An Industry Spotlight on Legendary Imaginary Forces

Motion Design 09/05/2019 3 min read

When it comes to highlighting some of the most defining names in the motion graphics industry, none may be more defining than Imaginary Forces.

Today, we’ll take a look at some of the great work that has made Imaginary Forces a leader in the industry as well as the people behind the defining work.

Studio Growth & Se7en Notoriety

Imaginary Forces has blossomed into a large studio with over 70 artists, but they started out as a small studio with founders Kyle Cooper, Chip Houghton, and Peter Frankfurt. All three had cut their teeth doing title design at R/Greenberg Associates before banding together to start Imaginary Forces and redefine what title sequences could be.

Kyle Cooper first made big waves for directing the title sequence for the cutting edge 1995 film Se7en. Although his work on this film was done while at R/Greenberg Associates, it set things into motion for both Cooper and the eventual Imaginary Forces team.

Cooper utilized live-action elements from a series of notebooks in a tabletop shoot with close-ups of the villain’s hands cut with jittery type made from a combination of hand-drawn elements and Helvetica font. The entire sequence was twisted, scary, and original.

IFC has named the titles from Se7en as the third best title sequence ever. A pretty good honor to have.

Blockbuster Title Projects

With that project under their belts, and many others, the team was quickly able to build a name and find a large client base, largely in title sequences but also in commercial and broadcast work.

Amongst their many movie title projects are blockbusters like Mission Impossible, Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, and Terminator Salvation.

For Terminator Salvation, director Karin Fong and her team had to reimagine the titles from the original Terminator movie into something that was both rooted in the original yet fresh and current for the 2009 update.

Among the updates that they made, were the much more modern “machine vision” graphics. These were the elements on screen that were from the POV of the machines. Whereas the 1984 version was simple code readouts, the 2009 Terminator Salvation graphics included themes like facial recognition and motion tracking. In this interview for, director Karin Wong, explains how the titles were imagined and created.

A Force in TV

What about television? Imaginary Forces has created some of the most iconic and original film titles but don’t count them out for television. They have been just as prolific and influential on the small screen.

For starters, Imaginary Forces is behind one of the most iconic title sequences in recent memory on television. Those titles were the ones for the critically acclaimed Mad Men series on AMC. For the series coming out on a network that didn’t have a lot of clout at the time, with a cast that was largely unknown, the Imaginary Forces crew set out to do something that would really stand out and create some buzz.

They created a bit of an updated Saul Bass look and feel with subtle coloring and a base of faux ads of the era serving as a backdrop for the dramatic fall of the hero silhouetted character. For a more cinematic look, they created several camera cuts in the scene of the falling man as opposed to one long 3D camera shot. The result is fresh and unique amongst the many show title sequences on television while maintaining an element of the era in which the show was set.

DABSMYLA & MTV Movie Awards

Other broadcast work from Imaginary Forces includes titles for Manhattan and Band of Brothers, special titles for the SNL 40th Anniversary, and several MTV Awards shows such as the 2015 MTV Movie Awards.

In one edition of the Movie Awards, Imaginary Forces worked closely with street artist duo DABSMYLA who created the set design for the awards. The IF artists set about building an animated version of the idiosyncratic characters from the world of DABSMYLA to create a cohesive set of animated graphics that perfectly complimented the practical elements on stage.

As if the wide range of title sequences and graphics for film and broadcast weren’t enough, Imaginary Forces has also become a go-to studio for high-end commercial work and original thinking.

They’ve done everything from the polished and glitzy geometric world of the “Scion xB – Manifesto” commercial…

…to the incredibly simple styling of the “Herman Miller – This Is You” commercial that focuses on clever storytelling with the least amount of fluff or dazzle. Although it is simple in nature, it’s well thought out and crafted to tell the perfect story for the client.

Beyond these great samples that have pushed boundaries and inspired countless other artists, studios, and agencies for years, Imaginary Forces has been involved with a number of huge branding campaigns for products like Xbox 360, studios like Marvel Studios, and television networks like Animal Planet and USA.

There seems to be no end to what the massive team of talented artists and directors at Imaginary Forces can do. They continue to find new ways to sell their messages and new approaches to visual storytelling that we all will continue to enjoy watching.

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