Dr. Strangelove, Bullitt, Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, Philadelphia, A Clockwork Orange, Men in Black, Good Will Hunting, Doctor Doolittle, Psycho, Napoleon Dynamite. If you’ve seen any one of these movies, then yes, you know Pablo Ferro’s work.
Turns out, we knew Pablo, too. His work, that is. His actual name didn’t ring a bell, so our design team headed over to the YBCA to soak up some inspiration and to see Pablo, featured this month at their Design & Architecture Film Showcase.
Well then, who is this Pablo? A wild-eyed romantic artist? Just plain strange? Bohemian? Gypsy? Probably all, on any given day, but first and foremost he’s one of the last living legends of title design.
When popping the corn through title sequences before a movie, do you feel something? If they’re good, you do. Title sequences set the mood. Cuban-born artist Pablo Ferro broke ground setting the mood with the titles for films like Dr. Strangelove and pioneered moving type for the screen. Part of the generation of title designers who emerged in the 1950s and 60s, he incorporated the visual language of graphic design and popular culture into film. Ferro may be known best as a pioneer of quick-cutting and for using multiple images within the frame. In his commercials and title sequences, he would create a continuous flow of imagery that drew upon a wide range of graphic materials from various media. The goal was to sell a product, a movie or an idea by visualizing abstract concepts through his thought-provoking mixture of animation, live-action, clips from newsreels, still photographs and original artwork. His style of montage seemed strangely apt for the dawn of the age of media overload; he found poetry in the potential chaos of too much information.
Need a little perspective? In the late 1950s most live-action commercials were shot like this:
And Ferro? He brought this to the table:
Many think of title sequences as nothing more than information before a film. This documentary brings an awareness to title art, as art. There’s a great amount of storytelling and artistry that goes into title sequences. Appreciate good title design. Meet Pablo.