Futura and Wes Anderson  NOV 23 2004

Every year around this time, my thoughts turn to Wes Anderson and Futura. As noted elsewhere, Mr. Anderson is consistent in his use of Futura (bold) in his films. The supporting materials for The Life Aquatic (which opens here in NYC on Dec 10) continue the Futura trend, with the font appearing in the trailers and on posters. (A little Helvetica -- or worse, Arial -- has somehow crept onto this new poster, probably slapped on there by some intern when Someone Important noticed that Bill Murray's name wasn't on there.) What I've never been able to find an answer to, Wes, is why the Futura? This Typophile thread (kind of) suggests that David Wasco, Anderson's production designer on Tenenbaums, may have had something to do with it. Or is it a shout-out to Stanley Kubrick, who was partial to Futura Extra Bold? Does anyone know?

There are 23 reader comments

edemay30 23 200411:30PM

The origin I don't know, but Bill MURRAY is in Helvetica Neue, not Arial. I So I guess it's not THAT bad.

dan58 23 200411:58PM

I don't think it's connected to Wes Anderson, but the TV show "Lost" also uses Futura to good effect for its opening title and credits (I'm pretty sure). However, at the end of every episode they flash the title LOST on the screen, in what looks like Verdana. Damn those interns!

Brian P.00 24 200412:00AM

Hey correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this website currently being viewed in Arial? Come on now, it's not gorgeous but it's not Chicago either.

Jessica09 24 200412:09AM

it's because of old italian films. the credits were in futura and in different cases. so it would be like Firstname LASTNAME.
Anderson talks about it in the Rushmore commentary track.

giloco10 24 200412:10AM

he tells you why he loves futura on the rushmore dvd commentary... I can't remember exactly, but i think it's because of some german/film noir?? films that he really loved in his youth. I think he uses it as a tribute to them.

Chris Vincent45 24 200412:45AM

I'm not sure what Mr. Anderson's deal is, but I can relate. Futura is beautiful.

By the way, Brian P., it looks to me like this site is in Lucida Grande.

Ed Knittel51 24 200412:51AM

Any updated links? Typophile thread is "Under Construction" and the poster has ceased to exist.

Michael47 24 2004 1:47AM

Interesting to note, Stanley Kubrick's favorite typeface was Futura Extra Bold. One of the many nice facts from the great article, Citizen Kane.

Narcisse02 24 2004 3:02AM

I can appreciate a sans-serif..always smooth, always dry...never lets you down...

Angus02 24 2004 7:02AM

The Adobe Futura page manages to work a Mr Quick Brown Fox into Futura, so Wes may be able to do likewise with Fantastic Mr Fox?

BP45 24 2004 7:45AM

Didn't Woody Allen use it?

ryan.45 24 2004 9:45AM

Futura is a classic typeface, used consistently/repeatedly by designers worldwide for years. Wes Anderson also using it consistently/repeatedly in his films doesn't strike me as bizarre or even noteworthy. I like Wes Anderson plenty, but I doubt that his use of Futura signals some hidden conceptual agenda.

And throwing Helvetica in with Arial... !? That hurts.

Sam19 24 200410:19AM

Woody Allen used Windsor. I haven't read the Typohile threads, but I'd gues that the inline type used for "The Life Aquatic" is Nobel, or Venus--the "C" isn't Futura. Sometimes a font is just a font.

Frank52 24 200410:52AM

It's just branding. You know how Pepsi bottles look so they can tell you what's inside?

Jessica/giloco -- you're right. You can see Futura credits throughout mid-century European cinema. Anderson's strongest nod was in his short version of Bottle Rocket that played at Sundance and got him the deal to do the feature. It's very French.

klaus vonblowhole55 24 200411:55AM

no no no... woody alen uses a serifed font. All the fonts in discussion are sans-serif. ...but you're thinking along the right lines. Every Woody Allen film has the same credits: white Windsor type on a black bg.

Roger Wong16 24 200412:16PM

Not to get too off-topic here, but does anyone else think that in the opening "Lost" titles the word "LOST" is poorly rendered? It starts off blurry (intentional) and becomes more in focus as it gets closer to the camera. But in the last second before it cuts to black (and then commercial) you can see the individual polygons forming the curves of the O and S.

Eh, maybe I'm just picky.

But that's why I'm a graphic designer... commenting on a blog post about a typeface in a movies. :)

Jeff Harrell41 24 2004 6:41PM

I'd love to hear some comments on the typography featured in the new FOX show "House." I don't have a particularly strong opinion about the show one way or the other, but I found the typography in the titles and on set to be really surprisingly distinctive.

Essive27 24 2004 8:27PM

The type used in Dogma is also very interesting. It has the alchemy style which delivers a mystical feeling.

Maartn40 24 2004 8:40PM

Thoroughly enjoyed that Kubrick article, Mr Kottke. Another fine link.

Matt21 25 2004 1:21AM

I've been pointing out the Anderson/Kubrick typeface obsessions for some time now. Just not online.

[In other words, I have no proof.]

Matt Florence34 25 2004 1:34PM

I was trained a bit in design by a graphic design friend. He turned me on to Futura Extra Bold and Palatino (or Garamond). It's an absolutely beautiful combination. I've used it consistently for years. I didn't know others had such an obsession with it, too. Thanks for lettimg me know. This durn Web thang, you just don't know what you'll find out from it, do you?

Mark59 26 2004 8:59AM

It's funny - I've been around and around and AROUND with experimental fonts for various blogs and photography portals in recent years, and always seem to come slinking back to Verdana (which incidentally, Brian P, is what this blog is currently displayed in, not arial - although as with most sites utilising the former, the latter is likely to be listed in the css as a 'backup' option).

Whilst it's a tad boring continually returning to Verdana, I think it serves blogs very well, because most blogs try to be at least slightly amusing - and for my money, Verdana has a certain buffoonery to it, a kind of slightly tongue-in-cheek campness that makes a written paragraph look as if the author was grinning wryly at the time.

I once made a beautiful-looking website on a Mac, using OSX, on which the main body font was either Georgia or Geneva (I can't quite remember now) - it looked absolutely stunning at 10px on the Mac running a Safari browser. Howeverm it looked bloody rubbish in IE - all jerky and scratchy, as if it wasn't anti-aliased - and so I scrapped it and reverted to...well, you all know the rest. Bloody IE! ARGH! ;-)

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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