliion”. The difference between now and then is the grown volumes, so it takes far more time to sift the good from the bad.

      Personally, I think title design is not dying, it’s actually far from it. Modern designers and typography artists have a great heritage to learn from. There are lots of young talented designers taking the scene and it seems television is back in the business too (I love the sequences for The Pacific and Bored to Death series).

      I’m sure there will always be creative minds who won’t let this beautiful art die. Probably, great titles won’t be born as often as you’d liekt hem to. After all, if masterpieces were created every day, people would eventually stop recognizing them. :)

      Thanks for commenting!

      2
      • 25

        You’re right. There are some great titles in tv series. I watched the True Blood opening scene like 10 Times in a row. Still loving it and still finding more great details!

        0
      • 26

        a topic for another article perhaps…? titles in TV? :D

        -1
      • 27

        The intro to lost has always aneyond me so much because of a rendering artifact on one of the letters (can’t remember which one, it probably wouldn’t show up on the youtube version)

        0
  20. 28

    I love film typography/motion graphics. It’s something that I wish I could do more of if I wasn’t so busy being a web developer.

    0
  21. 29

    Great article. “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” and “Catch me if You Can” are two of my all time favorite title sequences. Love the style. I’d say “Lord of War” rounds out my top 3.

    1
  22. 30

    One of my absolute favorite title sequences is that from “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”. A friend was a lead designer on the titles and I have yet to find another that I enjoy quite as much.

    0
  23. 31

    Loved this article. Amazing what a first impression can do right? I often find myself judging a movie by it’s title sequence! My favorites from the last couple months include “Going The Distance” with Drew Barrymore and “Dinner For Shmucks” although not WONDERFUL movie experiences, the playful title sequences really spoke to me. Check them out!

    1
  24. 32

    How can they not mention ‘the Kingdom’ (a triumph for motion graphics)… well, those mentioned are great in their own right…

    0
  25. 33

    Good article ! What about mad men ?

    2
  26. 34

    My favorite title sequence is the closing credits of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Genius.

    Link:
    http://www.watchthetitles.com/articles/0019-Lemony_Snicket_s_A_Series_of_Unfortunate_Events

    3
  27. 35

    I think this is the first article written in such details I’ve read on smashing. Also, something that is rare (I do not want to say completely absent) are the last two points containing references to materials and resources used.

    Thank you.

    2
  28. 36

    An interesting look at the cinematic world! Thanks for sharing. Fun to read and I have some new fonts to play with! :)

    0
  29. 37

    Looooove the article, and looove the fact that you´re the maker of posts, and not a copier.. Really, really nice article, and really really nice research :) Thanks !!

    3
  30. 38

    One more exclusive article….cool

    0
  31. 39

    wow… Its very Interesting :-)

    0
  32. 40

    That’s good ! I love it… and don’t forget invaders ;-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOLGrXOtuwQ&feature=related

    1
  33. 41

    Saul Bass is utterly inspiring! His titles capture what I love about the older cinema. Seven was also awe inspiring, I remember sitting in the cinema back then with only a handful of people and getting goosebumps because of the eerie scene it set.

    1
  34. 42

    Did anybody else think the Up in the Air titles were reminiscent of the Dr. Strangelove titles? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs7EikHQGlA

    0
  35. 43

    Oh, this is simply fantastic! thank you so much for collecting so many great title sequences and giving us some basic background! It would be really awesome if you could also do similar with e-commerce companies and how they’ve developed in the past 10 years, particularly Amazon, eBay and DubLi.

    0
  36. 44

    Nice article as always

    But this time you forget “UNCREDITED”, the best work ever make about graphic design in films, from the dawn of cinema to the present day. It presents a critical analysis of the opening title sequences

    http://www.indexbook.es/libro.php?435

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  37. 45

    buroshiva dasgupta

    October 5, 2010 9:08 am

    superb

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  38. 46

    One of the most well put together articles I have read on here in quite a while.

    0
  39. 47

    Thanks for sharing this post .I like this post it contains very good examples of website designing.

    -4
  40. 48

    Such a great article! Thank you so much for the knowledge of this exciting niche.

    0
  41. 49

    Great post and really inspiring!

    0
  42. 50

    This is directly going to my bookmark. Thank you so much for this great post!!

    0
  43. 51

    What a great post!

    0
  44. 52

    Most recently “Buried” starring Ryan Reynolds has a cracking title sequence, worth going to watch the film for that alone.

    0
  45. 53

    Very good article, but I was disapointed with the exclusions of Superman (1982 or so). Groundbreaking stop motion effects in that one.

    0
  46. 54

    What a great post! Saul Bass Was so inspiring, There are a lot of designers I’ve talked to that have never heard of him. It’s pretty sad.

    Cheers!
    Blake

    0
  47. 55

    There’s definitely a lot more motion graphic design going into title sequences now. They can if done right, set the mood for the rest of the film.

    0
  48. 56

    Franklile R. Pohl

    October 10, 2010 10:23 pm

    as the title says i want to do all of these things.i’m very interested inphotography.alsolove using film creating film.The graphic design aspect flyers, posters titles ect.and from a product design background, making things more art 3d than products.

