Typography in Pop Culture | Entry 6:
Mad Men Title Sequence
Mad Men has been critically acclaimed for its attention to era-specific detail, even down to the typographic decisions. Considering the series is about art directors of an ad agency, it only makes sense that the graphic details be precise. The 60s era consistency creates a totally immersive experience for the viewer that is commenced by the aesthetically pleasing title sequence. The Mad Men typography is consistent with the setting, aiding the allure of the whole show.
In the sequence, we follow a vectored Don Draper has he falls amongst real ads from the 60s. RJD2’s A Beautiful Mine aids the sensual ambiance of looming anxiety. Then the two words slide together to reveal the title. The red letters demand attention and excitement as the drama is about to start. The credits are in Helvetic Neue Heavy. The Swiss Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann designed Helvetica in 1957. Although it has gathered a specific identity today, Helvetica was created as a straightforward, highly legible typeface that was especially used commercially. Helvetica became very popular globally right after its release making it a suitable typeface for a show about early 60s American advertising.
The title sequence appropriately introduces the setting of the show and most of the Mad Men typography following reinforces the 1960s era, however, there are a few mistakes pointed out by internet typophiles. For example, the decision to use Arial, not Helvetica, in the closing credits is peculiar and inconsistent with the setting. Arial was not released until 1982 and was created to be a knock-off of Helvetica…so why didn’t the producers not just use Helvetica? If you are interested in learning more, here’s a guide to Mad Men typography. If you are interested in learning more about typography of TV title sequences, here’s my bit on the Netflix original series, Stranger Things intro.