The Graphics Were the Best Part of the Oscars

Here's the guy who made them

Updated on

As speculation swirled Sunday night around who would win Best Actress and Best Actor and which film would come out on top, design-minded viewers had another red hot question.

Who came up with the gorgeous title sequences introducing each category?

It was Henry Hobson, a British-born, L.A.–based film director and graphic designer, with the help of the California animation studio Elastic and show co-producer Lee Lodge.

This is just one of 23 sequences Hobson whipped up for the Academy Awards, every one taking a singular approach to its theme:

https://vimeo.com/120316233

For the production design category, Hobson arranged and photographed the recognizable props associated with each nominated film. For costumes, he traced the garb's development from the flowing lines of hand-drawn sketches to the fully realized garments.

Hobson, 33, has been involved with the Oscars for seven years, in one way or another, gradually pushing the look and feel of the title sequences in a contemporary direction and away from the use of stitched-together film clips.

"The Oscars is the celebration of film, but there’s also a degree in which we can celebrate and tell the story of the filmmakers’ journey through design," he said.

It's also a testament to the good work that can result from deadline constraints. Hobson and his team had about two and a half weeks to riff on the nominations once they were announced—typical of the Oscars but months short of the time graphic designers get to develop a campaign.

Hobson wanted to be bolder than in previous years but needed to be mindful of the Academy's reputation for glamour. "It would be wrong of me and the team to do something that would alienate the rest of the Academy's branding," he said. So for the typography, he borrowed from the Academy's visual identity, elegantly redesigned by 180LA in 2013, which allowed him to conjure the theatricality of the event without resorting to gold or other types of bedazzling imagery.   

Hobson is currently in postproduction for his first independent feature film, starring Abigail Breslin and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A graduate of London's Royal College of Art, he is responsible for the moody title sequence of 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, for which he created a custom serif typeface:

https://vimeo.com/43491415

But it is his work for the Oscars that calls to mind the title maestro (and Hobson's design hero) Saul Bass, whose visual cleverness and clarity in this genre are still arguably unmatched. I mean, look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sA1en26sgM

https://vimeo.com/31953978

What's on tap for next year? Hobson imagines each category being produced by a separate design team, for a wide breadth of approaches.

And we imagine the same pains being taken with the show's script.  

Isn't it all about dreaming?

(Corrects name of Oscars co-producer Lee Lodge.)

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