Work table with various design tools.

The Design of the Title Screen

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I have always been enamored by opening credits to films —which can sometimes be even more fascinating than the film itself. My most memorable experience with film titles is likely to be the Pink Panther animated credits created by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises in 1963. I believe this title sequence was what sparked my interest in design as a child. Title sequences can be elaborately designed or purely informational. They can set the mood and establish the pacing of the film, while typographic design works to convey the feeling of the movie.

Check out some of my favorite film titles and introduction sequences:

The Films of Jacques Tati

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Jacques Tati was a master of subtle comedy, but did you know he was also a brilliant designer? In collaboration with Pierre Etaix, the two were keen on designing every detail of the production —and film titles were not spared in their process. Above are some examples from his films, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Traffic, Play Time, and Mon Oncle.

 

The Films of Jean Luc Godard

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Jean Luc Godard used typography in his films in a pretty fascinating way. He imbued the modernity of the Nouvelle Vague in his title screens which quickly flash across the screen, breaking the traditional expectations of movie-watching. Godard used bold type in anachronistic ways that almost seem to echo intertitle screens of bygone eras— but still feel quite modern fifty years later. His unusual typographic line breaks, repetition, and word-play offer a playful quality to his films. A typeface was recently made to commemorate the iconic Godard typeface (as seen in his film 2 ou 3 Choses) which you can download here.

 

Zed & Two Noughts — Peter Greenaway (1986)

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Greenaway’s title sequences (accompanied by the brilliant Michael Nyman score) makes for a mysterious introduction to a fascinatingly bizarre film.

 

Brazil — Terry Gilliam (1985)

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I love the retro-futuristic qualities of this neon title screen for Brazil. From the title designer, Richard Morrison, “The optical effects in Brazil have quite a timeless quality to them. I did not consciously set out to create something so lasting. It was more of a serendipitous happening.” Fun fact: Richard Morrison worked on the title designs for James Bond films alongside Maurice Binder.

 

Dr. Strangelove — Stanley Kubrick (1964)

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Pablo Ferro’s title design for this dark Kubrick comedy is playfully eccentric, much like the weirdo antagonist of the movie played by Peter Sellers. Stephen Heller writes, “The black and white spot that Ferro designed for Dr. Strangelove employed his quick-cut technique — using as many as 125 separate images in a minute — to convey both the dark humor and the political immediacy of the film.” Want to get that hand-drawn Pablo Ferro look? You can download a free typeface called Pablo Skinny designed by Paul Wilde L’Heureux.

Check out more film title design (organized chronologically!) at The Movie Title Stills Collection and Art of the Title to watch opening sequences.

What are some of your favorite film title designs?