Know Your Nominee: Main Title Design Emmy Awards 2017

The 69th Annual Emmy awards has announced the lists of nominees that will be vying for the gold come September 17. The awards acknowledge the artists from across all aspects which makes this the Golden age of Television. With the great variance of shows nominated from multiple platforms of streaming/broadcast networks and with the long list of categories does knowing all the shows and people up for the award becomes a challenge. That said I think it’s appropriate for television fanatics to take the time to know your nominee.

Whether it’s the catchy theme song of Friends or Cheers or a sequence of striking visuals and design choices does an opening main title sequence becomes an art. While not always respected as TV Networks started shortening them to not subtract from commercial time and Netflix introduced a skip intro button to ease your binge-watching desires. Still, when done right a title sequence can immerse the viewer and represent the entire show’s premise and tone in a quick fashion. The title sequence is the first impression a viewer gets of the show, and requires a unique design to stand out from the rest. Anyone interested in design or unaware of the extensive work that could go into designing that title, design tuts plus has tutorials for text effects to see how even a static design is quite the process. This category is judged solely on the design of the sequence and leaves music into a separate category. Without further ado, here are the nominees.

American Gods

Creative director Patrick Clair heads the American Gods team, representing Elastic Studio. Elastic studio is an entertainment industry that focuses on multiple aspects of media design and effects. Elastic takes pride in their work on television intros in which it proclaims,

“a beautiful fusion of design and storytelling that welcomes the viewers and is always a pleasure to watch. We’ve created some of the most iconic title sequences in the industry, including the Emmy award-winning work for Game of Thrones and True Detective.”

Elastic hopes to add another piece of golden hardware and has a great opportunity to do so as we’ll further discuss, American Gods marks one of three out of five nominees representing Elastic. The entire crew includes Raoul Marks, Devin Maurer, and Jeff Han. American Gods is a clever show providing commentary on societal beliefs and peoples’ desires. The Starz critically acclaimed show is a decisive adaptation of the novel centered around the idea of deities waging war and the creation of new Gods reflecting on modern society.

American Gods Opening Sequence from lost fan on Vimeo.

 While, it seems like a mystifying, overwhelming explosion of odd imagery, it is actually full of well-choreographed symbolism and meaningful intent. For more on interpreting the opening credits, Eleanor Tremeer, a fellow writer on platform goes into much detail explaining what it all means. If the award comes down to the most striking use of colors, then this will win. While general designs will opt to use complementary color schemes to contrast between the spaces inhabited by different colors, American Gods’ opening sequence instead works wonders with analogous color schemes. Whether it’s plunging the viewer into warm reds, oranges, and yellow or the opposite spectrum of cool blues, greens, and violets each image transforms into a solid formless mass. Each visual is assisted by the use of rapid editing and extreme close-ups that teases the viewer into wanting to see more in which encourages the audience to pause and analyze each frame of the sequence or watch through it each episode to see what additional detail you pick up on each time. As for the title frame I do think it’s ingenious in the overall intent of the display. The American Gods’ title is luminous and resembles store signs in the intent that these Gods are to grab attention and be noticed to hold any power. The totem pole is symbolic not only in the eagle representing America but essentially the hierarchy in which these Gods compete to attract the attention of us. I think the sequence is bizarre, speaks volume in its display of provoking imagery, and it very easily conveys everything in which the show is meant to be making it well deserved of its nomination.

The Crown

Patrick Clair and the Elastic team are on the board yet ago with their stunning visual effects work featured at the start of each episode of the Netflix Original, period drama The Crown. While most of the praise for the show goes towards Claire Foy and John Lithgow for their portrayals of British dignitaries Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill. While both deserving of their applauds let them not out-shine the outstanding work of Elastic in the opening sequence.

The Crown’s opening is pure elegance. If it comes down to make-up of visual effect then don’t be surprised if this is your winner. The slow-motion liquid metal formation of the crown is remarkable especially in the detail of the metallic surface. The Crown opening is stunning in its lighting design with how the light strikes the crown creating a bold image with every extreme close-up of the crown. Each intricate detail of the crown is showcased in this dazzling opening. The actual title is sleek with the type in Serif based font and a top to bottom gradient that looks similar to Victoria’s Secret. This opening as well deserves it nomination in how it captures the essence of the show, watching it feels powerful, regal, and prestigious. The only knock against it is that it’s visually repetitive and nothing that doesn’t feel done before. At the same time I’m sure to the people it matters the most to, the people’s who’s named are featured in it definitely appreciate how their credit doesn’t get lost in mix (Looking at you American Gods). It’s simple yet, elegant which is what you would come to expect from The Crown.

FEUD: Bette and Joan

The Opening to FEUD: Bette and Joan is brought to us from Creative Director Ryan Murphy, representing Prologue Studio. The Prologue staff includes Alexis Martin Woodall, Kyle cooper, Nadia Tzuo, and Margherita Premuroso. Murphy and Cooper have collaborated in the past Emmy-nominated endeavors with the American Horror Storydesigns. The Prologue company,

“specializes in merging principles of typography and graphic design with sequence, story, and sound”.

The series itself is another FX original anthology show that will focus on dramatizing famous feuds throughout history. The first season revolves around the 1960’s feud between the two leading ladies of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Actresses Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange step in the shoes of these bitter rivals and their stories of animosity which the title sequence displays.

