Road trips

‘A new TV programme exploring historic road journeys around the world wants you to pitch some ideas for an opening credit sequence. The programme will be showing car and cycling journeys along America’s Route 66, Land’s End to John O’ Groats and the Tour de France.

Develop your ideas for an opening credit sequence through a storyboard. The opening sequence needs to give a general feel of the programme, as well as presenting the name of the programme, the different journeys it’s going to explore and the name of the presenter.

This exercise is an opportunity to explore moving typography, drawing on the visual cultures of roads, maps and signage.’

It turns out Route 66 is Chicago to LA…across the width of America. Yes, I know its really famous. I just wasn’t sure where it actually went!

I gathered relevant images…

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline, morning. Chicago, Illinois, USA

And some points of interest along the way…

Shea’s Gas Station Museum Illinois

Ed Galloways Totem Pole Park (Oklahoma)

Cadillac Park (Texas)

Retro Diner (Alberquerque)

Wigwam Motel (Arizona)

Grand Canyon

And ending at Santa Monica

I would think the most appropriate form of transport for this journey is a cadillac?

Im more familiar with the Tour de France as my partner is a cycling nut, and of course I already know Land’s End to John O’ Groats (Yup. Thats in Scotland isn’t it) 

I also picked some images from along the route –


What about Hereford cows milling about in the road?

John O’Groats

I also had a think about some cycling inspiration – which is thankfully easy to find in my house! Just a thought, but the spokes of a wheel make excellent shadow shapes…

The route of the Tour de France does vary year to year, but there are usually spectacular mountain climbs, and the big finish at the Champs Elyses.

These images from a cycling magazine give a flavour of the sort of mountain scenery that might form part of the programme

Yes. He owns several bikes…



Champs Elyses

Then I looked at how some travel tv programmes have handled the opening credits:

Around the World in 80 Days

This consists of a vintage style map, dates and train information, and ‘torn photos’ with images along Micheal Palin’s route.

Long Way Round

Here Ewan and Charlie’s route is suggested by these yellow lines snaking through the scenery

And directing us towards each chap with the use if these diagonal lines

Theres no mistaking this is a road journey via motorbike!

This website has a great archive for opening credits of all kinds. I’ve never seen the film, but the Captain America title sequence is well worth viewing its really dynamic!

Next I needed to distill all this inspiration down into a rough sequence for my story board. Its clear it would need to include references to all three routes, and the two methods of transport. Mostly likely a series of clips from the programme – some of the highlights along the way with the presenters no doubt having interesting encounters with the locals, and a glimpse of the relevant maps showing an overview of their journeys.

As I mentioned I would like to include the shadow of a bike wheel. It also makes sense to have a close up of cycling gear and parts of the cadillac. there is a rather obvious connection of the two kinds of wheels – Im not sure how to avoid cliches here, as I’ve never thought about moving images and certainly never studied film! I’m hoping that part of framing a shot is similar to a still image in photography?!

I had a think about further ideas…We were asked to consider maps and signage. I think this would be part of the opening credits but probably a bit dull in isolation??

Meanwhile I found some tips online:

Avoid large typography…except for the main title

No novelty ones

I was pondering on some solid no nonsense sans serifs to echo road signage

Helvetica, Raleway and Aileron

Aileron has this nice shaped ampersand which might work well with the shape of roads?

My other thought was to be handwritten and playful

Skinny Regular, Salamander, Jinky

Daniel and Reenie Beenie

Are these inviting? Or a bit cheesy and could date?

I also discounted a few wild cards. Airstream does evoke an american diner, but this is also about European roads. Pleasantly plump is quite cartoon-y, and Century Gothic is too retro, it just doesn’t have the right tone

See what I mean?!! Awful.

What about something different?

Loaf and Signpainter. Loaf could possibly work as a bit rough and ready if they are spending many hours on the road? Smaller lettering is hard to read though…

I decided to stick with Aileron as I feel the mood of the title sequence should hopefully be inviting without needing gimmick-y typography.

What about the theme of the opening credits? Where is my brain storming? Sorry! This time I was pondering in my head! I’ll re-cap on my thoughts…

I was thinking about some sort of narrative, which would involve scene setting, showing the different routes travelled and of course the presenters.

I had the idea of Mel and Sue sitting in an American diner. I was wondering about a piece of paper coming flying through the air which hits one of them on the head, and they unfold it to reveal a map. And variations on this…Oh crikey I can’t actually remember the other stuff I cam up with!

Anyway, I decided to start sketching a storyboard, but without a definite sequence in mind, just snippets I thought would work – then I could cut them out and assemble them together.

I also printed out my font with the relevant wording and sketched a map of the UK, France and the USA, making photocopies to I had plenty to work with.

Anita Rani is for backup in case Victoria’s busy!! (She may not be a cyclist, but she looks slim and outdoorsy)

As I started to sketch I was drinking tea and thinking I better not spill it (which is my trademark) which gave me an idea – what if they DO spill coffee?

I have previously played with blowing paint across paper, and it can give nice paint effects but its quite hard to control. Oops.(I chose paint – it shows up better than coffee)

So I carefully blew the paint first…then drew my map. Like this. I don’t know how this would best be animated – but heres my concept.

Some little sketches cut up (I didn’t use all of them)

And my storyboard taking shape. I also had the idea of the shape of America appearing in the cappuccino – this happened as I was drawing – sometimes sketching  works as well as brain storming?!

I also wante each map to go from ‘paper’ to digital, with the routes lighting up with a little glowing line and each dot expanding and brightening as we pass through it.

Some typographic notes to myself about the movement of type on the screen. The main ideas are that I wanted the dot/tittle over any i to appear afterwards. And for the titles to travel horizontally and vertically in a ‘grid’. Sometimes arriving from different directions, pausing and continuing their journeys until they have left the screen.

I wasn’t sure how much my story board should show every frame or just give a flavour of the general ‘story’, so I went for the latter. I hope it makes sense. I can see it in my minds eye, but I don’t know if my scribbles translate to anyone else?!

My Rough Storyboard


I really enjoyed this its was fun to ‘tell a story’ and generate ideas suited to a medium Ive never really thought about before. I wonder if we were really being asked to dwell more on the typography than I have, but I just got carried away with the wider visual aspects in general – so I hope it hangs together creatively!



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