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Dave’s Designer Roger White creates a new logo, theater marquee, and video opener for the Late Show for its move to CBS.
The marquee of the renovated Ed Sullivan Theater features the new
Letterman logo in striking blue and gold neon. