Each December, The Black List compiles the most liked unproduced screenplays of the year as determined by a survey of film studio and production company executives. Founded in 2005 by film development executive Franklin Leonard, the lists have featured over 200 screenplays that later became feature films, including award winners such as “Juno,” “The King’s Speech,” “Argo,” “Spotlight,” “Jojo Rabbit” and “Queen & Slim,” among many others.
Pentagram created the digital cover of the 2020 edition of the list. The cover image has a strong graphic impact for a year that felt apocalyptic in its intensity, defined by the Covid-19 pandemic, police brutality protests and the US presidential election. (The name “The Black List” has special resonance in the year of mass protests in support of Black Lives Matter; the name was originally a nod to Leonard’s Black heritage and to the writers who were barred in the Hollywood blacklist of the McCarthy era.)
A series of sketches explored graphic signs and symbols through the lens of 2020, combining diverse influences to convey a sense of history and that the year is a turning point. In the final design, the date is represented in graphic elements inspired by systems of counting, a reference to the tabulation that goes into creating the Black List. Screenplays must receive a certain number of mentions (seven this year) in order to make it on the list.
These counting systems include Roman numerals, where 2020 equals MMXX, rendered here in rough marks inspired by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose recurring motifs included an “M”-like “crown” and cross-like “X” over the eyes of his subjects.
The cover also incorporates 2020 as it would appear on an abacus. The circles double as zeroes and are paired with the number “2” to form the abstract shape of eyeglasses. At the top, the date appears in Maya numerals, which have a zero that resembles an eye, looking back over the year and forward to the next.