Still from main title sequence of Netflix show Stranger Things.

feature / alumni / graphic-design
September 12, 2017
Writer: Solvej Schou
Images: Courtesy of Imaginary Forces


The main title sequence for hit Netflix show Stranger Things starts with a moody, droning 1980s-esque synthesizer melody as red glowing letters slide together to form the title. It not only sets a tone of unease, it introduces the horror science fiction show’s lush retro flavor.  

Graphic Design alumna Michelle Dougherty (BFA 1995), creative director, designer and live-action director at creative studio Imaginary Forces, not only helped design Stranger Things’ main title sequence, she now has a sparkling Emmy—her first one—for that work. Dougherty, with her Imaginary Forces team, won outstanding main title design over the weekend at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards.  

“It is thrilling to see a piece of design being adopted by humankind into the zeitgeist,” says Dougherty, who has been nominated for main title design Emmys in the past for shows including Netflix’s Jessica Jones and HBO’s Vinyl, Boardwalk Empire and Band of Brothers. Imaginary Forces has snagged main title design Emmys for Mad Men, Manhattan and other shows.  

It is thrilling to see a piece of design being adopted by humankind into the zeitgeist.

Michelle Dougherty

“Michelle’s piece for Stranger Things has a certain level of emotion, and there’s something unique in that. It’s a perfect storm,” says undergraduate Graphic Design faculty Ming Tai, director of the department’s Motion Design area-of-emphasis.  

Indeed, all of the Emmy nominees in this year’s outstanding main title design category included Graphic Design alumni, from designers Jeff Han (BFA 11) and Felix Soletic (BFA 15) at media production company Elastic for American Gods, The Crown and Westworld, plus Henry DeLeon for Westworld and Paul Kim for The Crown and Westworld, to Nadia Tzuo (BFA 11) for Feud: Bette and Joan.  

Graphic Design alumna and Elastic designer Lynn Cho (BFA 10), with Ekin Akalin (BS 00 Environmental Design) and Elastic’s team, won a 2017 Creative Arts Emmy for outstanding motion design for the powerful opening title sequence and graphics for Netflix’s 13th, a documentary directed by Ava DuVernay exploring race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States. Graphic Design student Andrew Chiou also worked on the project.  

“It’s truly extraordinary to see how our Graphic Design alumni are shaping design and motion in the entertainment industry. They start with a blank canvas, and create the vision behind the final product,” says Tai.