Wallow in the manic title sequences of Kyle Cooper, a legendary designer in the making.
Top image via Warner Bros.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in interior architecture, Kyle Cooper went on to study graphic design at Yale University, where he received a Master of Fine Arts. Cooper studied under legendary designer Paul Rand, who is known for his corporate logos for IBM, ABC, and UPS.
Early in his career, Cooper worked as a creative director for the advertising agency R/GA. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, R/GA created a new digital division that focused on the work of feature films and television commercials. R/GA Digital Studios produced content for hundreds of films like The Untouchables, Home Alone, and Goodfellas. Cooper himself worked on films likeTrue Lies and Braveheart, but none of his early work was more praised than his credits for Se7en.
Cooper worked with director David Fincher to create the titles, who wanted them to feel that the character John Doe had created them.
When I was a kid and I would watch horror movies, the monster didn’t come out until the third act. I was lucky to watch [Se7en] early on, and I remember thinking that after I saw it, I wanted to see the killer earlier on… to somehow introduce the killer in the titles. I asked if I could look at all the props and anything that Fincher might have to look at, and there were a couple of prop notebooks that had excessive writing in them, and I thought it would be good to do a tabletop shoot with them and have it be about their preparation, as though it was John Doe’s job to prepare them. – Art of the Title
This angry, manic, and rapid style of credit sequence would become Cooper’s signature look. He would recreate a similar feel for films like Mimic. That said, he also excelled in many other forms too.
After seven years with R/GA, Cooper founded Imaginary Forces with fellow designers Chip Houghton and Peter Frankfurt. The Hollywood studio quickly established itself with their work on logos, like the browser icon for Netscape, as well as title sequences like The Mummy.
The Mummy titles, like all of Cooper’s projects, aimed to set the viewer up for the film. For this feature, Cooper turned to using Egyptian hieroglyphs to help set the scene.
By 2001, Cooper had already worked on over 100 film and television title sequences. It was in 2001 that he created the beloved intro to Band of Brothers and jumped into video games with the titles for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
Perhaps the most memorable were the titles for Spider-Man 2. The creation of these titles took nearly a year.
In 2003, Imaginary Forces had grown into a large and still-expanding company. Wanting to focus more on creative work (rather than business management), Cooper left the company and founded Prologue.
One of the first big sequences produced by Prologue was the intro the the Dawn of the Dead remake directed by Zack Snyder. The director once remarked that some filmmakers had refused to work with Cooper because…
He’s the guy who makes title sequences better than the movie. – Zack Snyder (Wired)
In 2006, Cooper was tasked with reinvigorating the famous opening titles of the Superman franchise when he created the opening of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. In quite the historical note, the original 1978 title sequence that this was based on was created by Richard Greenberg, who founded the company R/GA where Cooper got his start.
With the success of the Spider-Man and Superman titles, Cooper had certainly grabbed the attention of Marvel Entertainment. When the company began producing their own films, Cooper helped establish the look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when he created the titles for all three of the Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk, and Thor.
Cooper also teamed up again the Bryan Singer on the Marvel/Fox films, X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. During this period, he also created the excellent intro to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which had the classic feel of a Saul Bass sequence.
Outside of comic book franchises, Kyle Cooper has been plenty busy in television as well. He has produced the openings for Vegas, Elementary (and coincidentally the Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows film), Mob City, and American Horror Story.
As far as feature films, he recently produced the intro for the remake of Godzilla.
In this series of interviews, Kyle Cooper talks about the creation of several of his most notable projects, as well as some of his influences. The interview is most certainly worth the watch.