Kyle Cooper

Kyle Cooper
“The best titles create an
expectation and that
makes you think ‘Wow,
this is going to be a great
-Kyle Cooper
By Kerstin Ricca
In 1955, Saul Bass took the design world by
storm with the production of the film title
sequences for Otto Preminger’s The Man with
the Golden Arm. Taking a cue from Bass,
designers such as Pablo Ferro (Dr.
Strangelove) and Stephen Frankfurt (To Kill A
Mockingbird) emerged.
After Bass’s death in 1996, a new film title
sequence designer stepped into the limelight
with the release of Se7en. With his gritty and
eerie look into the mind of a serial killer, Kyle
Cooper propelled himself into stardom.
Since then, he has directed over 150 film title
sequences, and has been credited with “almost
single-handedly revitalizing the main-title
sequence as an art form.” He has branched
into other forms of design, including TV
commercials, video games and even directing
a major motion picture.
Childhood Influences
Growing up in the seaside town of
Swampscott, MA, outside of Boston,
Kyle Cooper spent much of his
childhood pouring over horror
comicbooks such as Tales From the
Crypt, and magazines including
Fangoria and Famous Monsters of
Horror movies such as The Exorcist
and An American Werewolf in
London were of great interest to the
budding designer. He found himself
fascinated by the mechanics involved
in the output of such movies.
Books such as Dick Smith’s Do-ItYourself Monster Make-Up Handbook
fed his curiosity.
Childhood Influences
• Later in his adolescent years, Cooper
poured his energy into learning to build
realistic sculptures of gruesome scenes
from movies. Such design required
familiarity with the human body, leading
Cooper to immerse himself in medical
journals as well.
• His attention to detail is apparent in this
etching of a dragon on metal done with a
pin at the age of 14. A total of seven weeks
was spent perfecting every inch, from the
hair on the back of its neck, to its razor
sharp teeth and tongue.
• This precision proves to be a useful skill to
have later in life.
Cooper graduated from the
University of Massachusetts at
Amherst with a B.F.A. in Interior
Architecture and received an
M.F.A. in graphic design at Yale
School of Art, where he studied
under Paul Rand.
Pictured is one of a series of
posters Cooper created for
Rand while a student at Yale.
• This poster for “A Call to
Prayer” for all Yale campus
Christians was created by
Cooper in 1988. Note the
attention to symbolism and
type. By using the Yale “Y”
and extending it to display a
crucifix, Cooper shows the
influence of Paul Rand on his
early work.
Other Influences
• In addition to the work of Saul Bass, Cooper
claims his greatest influences in his choice of
profession was the opening title design for To Kill a Mockingbird by
Stephen Frankfurt in 1962. He worked briefly with Frankfurt after his
graduation before joining Robert Greenberg’s Los Angeles Firm.
Cooper later joined Stephen’s son, Peter, in launching their own
Other Influences
• Despite the dark nature of many of his interests and
work, Cooper is a devout Christian. In defense of
suggestions of being hypocritical, he asks, “Why
deny the existence of evil? Let’s all look at it for what
it is.”
“…putting together the Imaginary Forces team and
becoming a Christian (not necessarily in that order).”
-Kyle Cooper on his greatest achievement
R/GA Los Angeles
• After graduation, Cooper went on to join the Robert Greenberg’s
team at R/GA Los Angeles. Claims Cooper, “the Greenberg
school was more about slow reveals and simple ideas.” In her
1996 article Eye Openers, Janet Abrams states that Cooper’s
“intricate, sometimes disturbing images have revived R/GA’s
reputation for film title design.”
Imaginary Forces
After the huge success of Se7en, Cooper,
along with co-workers Peter Frankfurt and
Chip Houghton, launched Imaginary Forces
in 1996.
The name “Imaginary Forces” was inspired
by a line from the prologue of William
Shakespeare’s King Henry the Fifth. The
idea is that opening titles often serve as a
prologue for a movie.
Friends and colleagues of Cooper claim he
can quote Shakespeare and scripture at
the drop of a hat.
©2001 Wayne Coe
Prologue Films
• As Cooper was spending more of his time managing than
creating, he left Imaginary Forces and went solo with his new
venture, Prologue Films in 2003.
• With Prologue Films, Cooper claims that he has scaled back
and refocused, promising to make only a few films at a time, and
maintaining a staff of no more than eight, give or a take a few
• He says, “I’m not sure Prologue will take the design world by
storm, but I do know that we will never do anything that I do not
think is perfect. I will never compromise again.”
Selected Works
• The following are samples of Cooper’s
work, illustrating his design style and
philosophy. Common among these
pieces are jagged typefaces, creative
editing, and bizarre imagery, all
combined to tell a story which often gets
more attention than the movie itself.
True Lies (1994)
The Fan (1996)
Zebrahead (1992)
Twister (1996)
The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)
• Cooper met with storyboard
artist Wayne Coe to develop
these preliminary sketches
done for the title sequence of
The Island of Dr. Moreau.
The Island of
Dr. Moreau
• Using he film’s theme
of biological mutation,
Cooper and his team
worked with about 10
different stock
companies to gather
footage for this
memorable sequence.
Se7en (1995)
Sample storyboards for Se7en
drawn by Wayne Coe.
Se7en (continued)
• Title film
for Se7en,
the film
Mission Impossible
New Port South (2001)
• Cooper spent
35 days
shooting at a
Libertyville, IL
high school to
direct his 2001
film, New Port
produced by
legend John
Darkwatch (2005)
• Cooper directed the
opening scene for
Darkwatch, a game from
Kyle Cooper
• Cooper continues to design many
projects including commercials,
videos, games, and film title
• His most recent film credits
include sequences for Spiderman
3 and Across the Universe.
• His work (particularly the gritty,
hand drawn type used in many of
his sequences) continues to be of
influence in everything from title
sequences to truck commercials.
Abrams, Janet. “Eye Openers.” I.D. Nov 1996: 76-79.
Codrington, Andrea. Kyle Cooper. Yale University Press, 2003.
Coupland, Ken. “Imaginary Forces: Taking All the Credits.” Graphis. Sept. 1998: 66-73.
Croal, N’Gai. “Where Credits are Due.” Newsweek. 10 Nov. 1997: 92. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online. Online.
Gibson, Jon M. “The Dark Genius of Kyle Cooper.” Wired. June 2004.
Lynch, Robin. “Kyle Cooper/Imaginary Forces.” I.D. Jan-Feb 1997: 58.
Roux, Julie Prendiville. “Imaginary Forces.” Communication Arts. Mar/Apr 2001: 78-87.