The intriguing typographic art of the movie title explained
e has been called a mastermind but we will differ by calling him by his real name. Christian Annyas is a freelancer of our times, a graphic designer based in a small village in Amsterdam who knew exactly where his heart lies. His amazing archive of beautiful, curated content about the dear relation between fonts and cinema, is the equivalent of streaming the entire filmography of damn good Hollywood and any other cinemaland. His Movie Title Stills Collection is the online destination for screencaps of classic film titles. Why classic? “Until a couple of years ago I never knew which movie to get in a rental store. I always ended up being disappointed after watching yet another crappy movie. That’s when I decided to watch older movies. I always wanted to see the “big three”: Casablanca, Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane” he says to Flavowire. “Movies from the forties come with wonderful trailers with all kinds of memorable lines about hard cops and soft dames, living dangerously and loving recklessly, stuff like that. The design of the text always contains a mix of bold letters and scripts, which I loved and wanted to keep for future reference. I started taking screenshots. And never stopped.”
Any typophile who appreciates the art of the title knows that we are trully blessed. His collection of hundreds of screenshots are his answer to the surprisingly few online collections. “I knew (or hoped) the titles would be of interest to both graphic designers and movie enthusiasts.” Displaying his collection chronologically, his way “to show the evolution of the title design by decade” he believes that the thirties were not just the golden age of Hollywood, it is a golden age of titles as well.
“It might not look all that sophisticated but keep in mind that these titles are all handmade. It looks as though titles were much more important than today. Look at the size of them. Every title is as big and bold as possible and almost fill the screen to attract attention.” For Annyas the second peak in title design was reached in the late fifties and early sixties. “Even now, in an era where everything is possible thanks to the computer, very few designers have been able to reach that high standard.”
Saul Bass is an inspiring figure as the graphic designer responsible for iconic title sequences for films of famous directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese. “His design of the title sequence of Psycho (1960) is the most basic title sequence of them all. A high point in title design, but also one that ruined creativity: the black screen with a white title is a phenomenon seen a lot the last couple of years” Annyas comments.
“Some people use it as a source of inspiration of typography, others use it to decide which movie to add to their Netflix queue” he says. “Harry Potter’s custom font used for the title has become the corporate identity for the film” he adds on the success story of the typography of Hogwarts.
“The design of the text always contains a mix of bold letters and scripts, which I loved and wanted to keep for future reference.”
“An example of a good film with bad title design is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. In case you haven’t seen it: it’s a western. Westerns usually have their own typographic language, as you can see on this page. This film is the only western I’ve ever seen without a western kind of title. The font Bell Gothic is normally used in telephone directories, books and magazines. The design of the title for the trailer of the film is much better. At least we know we’ll be watching a western.”
Christian Annyas is the online curator of all things typographic in cinema as Steve Heller puts it. For TYPEROOM is the celebration of movies more precious than any #OscarsoWhite night. “On this blog I’m the curator of all things typographic and cinema. I don’t write elaborate stories, I tell them - like good cinema does - with images” he writes on his project. “I’ve seen a lot of movies over the years. To prove I’ve sat through at least the first ten minutes of them I started making screenshots of the titles. Then my computer crashed and I almost lost them all. To save them for future generations I created this little website.”
The Movie Still Collection is free and on demand.