    Renadex

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  49. 57

    Great research. This post bordered on bonafide journalism.

    0
  50. 58

    I’m glad Thank You for Smoking was included.

    0
  51. 59

    An independent story in the title sequence: ‘Lord of War’ (2005). Brilliant idea and execution of a bullet’s story.

    0
  52. 60

    The title sequence to the danish movie Skyggen/The Shadow is hugely inspired by the title sequence to Se7en, but I still think is’t kind of cool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV0BdwkQsUU :-)

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  53. 61

    Excellent resource and collection of outstanding opening title credits. As with the film it represents, a truly powerful title sequence builds its strengths from a great story. Even a short 12-3 minute clip needs to hold an audience’s attention through creativity, striking composition and an emotional message.

    0
  54. 62

    Great article, entertaining and informative.

    0
  55. 63

    Julia,
    Incredible Article. Its 12:35 am in Kansas City, I was searching for ideas to create my next line of Movie Graphic Collectibles for our Exhibitors . For the past 16 years , I have designed and created those funny concession products , popcorn tubs, kids trays, Plastic Popcorn Tubs and drink cups with Movie themed designs, I created the initiative in 93 with the release of The Lion King and from there it became a marketing staple in promoting upcoming feature film .
    But I have been searching for a new direction and new design ideas for our new line of Popcorn sq tubes and I read your article and realize I found what I was looking for .

    I want Classic Cinema designs . Film Titling , with a solid basic color background . I created something that will be here for many years as far as Concession packaging used for upcoming film promotions, but our client base of over 3,000 independent Movie theatres in the US and some are Historic sites , so we want to compliment the grandeur and keep their stock product . very simple and classic!
    Thanks so much for opening my eyes ! Its funny how a few words in a particular Typeset can grab your imagination!
    Dave j.

    0
    • 64

      Hi Dave,

      Your comment made me really happy – it’s so great to realize that my work has inspired someone! So thank you too :)

      0
  56. 66

    Thanks for the educational post, I love it! Definitely one of my favorites, it inspires me to start working on fonts. Never really focused on Cinema typesetting, fantastic sources something to really look into now.

    Have a good one! ;)

    0
  57. 68

    Andy Reid-McGlinn

    November 29, 2010 3:59 am

    Cracking post.

    Slightly related: Check out the subtitling on the Russian version of Night Watch – it interacts with the film! I’ve never seen anything similar.

    0
    • 69

      thanks for the suggestion Andy, will definitely check it!

      0
    • 70

      Hi Julia, this article was great! I am in the process of looking for a graduate program for Motion Graphics with a focus on film title design. Do you have any thoughts on the best places to study for this in the US?

      Many thanks, and looking forward to your future articles!

      0
  58. 71

    Brilliant article, I’ll have to check some of those unfamiliars out.

    I do think you missed the biggest assault on the senses (opening credits-wise) of the last year – Enter The Void. It has a devastating combination of pounding techno and shimmering, pulsating, constantly morphing titles/fonts.

    Check it out here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL0lNGXoP8E

    0
  59. 72

    Hello Julia
    I’m from Ukraine and at this time I am writing my diploma on the translation of movie titles. Your article is very informative and inspiring. I’ll definetly use some of your passages in my diploma. So your name will sound in my work))

    Thank you So much!

    0
    • 73

      Hey Lia, I’m happy to know you find my work useful! The topic you are analyzing is extremely interesting, good luck with your diploma! If you ever return here, please leave your email or twitter, I would be glad to chat :)

      0
  60. 74

    This is excellent. We have to explore the development of Western type thru a theme and I want to do title sequences for my graduate Type 2 course. I am familiar with most of these films but have never explored them from a typographical viewpoint. Thank you! This will be a great resource. If you have any suggestions on where to look that would be great too!

    0
  61. 75

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks for a very interesting article. I’m researching silent film intertitles and would be very interested to know where you got your information on title and intertitle design. Are there some books you could recommend?

    Thanks very much, Harriet

    0
  62. 76

    nice article! I would definitely make a revisited version and add the opening credits for Enter The Void to the list!

    0
  63. 77

    Andrew McGeechan

    October 8, 2011 9:55 am

    This got me thinking :)
    TV opening credits…..

    The opening titles for the series “Rome” (HBO 2005) are animated and based on actual graffiti found in the ruins of Pompey. They set the tone and are repeatedly viewable.
    And “Die Kinder” a BBC production from 1990 has a title sequences that only makes sense if you watch all 6 parts !

    On the subject of silent movies its not just the lettering of the intertitles but the whole card and the illustrations that they are placed over – I am watching “Little Old New York” (1923) on you tube and the illustrations are quite exquisite .

    0
  64. 78

    Another one of my favorites by Kyle Cooper is Arlington Road, but also from that era the remake of The Jackal is also excellent.

    However, I mostly posted because the free movie/tv fonts link appears to be hosed

    I wish people would simply introduce a new site design instead of taking down the old one for who knows how long :(

    0

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