3 November, 2009
Titles & End Credits
Changing fashions in movie titles are one of the richest veins in typography’s fossil record. On his website, graphic designer Christian Annyas has put together a nice collection of movie title stills — both opening and end credits — offering a handy synopsis of twentieth century lettering. Rather than an exhaustive survey, Annyas has curated a small and personal collection that’s conveniently organized by decade: dipping into any period offers a convenient way of getting a taste for the lettering of the era.
Keep an eye out for “in-camera” lettering, in which lettering is incorporated into on-screen props. The book in Jeux Interdits uses a popular trope; the telephone in Dial M for Murder and the playing cards of Le Roman d’un Tricheur have become classics. Truly stirring is the occasional title that feels jarringly modern: The Fly has the sort of purposeful unease that still strikes a chill, fifty-one years later. —JH
1 August, 2008
Data Visualization of the Day
The position on the y-axis represents each film’s rank, revealing the importance of a strong opening weekend (but begging the question of how The Bucket List, which opened in 23rd place, became the #1 movie in America the following week; something to do with New Year’s Day?) The slope of each line conveys the distinction between films with a slow burn (Juno) and those that flamed out (Cloverfield.) Beane makes a rare and non-gratuitous use of color to distinguish individual data lines, where the occasional dissonance identifies films with box office longevity: the thread of mint green running through the purple of early May highlights the inexplicable endurance of Horton Hears a Who. And the height of the y-axis overall charts seasonal trends in the industry at large, confirming that July is considerably more important than April.
Finally, I appreciate the way Beane used rollovers to reveal the names of the films themselves. A lesser designer would have given this information primacy, but Beane recognized that the titles, while crucial, are not the story themselves. Isn’t it nice when a bold decision is demonstrably the right one? —JH
30 July, 2008
Objectified: A New Film by Gary Hustwit
Ever since director Gary Hustwit invited us to appear in his film Helvetica, life has changed for me and Tobias in two ways. First, we get recognized on the street from time to time (always with the implied aren’t you those type dorks) — but second, and more rewardingly, we periodically find ourselves sitting on a panel with the director. It was at just such an event last autumn that Gary mentioned his new project, a documentary about industrial design. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise: earlier in the evening, our conversation had touched upon a mutual appreciation of the IWC Portuguese wristwatch and the Porsche 356 Speedster. But I was thrilled and delighted nonetheless, and have been looking forward to the project ever since. The film is Objectified, its website is up, and I am counting down the days until its 2009 premiere.
I’ve always loved industrial design, but I don’t think I'd measured the depth of my affection until I took a spin through the movie's production stills. I knew I could look forward to hearing more from Marc Newson and Apple's Jonathan Ive, but I hadn't anticipated so many other wonderful participants: Hella Jongerius is featured, whose work I've always found brilliant, witty and uplifting, and I’m especially looking forward to the segment featuring Dieter Rams, chief of design at Braun from 1961 to 1995. Beyond being one of the most influential designers in the history of his craft, Rams is simply a cool cat: that’s him above, with what looks to be his 606 Universal Shelving System, and a modular hi-fi that I physically crave. Look at it: it’s smart, stylish, functional, and badass; it’s the Steve McQueen of audio equipment. And it’s just the beginning. —JH
6 February, 2008
Not Playing at a Theater Near You
Now appearing at Vanity Fair is a great exhibit of lobby cards from the collection of the late Leonard Schrader. From Schrader's collection of 8,462 items the editors have chosen an attractive and representative set of 36 that celebrates the golden age of lettering, before its ultimate fall to typography.
At left, an excerpt from Saved by Wireless, Joe and Mia May's 1919 epic about which the IMDB is strangely silent. (Judging from the cavemen, presumably it does not deal with the convenience of 802.11; been there, though.) Other highlights include MGM's The Devil Doll, whose inside-out lettering prefigures Roger Excoffon's Calypso typeface of 1958, and Fritz Lang's Metropolis rendered in a whimsical style of lettering that befits the movie's cheery themes of dystopianism, technological isolation, and internecine strife. For ages six and up. —JH