I remember sitting on the brown leather couch in my parents ‘den’ watching Goonies on our Rankarena television. It was the 80s and we had a shag pile rug on the floor, mission brown with green striped curtains and circular patterned orange cushions. The titles of the classic movies I watched fascinated me to no end, they were clunky and lacked finesse but were memorable. The recent Netflix series Stranger Things opening titles echoes the same brash pure type treatment of this era in its brand.
So where did this influence come from?
The titles reflect the references in the series itself that is saturated with iconic nods to the 80s, in much the same way as Ready Player One did. Creative Director, Michelle Doherty of Imaginary Forces (creators of the sequence) talks about the influence behind the title sequence after speaking to the show’s producer and director Shawn Levy.
“They had this incredible vision! The initial call was them talking to us about some of the film titles that they liked. They referenced Richard Greenberg and all the greats that he’d created — The Goonies, Altered States, Alien, The Untouchables, The Dead Zone, just to name a few. That was great to hear because we understood where they were coming from. That was really refreshing — and pretty surprising — that these creators knew so much about title design.
After that call, they sent over some book covers that they liked, from books that they’d either read or seen as children. Most of them were by Stephen King, so we knew they were looking for something that felt 80s and tapped into this nostalgia by using that typography.”
The title sequence opens with an eerie synth soundtrack and black screen. Large outlined red letters pan across slowly, the letter spacing reducing as the camera zooms out to eventually form the title. The primary font cleverly chosen to reflect the era is Benguiat, as it appears on several of Stephen King’s book covers. The type treatment shows tight kerning between letters and large capitals in much the same way as The Stand and The Dead Zone. Use of minimal effects such as jitters in the light and subtle colour flares with grainy appearance further connect to a time when titles were created optically as opposed to the slick digital sequences we are accustomed to seeing now.
This superb minimal typographic title sequence does what great brands do, to capture the essence of its product.
To many, the Stranger Things title conjures up all the nostalgia of the past with a direct link to simply a typeface and powerful motion design. As I watch the sequence again I imagine the time we’d play Dungeon and Dragons for hours on weekends with 20-sided dice. Then I look to the couch and watch my kids play endless games of Fortnite and laugh. It’s no stranger than the past.
Senior Designer & Writer