Graphic Trends in 21st-Century
Film and TV Title Sequences

In the time when movie theaters and conventional TV receivers are steadily giving way to cutting-edge screen devices, the ways films and TV shows look are now more diverse than ever. As a result, the design of 21st-century opening title sequences became crucial in attracting audiences and honoring themes and vibes of films and TV shows they announce.

The century we live in was so far marked by several distinctive design styles when it comes to the look of opening credits. Here is a quick recap of the most popular trends that influenced the title sequence design in the digital era.

Bass is dead: Long live Bass

One of the longest-surviving legacies of the 21st-century title sequence design is undoubtedly one of Saul Bass. This iconic filmmaker and graphic designer, widely known for the opening credits he created for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), Vertigo (1958), and Anatomy of a Murder (1959), helped establish title sequence design as an art form of its own.

The renaissance of the late ‘50s- and ‘60s-inspired opening credits began in 2002 with Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. The look of this film’s opening titles marked the beginning of a trend which proved to be very influential in the decade to come.

The opening credits for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Thank You For Smoking from 2005 followed the look faithfully, but the homage to the aesthetics introduced by Bass was most prominent in the title sequences of Mad Men (2007), Inception (2010), and Whiplash (2014). Unpretentiously animated rough-looking shapes in black and white with a touch of one or two accent colors also marked the opening credits of Handmaid’s Tale and Feud from 2017.

It was nobody else but Sullivan’s own protégé, architect and author Frank Lloyd Wright, who gave new life to the “form follows function” maxim. “‘Form follows function’ is mere dogma until you realize the higher truth that form and function are one.”, wrote Wright: “Less is only more where more is no good”. For Wright, function and form were equally important and essentially coherent.

Function embodies purpose. Form embodies appeal.

“Form follows function”, admittedly, makes perfect sense. The logic behind it is impeccable: The way something looks must be influenced by its purpose. A chair can’t stand on two slender legs, a spoon shouldn’t have a large hole in the middle, and designing a beautiful website that doesn’t load properly is far from a job well done.

However, in this time and day, making a solid chair, a decent spoon, or a responsive website isn’t the end of the route. Quite the contrary — it’s only the beginning. We can confidently expect an item designed to serve its purpose well to work more efficiently and last longer than a better-looking competitive product. However, it’s the visual appeal that decides if the human eye will even notice it among other available products with the same function.

Tomcat’s Wine Cellar, limited edition Chardonnay and Merlot packaging concept, April Studio

It’s time for a new credo: Form follows engagement

In the era when user experience prescribes forms and gives a new dimension to every concrete function a design product can serve, conveying messages, evoking emotions, and inspiring engagement become the imperative goals of purposeful graphic design.

Although collectively pursued, driving user engagement is a goal graphic designers often find elusive. Creating forms that convey stories and provoke desired reactions is a process that requires skill, patience, experience, and flexibility.

This is why good design “just works”. It’s always about communication as much as it is about the appeal. Function influences form, and form follows what makes humans feel, react, and engage.

Written by Dunja Sretović, Content Strategist at April Studio

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