Danny Yount is a Los Angeles-based graphic designer and commercial director who has a diverse visual style and a unique range of depth and craftsmanship in motion arts and film. He has earned an Emmy for the Six Feet Under main title and was the Senior Creative Director at Prologue Films where he designed the main titles and end credit sequences for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Rocknrolla, Sherlock Holmes, Tron Legacy, Oblivion, Iron Man 1, 2, and 3 and many others.
Danny's artistic mastery of negative space is powerful and his gestural visuals seductively lure the viewer into the moving canvas. He uses type dramatically to hint at the movie's undercurrent. We were excited to have him share a bit about his work, and one of our favorite sequences, Sherlock Holmes.
You're a self-taught designer. How did you go about refining your skills for designing title sequences?
A lot of the experience I've gained is mostly from pitching ideas. There is a real art to it. Most title ideas are very short visual statements with strong iconic images. You also have to build enough story to be able to steer the conversation in a few different directions if necessary—for example, the slightest twist in an ending can change the entire concept. The trick in pitching is to not be so rigid that you cannot steer it that way, and to have other ideas in your back pocket if you need them.
Your father possesses great illustration skills. Was your father's drawing skills an influence in your life?
Very much so, yes. My dad would draw as a hobby and he would bring his materials with him when on a family vacation at relatives houses etc. He could look at as scene or object and draw it perfectly in a few hours - I never had skill like that and was always fascinated by his abilities. He is also good at designing and building things.
Early in your career, you had a chance to work with John Van Dyke in Seattle, who was your mentor. How did he influence your typography?
John had impeccable taste and and taught me how to make design that was elegant and sophisticated. That world was completely new to me when I was hired by him—my upbringing was very blue-collar. I did not understand culture outside of McDonald’s and 70s reruns. And I had never been outside of the country nor had I received a formal design education.
Working on annual reports (during a time when they were well designed and revered as such) taught me a lot about the nuances of typography that is very engineered but legible—I had no idea of how deep typography went before working on annuals.
Mead Paper Forty Years of Ideas
Which reports did you design?
Boeing, ICOS, Weyerhauser and some projects for Mead Paper Company. We also created a very popular CD-ROM on ARs that featured a great history of them since the 50s—it was called 40 Years of Ideas and was a featured in Graphis Magazine.
Early title concept for Sherlock Holmes
How did the Sherlock Holmes project come about?
The year prior I designed the titles for RockNRolla which were well received. So Guy Ritchie wanted something a little like that and Joel Silver wanted to do a shoot that involved what was then modern-day machinery: the printing press. The only problem was I then had to pitch to both parties—but it was still a lot of fun. I think it was one of the largest pitches I have ever done.
Sherlock Holmes early printing press storyboard concepts
Can you describe the process for Sherlock Holmes?
I was invited to fly out to present them at one of the sets in London and see some of the film, so I had a very strong sense after that of where they wanted to go visually. The brief I was given was to do a live action shoot that involved a lot of newspaper headlines from the late 1800s, which would give a little history to the early beginnings of Holmes and Watson and lead into the first scene of the film following the last headline on top of a stack of newspapers laid at the doorstep. We also wanted to show part of the printing process of that time period using the linotype machine and woodblock type headline compositions.
After going back and forth a bit, we concluded that it should be a macro shoot and very graphic, so we rented some time at a printing museum and set up several still shoots to get all the material we needed for storyboards. Several months went by and the film had taken shape more so they decided to lose the headlines sequence. They went from wanting a full main title to having a short main title and an end credit sequence. They also wanted the end credits to be an anthem to the film, using highlights from the movie.
I have to confess that the original look I created was less influential in the end.
Beautiful. What typeface was used in the sequence? Or was it hand-lettered?
Hand-lettered by a very good calligrapher, Anne Robin.
Sherlock Holmes studio logos
Sherlock Holmes main title
Sherlock Holmes end credit sequence
Is there a typeface that strikes your fancy right now?
I like a lot of new new faces like Regular and Normetica and Nudista and Titling Gothic, or anything from Hoefler Type Foundry (huge fan of Gotham, Champion and Knockout). But I’m still a sucker for the classics—Trade Gothic, DIN, Helvetica and Futura. Maybe even Grotesque (ha). Very German in my selection, I know. Wow—I feel really geeky now… Back in the day I was huge on Emigré Fonts, Letter Gothic and anything that looked like David Carson type vomit—but let us not go there…
Thanks Danny. Other gorgeous works of Danny's include: Six Feet Under, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man, Oblivion, and the Semi-Permanent 2013 Titles. For more information on Danny's work, view http://www.dannyyount.com.