Quentin Coulombier on the art of designing film titles

True to his cinematographic training, Quentin Coulombier likes to set the scene for a discussion around typography: “Sunday evening – 9:23 p.m.; looking for a good movie to watch, browsing streaming sites, pages full of posters. Some of them will hold your attention more than others. In this situation, Quentin argues that the typography used on movie posters is just as important, or almost as important as the imagery.

In fact, Quentin would go so far as to argue that typography should be considered along with sound and image as the third crucial ingredient in the art of cinema. With his experience creating lettering for a wide range of film projects (Larry Clark’s latest film among them), he’s quite the expert on the subject. Along with hands-on experience, the typographer wrote his master’s thesis on the myriad uses of typography in film. It’s a font of knowledge when it comes to movie fonts, so we decided to trust it.

The first thing he emphasizes are the easiest typographical elements to miss from a film – the sign on a storefront, graffiti on a wall, a train ticket or a handwritten letter . “As a background entity, it may just be there, not essential to understanding the story,” says Quentin. Creating eye-catching type in this context isn’t necessarily the goal, rather it should blend into the background, adding the final veneer to the fictional world constructed in a film. “They are necessary for the projection of the spectator in an atmosphere of everyday life”, he adds. “Text and fonts are there to help invoke or revoke the notion of reality, to shape fiction.”

Then there is the text that is added to the images, for example the opening sequences, “where the titles, quotes or summaries certainly help to lay the foundations of the narration”. It’s Quentin’s specialty. When he designed the title of Larry Clarke’s latest film A day in a life, he notes that while the “shapes of the letters” are the most obvious thing to consider, they were not necessarily the most important. When you design a title for a film, it’s also about time and rhythm, space and composition,” he says. In that sense, it’s very different from working within the 2D confines of a movie poster, where composing an eye-catching yet static format is the primary concern.

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