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Kyle Cooper

Imagine you’ve spent 30 years of your life as a film director. Your latest feature has the financial backing of Paramount Pictures and its star, Tom Cruise. They release it during the summer, and while your film succeeds at the box office, critics give more praise to the opening credits than the movie itself. A graphic designer named Kyle Cooper upstaged your two-hour action/adventure with a two-minute spectacle. Andrea Codrington introduces us to Kyle Cooper, and delivers anecdotes like this, revealing what’s beneath the surface of the Yale-educated designer. Codrington, who’s known as a senior editor at I.D. magazine, is also a columnist for the New York Times and former editorial director of the AIGA. She also contributed to the book Pause :59 Minutes of Motion Graphics.

In this book, Codrington reveals Cooper’s oeuvre, influences, and education. His religious background may come as a surprise, considering the gore and horror he injected into Se7en’s opening credits. You may also question Paul Rand’s supposed influence. Coming out of such a rigorous typographic upbringing as his, it’s hard to notice Cooper’s attention to details under the quick cuts and typographic distress in title sequences like The Island of Dr. Moreau, Flubber, or Se7en. Freezing the motion in the printed pages of the book, we get a glimpse of action before it happens. Moving images become mere images. Being his most renowned sequence, Se7en appears frozen as storyboards. This was disappointing, but revealed the creative process.

Taking film into the printed environment presents obvious challenges, and letdowns. What gets left out? How does the reader account for missing “footage”? Codrington assists with her commentary that fills in the blanks, giving us details on movement, soundtrack, edits, symbolism, and the context of the film itself. Cuts are abrupt. The pacing is fast. Type runs to the foreground against dense shadows and muted color. We see how the compressed and energetic nature of Cooper’s work resembles music videos.

If film titles mimic the genre of music videos as Codrington suggests, perhaps Cooper will follow Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Michel Gondry. These music video directors have their very own DVDs with the luxury of motion and audio to project their 3-5 minute masterpieces as intended. I wonder if Paramount Pictures would fund such a project for Cooper, or if Yale University Press had considered it in lieu of the book?

Book Information
Kyle Cooper by Andrea Codrington
Monographics Press, Yale University Press
Monographics - Series editor, Rick Poynor
Paperback: 112 pages
ISBN: 0300099517
Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Feb.13.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
graham’s comment is:

i've always liked the title sequences to woody allen's films.

in what way does codrington suggest that film titles mimic music videos?

On Feb.13.2004 at 11:03 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Title sequencing resembles music videos because of their pacing and short duration. Looking back at some of the title sequences for 007 movies, it’s easy to see the similarities between title work and music videos because of the orchestration between image, sound, and type. Cooper’s title sequences also have the ability to stand up on their own, making them into these microfilms--no different than Michael Jackson’s Thriller, for instance.

On Feb.13.2004 at 12:32 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Oh, and I'm a huge Woody Allen fan too. Check out this link, it's my friend's blog:

Unfortunately, the image links seem broken.

On Feb.13.2004 at 12:38 PM
Sao Bento’s comment is:

This book was quite disappointing, it offers very little insight into either Kyle Cooper or his approach to design. Save a few bucks and buy the Step Inside Design magazine that has an interview with him - it covers 95% of what's mentioned in the book.

As far as Kyle Cooper himself, he's almost single handedly responsible for re-introducing real "design" into title sequences. Before him, you mostly had still images of crappy logos designed by someone in the marketing dept. of the distributor.

He can certainly get locked into certain themes, such as the whole Shakespearian thing he works into everything, but he is one of the most influential "motion graphic" designers working today. Hopefully someone will write something more comprehensive about him one day.

On Feb.13.2004 at 01:30 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

Woo Hoo... I love Kyle Cooper... - he rocks! I will pick it up regardless.

It is nice to have something other than a magazine article.. though, a lot of design books weigh on image content rather than text.... Why is that? Because we are "visual" people?

On Feb.13.2004 at 03:29 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

I agree with Sao Bento; for someone with the track record of Kyle Cooper, the book is skimpy. I wish Andrea Codrington had put together something closer to Chip Kidd's monograph (also released by Monographics): a comprehensive selection of work to date, nicely reproduced in an inexpensive, portable package. Obviously, this is easier to do with book covers, but still...

The list of Kyle Cooper-designed credit sequences was enlightening, however, and perhaps is worth the price of the book. (I'm not sure if that was included in the Step article.)

I do hope that Rick Poynor does keep this series going.

On Feb.13.2004 at 05:10 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Yes, they have more at works in the Monographics series. Chris Ware is next.

On Feb.13.2004 at 05:31 PM
graham’s comment is:

'Title sequencing resembles music videos because of their pacing and short duration.'

that's what the book says, is it? that's deep. secondhand insight into secondhand design.

sounds like a really great read.

On Feb.13.2004 at 06:20 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Ha! Graham, you are too funny.

On Feb.13.2004 at 07:02 PM