May 13, 2024
What Inspired Imaginary Forces’ Anna Chen's ‘Man in Full’ Main Titles
Designer talks about the power of her ‘incredibly simple” approach for Netflix series.

In Netflix’s new limited series, A Man in Full, starring Jeff Daniels, a real-estate mogul goes from boom to bust over a few short days. Imaginary Forces’ Anna Chen captured that collapse in her short and simple main-title sequence that involved having the letters in the show’s title literally fall in on themselves. 

Chen discusses her process on this project in the below Q&A, courtesy of Imaginary Forces

RELATED: Imaginary Forces' 'New Look' Main Titles Bloom for Apple TV Plus

What challenges, if any, did you face in the process of creating the sequence? 

They wanted us to show the type falling apart to convey a metaphor of the main character, Charlie (Daniels), going from billionaire to bankrupt. Using the text alone, that’s exactly what we did. It’s an incredibly simple idea, but it turned out to be surprisingly delightful to animate. In the end, I think it worked out well, and I’m pretty proud of what we did.

Creative Director Alan Williams adds, “The main challenge was keeping legibility while deconstructing the text. There was much restraint considered in the design of each title card so when we brought Anna on, I was confident in her approach. She really nailed it and the client loved it." 

What initially drew you to the world of animation and design? Was there a specific moment or experience that ignited your passion for this field?

Like most kids, I spent a lot of time drawing growing up. However, I never really imagined myself becoming an artist. It sounds kind of silly and sad, but I think even from a young age, I was affected by the stereotype that artists struggle to make a living. But I kept it up because I enjoyed it, and it grew to become a big part of my identity. 

I remember the moment it hit me that I could actually pursue art as a career. It was during a 7th grade project where you could edit together a Christmas video for 25 extra credit points. I went home, opened up the editing software that my sister was using for her high school assignments, and started pulling clips of Harry Potter, Narnia, and Alvin and the Chipmunks from YouTube. The next day into editing, I told my mom that I wanted to be in the animation and movie industry when I grew up. I still have that assignment to this day. It looks exactly like what is expected of a 12-year-old, but I look back at it fondly because it quite literally set me on the path to where I am today.  

Are there any artists or creators who have inspired or influenced your work? 

During my first two years at Chapman University, where the courses were taught from an extremely traditional, character-focused perspective, I never really considered animation or design beyond the scope of Disney or Pixar movies. It wasn’t until my junior year that my perception shifted. I came across the works of Ezequiel Pini, aka Six N. Five, Alexis Christodoulou, Paul Milinski, and others. I fell in love with their rendered space—they were surreal, but still rooted in reality. It reminded me of the visual representation of magical realism, a genre I've always loved reading.

I think that's the reason why I was drawn to art in the first place because I want to bring out and emphasize the existing beauty in nature. Nowadays, I draw a lot of inspiration from traditional artists as well. Painters like Charles Weed, Ayumu Matsuoka, and of course, Claude Monet. Trees, sunsets, lakes, flowers—we’ve seen them over and over again, but artists like them prove the way you can use color and light to create an unlimited variation of beautiful spaces. 

Are there any lessons you've learned throughout your career thus far that you wish you had known earlier? 

One thing I've realized is that art doesn’t have to be serious all the time. I don’t have to always be making deep or ‘cool’ art to ‘live up’ to my title as an artist. It could be as simple as appreciating the art in my surroundings or created by others—taking casual photos on my phone, scrolling through Pinterest, or just taking a mental note of how pretty the sky is. For a while, I believed that the main reason for exploring the work of others was to learn from it, and it didn't mean anything at all unless I used it to make something myself. But not every encounter with art has to be a deep learning experience. I can be inspired by someone, let that inspiration sit, and just enjoy it for what it is.


Client: Netflix, A Man in Full

Creative Director: Alan Williams      

Designer: Elizabeth Steinberg

Designer/Animator: Anna Chen

Sr. Producer: Renee Robson

Sr. Coordinator: Jake Fritz

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