Typography in Film

Type treatment designed by  Marina Murad

Type treatment designed by Marina Murad

When I first got into the field of graphic design, I must admit that it never occurred to me that designing typography in films was actually a thing. Like a real job. Everything from how the mood is set, the art that goes into creating an opening title sequence for a television show, or even a movie poster. The idea of people actually being hired to study a movement, an era, a genre in a film to make that feeling come alive is just so exciting to me. It’s just one of these things you don’t notice until you actually start working in the entertainment industry yourself!

So last week, as I was looking for nerdy design things to do, I noticed an event pop up on my Facebook feed from the Type Director’s Club in L.A.: A Night Highlighting Typography in the Film Industry. I immediately got excited and purchased my ticket to attend the lecture at Netflix headquarters. The thing that is very special about this event is that the Type Director’s Club is usually based in New York. And this was their first event in Los Angeles. I think some members even flew out from New York specifically to host this. So I wanted to share what I learned from the talk from the talented designers: Lisa Bolan, Manija Emran, and Tomasz Opasinski.

Lisa Bolan

Lisa Bolan is a talented creative director at Prologue Films. she designed over 30 film and television titles including Beauty & The Beast, Queen Sugar, Of Kings and Prophets, The Killing Fields, The Fifth Estate, Zoo, Sleepy Hollow, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part One & Part Two, Arthur, The Apparition, ESPN 30 for 30, and The Oscars.

Her unique and complex image making-skills and simple type treatments convey the mood across to the audience perfectly for each title she designs. Her work is so stunning that she looks effortless. Below are some screen captures of her title sequence Queen Sugar. As the sequence rolls on, the sugarcane burns, the flames lick at edges. The sugar was used to resemble a kaleidoscope of gems. Also, I must add, she was hilarious during her presentation for speaking to us about such serious shows.

Film capture curtsy  Art of the Title .

Film capture curtsy Art of the Title.

Film capture curtsy  Art of the Title .

Film capture curtsy Art of the Title.

Film capture curtsy  Art of the Title .

Film capture curtsy Art of the Title.

Altered Carbon film captures curtsy Art of the Title. The typography took on this concept of the loss of identity: you are no longer who you are, who you look because you have put yourself into another body via a cortical stack-like a flash drive you put into your spine and by doing this you get a new body. The type took on the look of a bar code aesthetic: an idea of numbers replacing letters with a cosmopolitan futuristic city feel in the background.


Manija Emran

Right before she even began speaking at this event, it was this moment of a mic drop in the Netflix theater. As if I immediately knew this female title director was going to be a bad ass from her first slide titled: “Design Refugee.” Manija is an Afghan graphic designer based in Los Angeles. Before she showed her current award-winning work, she spoke of her journey leaving Afghanistan and then going on to study with celebrated designers in London, Paris, NYC and Los Angeles.

Following this slide, the next slide read: “Comfort is one’s greatest enemy.”

Following this slide, the next slide read: “Comfort is one’s greatest enemy.”

I loved seeing that Manija came from a print background, just like me! This is her work in London under Frost Design/Vince Frost.

He work in New York with VSA Partners

In her work in Paris at Studio Philippe Apeloig

In We Are The Giant, her view was revolutions were born of people. And born with the human hand. Watch the incredible title below.

But my favorite of all her process was discovering the short time it took her to design a custom typeface in under two weeks for The Huntsman: Winter’s War. It usually takes a few months or years to perfect a typeface. She named the custom font Ravenna (after the Evil Queen). Designed by Manija, the Ravenna typeface encapsulates a classic feel while boasting a contemporary and sharp look to match the multifaceted character and her steadfast ways. The type is animated for The Huntsman: Winter's War, reflecting the shattering elements visualized throughout the titles.


Tomasz Opasinski

Tomasz Opasinski is an Entertainment Advertising Creative Director, author and independent consultant in over 560 campaigns for Hollywood Entertainment Advertising Agencies and Movie Studios. Participant, winner, and juror of numerous national and international competitions. Currently at Netflix as a Creative Lead. Basically, a legend.

All I could think of when seeing his work was, Holy smokes! I wanna be that good! When you look at the posters, it’s important to remember that this is a story-telling device. And when you see it in a mere 8 seconds while driving through traffic: you should get some sort of emotions, you get the story, you get hooked. Otherwise, the movie poster isn’t doing its job.

My favorite thing about his talk was showing us how and where he hid certain elements in his movie posters. Be it a character, or in the type treatments, etc. This guy is truly a wizard in his craft. I learned so much from his talk and I truly felt inspired. After the event, I even got to chat with him about some Netflix titles I had just completed. After all these talks, it made me question what my next steps are as a designer should be…maybe I’ll learn motion design or maybe I’ll get into movie posters! 😉

Graphic DesignMarina Murad