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A look at MK12`s custom font for `Quantum of Solace` title sequence

21-Dec-2008 • Quantum Of Solace

A little over a month ago I received an e-mail from fellow Typophile Robert Farrelly. He alerted me to the fact that the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace had some interesting typography – specifically the location cards that designated where the action was taking place. The choice of typography was adapted to the geographical location. When researching this the first people I stumbled upon were MK12. The self-proclaimed “full-service lateral hyperthreaded tactical design and research bureau” created the opening credits for the most recent James Bond movie. They also did a bit of R&D for the cards but were responsible for the creation of only the Port Au Prince, Haiti location title card out of the set reports FontFeed.

Yet the opening sequence of Quantum of Solace by MK12 is definitely worth mentioning as well. After the remarkable stylised opening titles for Casino Royale the newest sequence is a return to Maurice Binder’s typical vintage James Bond opening credit titles featuring scantily clad and often discreetly naked women. MK12 take over from Daniel Kleinman who was responsible for the opening credit titles for all of the James Bond movies after 1989’s Licence To Kill. The James Bond franchise has proven to be remarkably loyal and seem to value long-lasting relationships – MK12 are but the fourth name in the list of title designers spanning 46 years and 22 movies.

The type treatment in the title sequence for Quantum of Solace is very interesting. Seemingly random sequences of vertical strokes and circles appear and are subsequently completed to form words and names. MK12 custom designed the typeface which looks like a classic Helvetica-like grotesque. The type, created from scratch, was modelled around the perfectly circular O’s, which were originally meant to symbolize bullet casings. The animation style incorporates the classic travelling dot from the barrel sequence, which precedes the opening titles in almost all of the Bond films. Also, by utilising the sporadic blinking of basic shapes, the font animates in tandem with the staccatos of the main title score and pays homage to the opening titles from Dr. No (1962) and its designer, Maurice Binder.

Binder designed the opening credit titles for almost all of the James Bond movies up to Licence To Kill. Only for From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964) another designer was hired – 50s and 60s graphic design legend Robert Brownjohn.

MK12 was founded in 2000 by four friends (Timmy Fisher, Ben Radatz, Matt Fraction, and Jed Carter) who met at the Kansas City Art Institute. They previously worked with Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster, designing opening credit titles for the movies Stranger Than Fiction (2006) and The Kite Runner (2007). Their help was enlisted by visual effects producer Leslie McMinn. Although they are still pretty new in the motion picture business, their ground breaking opening credit titles for Stranger Than Fiction propelled them into the spotlights. The sequence is a fascinating blend of live action and animated typography and information graphics morphing across the screen. News Gothic works wonderfully well in this context.

The opening sequence for Casino Royale by Daniel Kleinman is a glorious achievement as well. The inventive use of motion capture transforms the actors in striking black and white (James Bond) and red (his adversaries) silhouettes who engage in fierce fights. I particularly like how knife cuts effectively split the silhouettes in parts, and how defeated adversaries disintegrate in myriads of spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. These playing card suits grow like leaves on tendrils and multiply like Mandelbrot sets, and are even used as lethal projectiles. Adrian Frutiger’s Avenir – his take on Futura – is a very good choice, as its non-intrusive geometric character shapes complement the highly stylised graphics perfectly well. The only thing I find odd is that the movie logo is set in Century Gothic, the Futura redrawn by Sol Hess for Lanston Monotype. Combining both Futura variations in one sequence doesn’t seem like a sound idea.

Daniel Kleinman was discovered by the James Bond producers halfway the nineties with his music video for Gladys Knight’s theme song Licence To Kill, proving he had paid close attention to the work of Maurice Binder. This led to the commission for creating the main title sequences for GoldenEye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World Is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002) and eventually Casino Royale (2006).

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