True Detective Wins 2014 Emmy Award For Outstanding Main Title Design

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Fonts in Use | Yves Peters | August 26, 2014

Yesterday night the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presented the 2013-2014 Creative Arts Primetime Emmy Awards for programs and individual achievements at the 66th Emmy Awards presentation. The Emmy® Awards recognise excellence within various areas of television and emerging media. The Primetime Emmy Award is a symbol of peer recognition from over 15,000 Television Academy members, with each member casting a ballot for the category of competition in their field of expertise. As typography (and other arts related to the alphabet like calligraphy, lettering, graffiti, etc.) are the main focus of The FontFeed, I am of course interested in Outstanding Main Title Design amongst the myriad categories.

Below are this year’s five nominees for the Emmy Awards 2014, with the winner at the end of the list. After their award at the 2014 SXSW Film Design Awards it should come as no surprise that the superb titles for True Detective also won this year’s Emmys in their category. The quality of all the nominees is stellar, and shows how television can easily rival big-budget Hollywood productions, down to the design of the title sequences. For additional information and links to in-depth interviews with the makers of three of the sequences check the excellent Art of The Title article analysing the sequences. I will take a look at their typography.


Imaginary Forces – Black Sails from Imaginary Forces on Vimeo.

The level of detail and the realistic texture make you forget the main title sequence for Black Sails was entirely created with CGI. The typography is stylish and subdued – a combination of tastefully spaced Alternate Gothic and MVB Celestia Antiqua, both all in capitals. Imaginary Forces must have picked up on something I noticed in MVB Celestia Antiqua myself, because I included the face in my not-so-serious Pirate Fontlist. The Black Sails logo is set in Goudy Oldstyle.

The minds of my partner and myself have been reeling from the fantastic explorations in COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey. These range from the infinite to the infinitesimal, and it is exactly those juxtapositions that the majestic opening credits by Big Block Design Group explore. The credits are set in Foundry Monoline, one of the lesser-known Eurostile alternatives. By the way, Neil deGrasse Tyson (or the Barry White of science as I like to call him) was indirectly responsible for one of the biggest laughs I recently had. My irony meter went supernova when creationists attacked him for – wait for it – “blind faith” in science. You couldn’t make that $h!t up.


“Masters of Sex” from Elastic on Vimeo.

After the two previous shiny CGI productions it is refreshing to see more DIY-like work. Elastic made it look as if they simply stitched together some impeccably curated stock footage for the amusing Masters of Sex main title sequence. This reminds me of the equally humorous print collaterals for the AIGA Minneapolis Design Show I judged last Spring. Christian SchwartzArt Deco sans serif Neutraface fits stylistically and historically, plus it looks perfectly in place on the glass pane of the door in the end shot.


HBO Silicon Valley – Main Title Opening from yU+co. on Vimeo.

From DIY to echoes of Sim City in all its pixelated glory. yU+co channel the hipster aesthetic of lo-res superstars eboy for the main title sequence of Silicon Valley. The fact that it clocks in at a mere 11 seconds seems like a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of the tech industry. The logo is rather disappointingly Helvetica, probably one of the bolder condensed weights (frankly I cannot even be bothered to look up which one).


HBO “True Detective” Main Title from Elastic on Vimeo.

And we end with the winner, True Detective by Elastic. The double-exposure photography turns the title sequence into a mesmerising discovery trip through the landscapes and protagonists of the series. The credits are set in ITC Avant Garde Gothic Condensed, with Minion as supporting typeface.

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