Saturday Night Live returned in fall 2022 for Season 48 with a year of big change. Eight veteran cast members departed—including Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson. One of the ways executive producer Lorne Michaels wanted to capture that change was with a new identity and title sequence. Pentagram’s Emily Oberman and team collaborated with longtime SNL photographer Mary Ellen Matthews and SNL film unit director Mike Diva on an opener that is dramatically different from anything the show has done before. The titles also introduce a new logo by Pentagram that looks back to the roots of the show as it approaches its 50 year mark.
The SNL opening titles traditionally depict the cast in various locations around New York to make the city feel like a party, to set the right tone for the show. During the pandemic years of Seasons 46 and 47, the sequence showed the masked cast members returning to 30 Rock. Now that New York is (largely) back on its feet and people are reuniting with friends and family without fear, Oberman and Matthews wanted to have the cast all in one place and have that place be as iconic as the show and the city itself.
And so, the new opening brings the cast to the historic Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street. The Chelsea has legendarily housed artists for over a century and is an incubator of creativity not unlike Studio 8H. It also contains a variety of spaces that could provide settings for different tableaus for the cast.
Brilliantly directed by Mike Diva over two nights, the camera travels through the physical space of the hotel to find each cast member in different scenarios. The camera movement speeds up, then slows down to almost stop-motion as it zooms in on the actor. This gives everyone their moment. Seamless transitions by editor Danny Garcia help tie it all together.
The sequence kicks off with a brand new logo for the show, the fourth identity Oberman has designed over the years. The team wanted to do something special as the show nears its first half century, and the new logo pays tribute to the original typography in a way that sharp-eyed fans will appreciate. The wordmark brings back the distinctive lowercase “n” from Season 1 and a triple-stacked configuration the designers refer to as “the tornado.”
“It says something about the timelessness of SNL that you can make a reference to 50 years ago and it doesn’t feel old,” says Oberman. “In the same way that the show has managed to stay around for so long yet still feel fresh every season.”
The designers wanted the “n” to have a moment again, but not in a way that felt nostalgic. The new logo is set in Bass-O-Matic SNL (IYKYK), a customized version of the sans serif Blender by Nik Thoenen of Binnenland, who describes the original font as a blend of different types of letterforms—some curved, some sharp—which felt related to the structure of SNL itself and its many diverse players.
The color of the identity moves away from the bright blue of the past decade plus to something more understated—a subtle glow of red and yellow.
In the title sequence, the cast names combine sans and serif type for a mix of modern and elegant, using Bass-O-Matic SNL. The type creates a flickering pattern like analogue film run through a projector, before it resolves to super slow-mo with each hero. The type is set on an axis to give it a dimensional feel as it floats in space.
The spirit of non-stop movement extends to bumpers where the flexible new monogram can break up, come together and lock to corners of the frame. This lets the show’s identity serve as the frame for Mary Ellen Matthews’ photos, and gives her more opportunity to make the type work with her vision. The logo can also be worked into existing images and typography, like the bumper where the monogram is lined up to share the “L” in the Chelsea Hotel’s iconic neon sign.