THE STRIKE OF THE TWIN LIGHTNING BOLTS
THE EVIDENCE OF LEGACY | TOM CRUISE AND TOP GUN
In my history as a designer of theatrical branding, I’d already been on the run for about 10 years [since Apocalypse Now] of working on motion picture and entertainment-related brand design, mostly identity and one-sheet and key art development, as well as custom fonts.
I was struck in watching Maverick with the reappearance of a logo rendering,
a heritage mark from more than 30 years ago.
I had two key lead-in relationships in those historical beginnings, no—actually three. One was Tony Seiniger, the founder and creative director of one of the first mega agencies of theatrical advertising in Los Angeles. Through an early connection with Tony, I met—the other two key interconnecting persona—a couple of his key creative relationships back then: Nancy Goliger and Lucia Ludovico. Both of them have an especial predilection for well-detailed typographic art. So I collaborated with them for probably 20 years of film-making design. By now, of course, they’re all retired and are doing other things, though I worked most recently with Nancy on
Mary Queen of Scots for Focus Features.
It was Tony Seiniger that brought me in to work on the identity for Top Gun—1986, and then—beyond that—connecting with the legendary Tony Scott, a directorial partner that led to my work with him on a string of pictures he was directing, as well as working on his own collateral for his production company—tied to, wrapped around, his famous cowboy boots.
From there, I’d worked with Tony on “The Last Boy Scout,” 1990, during which he carefully walked me through, his production drafts and film lensing and cinematographic notes. These were quick sketches that he excitedly showed me—notes on shooting sequences, angles and compositions—while quickly gestural, but thorough, they made sense. I met with him in cigar-smoke-filled editing suites, his offices and on set, which, too, was where I met Bruce Willis—also, very kind and pleasant.
We also designed a font system for the film’s titling that can be seen in the opening—also in the credits use on the poster.
It was also during that time that I first connected, live, with Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer on “Days of Thunder,” as well as Tony Scott—the director for that film,
which is the first time that
the twin lightning bolts found evidence
as a brand object in theatrical promotion—Days of Thunder, later Crimson Tide [which we also worked on designing the identity for.]
That evolved to a reducible versioning—
for knocked-out, tiny, reversed treatments—as in 1995.
This font treatment is a redrawn rendering of Hermann Zapf’s Michælangelo which we rebuilt as a custom typographical rendering, slightly more heavily-weighted and completely bespoke.
What brought this to the fore, after so much time, was watching Tom Cruise’s recent blockbuster, Maverick, which features the twin strokes of lightning from 1990—as a header and titling lead-in, as it was developed in a painterly interpretation in the 1990s. This logopedic representation shows the historical manifestations of the mark—albeit, a small configuration.
For the sake of historical reference—and a brand storytelling, from a designer’s angle, I was asked by Paramount Studios to meet with Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer on the Paramount Lot. Back then, there was a parking lot adjacent to their building—all filled with luxury vehicles. Walking into the building, there was a long walkway to their office, where both of them sat, side by side, two desks. All along the way, either side of the open office corridor, a string of statuesque women worked at their desks.
I bought a brand new suit, just for the meeting.
It was then that we talked about the creation of a special symbol for Simpson Bruckheimer Films—I pitched a string of metaphors, which we formally explored, and presented as a string of options—but symbolic expressions that speak to twin creativity and some sense of combinant results, such was the power of their “visionary alliance,” as we built it
in an advertisement for the trades.
That legacy of work led into a string of efforts with Tom Cruise,
working on virtually all of the Mission:Impossible films, Valkyrie, as well as
his collaborations with Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.
Lightning can strike twice.
Once, then again.