Awards Daily talks to Hazel Baird, who’s nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Main Title Design for The Morning Show on Apple TV+.
Imagine The Morning Show. . .but it’s acted out with spheres.
That’s basically the concept behind the Emmy-nominated Main Title Design for the show, with a team that includes title designer Hazel Baird. The intro is kind of like a cross between candy dots on paper and a screensaver, and it’s captivating to watch before every episode.
I chatted with Baird about what exactly the concept was behind this design, who the black sphere in the intro represents (it’s not necessarily who you think it is), and what her favorite main titles are.
Awards Daily: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination. I love your title design for the show. How did this concept come about?
Hazel Baird: It came about when I started working with Angus [Wall]. We had a call with the showrunners for The Morning Show, and we knew the show was feminist and about women and obviously had this sexual harassment element to it. We had some ideas and we talked about it, and we came back with the concept, one of them being this abstract sphere concept, and they just loved it from the get-go. That’s the one they picked. The reason they said they picked it was because it was ambiguous and abstract and gender-neutral and didn’t confine any of the characters to any of the scenarios and rules. They wanted to keep that quiet and they wanted the audience to make up their own minds about what these spheres are doing. That’s how we came up with the concept. Then we had to obviously think of the scenarios, and that took a little bit of time. We just looked at human behaviors and then tried to put them together as sections and see which ones worked and which ones didn’t. Sometimes we’d come up with a scenario and it was too abstract and no one would get it, so we’d kill it. And then once the big sphere shadow one was getting bigger, that was really obvious what that was about, and that’s how we started putting it together.
AD: That’s so cool. Were there specific colors you knew you wanted to use?
HB: I’m very influenced by Paul Rand and Saul Bass, and their work with primary colors. We also wanted to make it contemporary, so we added the cream color with the off-white background, which made the colors pop a little bit more. And then because everything was quite colorful—for instance, the color green didn’t really work—we needed to follow a sphere, that’s why we had a black sphere so we could follow it and it would jump out. That helped.
AD: I was gonna ask about the black sphere. It’s probably supposed to represent Steve Carell, but I feel like it could be Reese Witherspoon or Billy Crudup because it’s being that oddball. It’s very abstract—being that new person in a different scenario. I didn’t know if you felt that way, too.
HB: Yeah, exactly. It’s a lot of office politics, no matter what job you have. It’s almost as if that sphere is going against the grain in the beginning and that represents the sun, the morning rise, and then when it drops down into the colors, they’re all going into a regimented way and it wants to not do that. It pushes and pulls, a little bit like Jennifer [Aniston] and Reese’s characters end up doing. It’s that feeling that these characters are going through these obstacles and trying to get promoted and things like that.
AD: Did you know what kind of music was going to be used? Did that influence the way you worked on it?
HB: No, we had temp music right up until two weeks before we delivered, and then they gave us the song. It was dropped on. They did discuss about changing the lyrics, but luckily, it just went with it. We did have to change some of the scenes to go with the beat, maybe make a scene mslightly longer or shorter. If there was an expression in the song then there’d be an expression in one of the spheres jumping higher. But yeah, it was only two weeks before. (Laughs)
AD: That’s so wild. What do you think makes a good main title design? I’ve always heard people say that you need to get a sense of the story in the intro, and this one sets up the show in a way you wouldn’t really think.
HB: I think you have to listen to the client and listen to the show. You have to understand where they’re coming from. I don’t think sometimes you should just do something really cool for the hell of it. You really have to think about what the client wants. It’s a prologue. It’s supposed to set you up. It’s supposed to put you in that mood before you watch it. I think doing a main title is hard because a lot of the time you’ll get it slightly wrong, because you’re helping brand the show and that’s always very difficult. It’s a process that when the elements come together, you end up with a great sequence which works, which is difficult sometimes. I love doing it.
AD: Do you have any favorite main titles?
HB: The Age of Innocence [film] which was done by Elaine and Saul Bass. I think that was definitely the first one that I saw. I didn’t even know what it was when I was watching it. It was just beautiful. I remember sitting in the cinema and thinking, “I’d love to do something like that.” And that really influenced me. And then the second one that influenced me was Seven, which was designed by Kyle Cooper and edited by Angus Wall. That really influenced me, and I was really young. It was amazing to end up working with these two guys. [Hazel worked with Cooper on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.]
The Morning Show is streaming on Apple TV+.