“Saturday Night Live” kicked off its 44th season this fall with a new opening title sequence designed by Pentagram, the latest in a longstanding collaboration with NBC’s legendary sketch comedy show. Created in collaboration with longtime SNL photographer Mary Ellen Matthews and SNL film unit director Oz Rodriguez, the sequence combines French New Wave and New York New Wave via warm, playful portraits of the cast in iconic NYC locations, elegant typography and bold, hand-drawn strokes of vibrant color.
Pentagram has worked with SNL on multiple opening sequences over the years, most recently in 2014 for the show’s 40th anniversary season. The title sequence traditionally depicts the cast in various locations around New York City (which is practically a cast member itself). It is meant to feel like the city is a party and helps set the tone for viewers―joyful, but not humorous in itself. The 40th anniversary sequence featured soaring shots of the NYC skyline from a bird’s eye view, with the graphics integrated into the architecture of the city. For the latest iteration, SNL creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels wanted a new direction, more intimate and composed but still carrying the classic SNL feeling.
This open highlights the personalities of the players, with the glamor of the city as the backdrop. Each cast member is filmed in a different well-known spot―Kate McKinnon at the Met Museum, Colin Jost at the Oyster Bar, Leslie Jones at the Whitney Museum of Art―in shimmering, cinematic black and white that switches into full color when her or his name appears.
The typography is distinctively centered, justified, and layered over the portraits, in a style inspired by titles seen in classic French New Wave films like Jean-Luc Godard’s “Une Femme Est Une Femme” and “Bande a Parte,” and is set in the font Baton (designed by Fatype), which features unconventional letter shapes evoking French vernacular typography. The names flicker with color, giving them a handmade touch while evoking the jewel-toned lights of the city, for a bit of extra razzle-dazzle.
The flickering is echoed in animated squiggles and scribbles of electric color that highlight lines and forms in the images of the city. The hand-painted strokes are a nod to a different New Wave―the art of the New York post-punk scene of the ‘80s―while also nodding to Edie Baskin’s hand-painted photographs, one of SNL’s early stylistic trademarks.
The titles and bumpers incorporate SNL’s most recent identity, originally designed by Pentagram in 2014 for the 40th anniversary season in a custom version of Druk (designed by Commercial Type), and newly updated in bright color.