is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Speaking of movies, I did in fact go to see “The Bourne Ultimatum,” which was fantastic. With my perpetually critical designer’s eye, though, I noticed two things: first, that the movie’s titles are actually quite bad. They use a simplistic, somewhat retrograde graphical animation that amounts to pretty much what I imagine the titles for “Freejack” must have looked like.
But if you saw the movie too, you might not have paid much attention to the titles, because of my second observation: like a lot of films released in the past half decade, the titles follow at the end of the film, after the final frame of action. Though they are designed very much in the same way as titles that precede the film — you could almost move them to the start of the picture and they would work as is — they’re inserted as parting gestures instead of opening salutations.
To the Point
In an age where soon isn’t soon enough, there’s a certain appropriateness to jumping right into a movie without wasting time on credits. More and more, audiences, users and consumers want to cut to the chase, bypass the formalities that once seemed indispensable. Think of the early (and thankfully complete) demise of Web site introductory pages, or the various cover designs for books that resemble the table of contents or the first page of the first chapter more than they do traditional covers.
All of which is fine and good; I have no quarrel with any of it. For the most part. When it comes to film titles, I think I’m a kind of a closet traditionalist in that I tend to think there’s something ‘right’ about having titles at the beginning of a movie. Heck, if it were up to me, I’d bring back the days when all of the movie titles appeared at the beginning of the film.
Where Graphic Design Goes
A lot of this comes from the formative experience I had sitting through the titles that Bob Greenberg famously designed for “Superman: The Movie” when I was a kid. They seemed long and interminable at the time, and I doubtless would have appreciated having them tucked away at the end of the film had that been an option in 1978. But I didn’t appreciate then how effectively they set the stage for what I was about to see; the sense of anticipation they built up was a kind of magic of its own.
There’s more than nostalgia at work here, though. As bad as titles like those for “The Bourne Ultimatum” were, I just think it’s a shame to have the graphics stashed at that tail end of the moviegoing experience. I’m sure there are good reasons for this trend in moving titles — audience testing, union rules and artistic license surely figure into the equation — but in my admittedly biased opinion, it’s a shame to waste all that great design work on that part of the night when most people are leaving their seats and rushing to the bathroom+