I enjoy the unique visuals of the opening credit which is a homage to the title designs of Saul and Elaine Bass. This unique husband and wife team collaborated in unique suspenseful designs and was best known for working on a few of Hitchcock’s finest works. If the prize goes to the most unique of the bunch than this would be it. The design creates unique images with multiple solid colored asymmetric shapes to tell a story. I’ve personally always coined this to be construction paper design in it simple color and shapes does it appear an image could be reproduced with some construction paper and scissors. It presents itself in a neat mini-story format that artistically displays a few of the story elements of the series. While certainly providing clues to the premise of the series and an interesting nod to the decade in which the show takes place I’m unsure if it achieves portraying the tone of the show. The title is also odd in its appearance early in the sequence and in what I personally found to be the least appeal frame of simple heart in a plain wide white font. Overall, it’s a quaint nice design that I feel either will be pushed to the side due to it lacking the extravagance of its competitors or stealing the prize for just how much it strays from the pack and truly feels special.

Stranger Things

Imaginary Forces was the company behind crafting the iconic opening of the Netflix hit, Stranger ThingsImaginary Forces describes themselves as a

“creative company specializing in visual storytelling and brand strategy…powered by talented individuals working together to push the limits of creative possibility”

. Michelle Dougherty (creative director) along with: Peter Frankfurt, Arisu Kashiwagi, and Eric Demeusy are the driving forces behind the design. Stranger Things is the Duffer Brothers’ love child of E.T., The Goonies, and all things 80’s. The show features a group of misfit kids who have to get the bottom of the strange things happening in their small town after their friend goes missing. While short, the opening visuals accompanied by the synth soundtrack is sure to provide a jolt to its audience.

This opening is interesting, to say the least. It’s intriguing to see how the designers use these edges to create unique borders to the text. The subtext of the sequence of the pieces coming together, and the importance of scope and perspective to unraveling the bigger picture is a nice touch if that was the intention. If this award came down to the font design, or static image of the title than I would hand it to this one. The neon red among the pure darkness of the backdrop creates a neat glow effect to the title. The text itself is a tribute to many of text choices that graced the covers of 80’s media.

“The primary typeface is Benguiat, chosen for its associations with Stephen King paperbacks, the Choose Your Own Adventure series, and other dusty, musty touchstones.”

Again, I would mention it shares the same drawback as The Crown opening in a lack of visual variance but is still simple and appealing regardless. I also think that the by a slim margin that the visuals get overshadowed by the synth music despite the two working well together. The Stranger Things title sequence is epic and is also not only a homage to the retro decade but also striking modern brilliance that is a respectable addition to the many nods the academy has given to the show.


While I can’t say I’ve seen HBO’s Westworld, feel free to correct me if this is an inaccurate statement but the show’s premise is pretty much Jurassic Park but instead of dinosaurs it’s robot cowboys. That sounds pretty cool to me, and something that awesome certainly requires an opening to match. Patrick Clair and Elastic are back again this time working with the team of: Raoul Marks, Yongsub Song, Felix Soltic, Jessica Hurst, Jose Limon. The visuals created with this sequence are awe-striking, encapsulating, and truly something to rest your eyes upon.

It appeared that Clair found a muse in the pre-existing aesthetics of the Westworld show and made sure to incorporate it in his own abstract, beautiful creation. When Interviewed Clair responded how,

“So technically speaking, we recreated it. But the show shared with us all sorts of footage, such as the actual player piano, so we went and photographed that, and rebuilt that in a CGI world.”

The cryptic ensemble of elements not only gives a basic glimpse at the show’s premise but also a jumble of imagery waiting to be explored and deconstructed. Each image created is an inventive and dramatic monochromatic design, playing with the white and black spectrum to its fullest extent. If it comes down to pure cinematic and bold design then Westworld may take the cake. The title design works in impostering a business logo. The way in which the opening captures the beauty of natural landscapes and anatomy, juxtaposed with the beauty of technology and robotics is mesmerizing. If I had to provide criticism, it would be that this and all of the Elastic products feel almost formulaic. Each nominee from the Elastic company appears to have a similar schematic of extreme close-ups, focusing on an object or series of objects, and pacing. I’m sure by watching the five nominees in order you could easily identify the three from the same company and not for their quality or artistic choices but they all just feel the same.

Prediction: Who Wins?

To be clear, I make this prediction solely based on personal bias and have not looked or researched any odds or favorites for these awards. I would also like to preface this by saying it’s tough as I do think all five are exemplary and showcase great design in a part of media that sometimes gets overlooked. All things considered, I would give the edge to Westworld with American Gods coming in a close second, not saying it’s not a tight race between all involved. At the end of the day Westworld just created this immersive and poetic vision into the show that I felt was best rendition of the formula of the Elastic company. Westworld achieved a great title sequence that creates a satisfying effect of watching the Westworld gears go in motion.

Which Title Sequence Do You Think Deserves to Win an Emmy?

Opening Sequences are from:

  • American Gods [Credit: Starz/Elastic]
  • The Crown [Credit: Netflix/Elastic]
  • FEUD: Bette and Joan [credit: FX/Prologue]
  • Stranger Things [credit: Netflix/Imaginary Forces]
  • Westworld [Credit: HBO/Elastic]

One thought on “Know Your Nominee: Main Title Design Emmy Awards 2017

  1. Thanks for reading the article, if any fellow writer would like to adapt the “know your Nominee” idea, I know I won’t be covering every category so feel free to put a personal spin on the post and let me know and I’ll be sure to promote it on my humble internet corner you’ve stumbled upon.


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