“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’d say the same about television series as well since these days a show’s intro is usually pretty awesome. That’s hoping that they actually have one… While Netflix has recently adopted the “skip intro” button for the true bingers out there that can’t be bothered to rewatch the same minute of creative credit handling, the rest of us look forward to these brief visual and typographic journeys.
For me the opening sequence is a way to get into the headspace of a particular show, to mentally become absorbed into the experience. Food-wise, it’s the amuse-bouche to the main course, a taste of what’s to come.
These intros have definitely come a long way in the last twenty years. Instead of just being an afterthought, recycling episode footage together with hero shots of each cast member, they are designed. Conceptual and creative takes on a show’s theme and content is now very much a part of the process as creating the show itself.
If staring at our phones and screens everyday has had any positive impact on society, it’s definitely made us all a much more visual culture able to discern the good from great. We crave that next level of abstraction, artistry, and expertise. A huge example of that is the unpredicted popularity with the title opener for Stranger Things. Arguably it’s the most minimal and understated sequence for a show in recent years and yet it totally captured the essence of the series and nostalgia of the generation obsessed with it. The fact that there was a Stranger Things font generator for social media is even more proof of that!
Even if the intro skip option were adopted across all the streaming services, I don’t think that would necessarily kill the opening sequence artform. People pass by ads every single day without acknowledging them, but the great ones will always stand out. Like everything else in the design world, those limitations felt from consumer behavior and lowered attention spans will only further push and evolve how title designers create.
Here are a few of my recent favorite title openers and the creative folks behind each one.
Starting it off with the one we already mentioned. Designed by the team at Imaginary Forces with music by Survive, this title is an instant classic. I just think it’s really cool how a well executed typeface can say everything it needs to without additional imagery. Oh yeah if you’re a Tame Impala fan check out Steve, uh I mean Joe Keery’s band Post Animal as well. When I get Home is the jam.
Staying in the retro vein, GLOW’s opener is a vibrant, electric neon trip of ladies body slamming each other. This unfortunately is one of the openers that Netflix decided to drop after the first episode. Incredible work by the guys at Shynola.
Patrick Clair is on a roll. He’s responsible for other epic main titles used for True Detective, Halt and Catch Fire, and American Gods. His work is truly beautiful and awesome in it’s truest definition. In the case of the Westworld sequence, the light and dark play, muted tones, and use of symbolism is congruent with the series itself, setting the viewer up for a psychological kick in the face.
FEUD: Bette and Joan
Kyle Cooper has been credited with single-handedly revitalizing the main title as an art form. From Se7en to American Horror Story, he has put his touch on many of the most popular films and series titles in the last 20 years. His latest for FEUD: Bette and Joan is inspired by classic Saul Bass styling.
The Young Pope
Ahmet Ahmet of Elastic Studio “killed” it with this sequence. What seems a simple stroll down a hallway is an art-based timeline from the birth of Christ right down to the death of the Old Vatican, ending with Jude Law winking at the camera. Adding to the irony is background track “All Along The Watchtower” from the album “A Moving Picture.” Way to tie everything together!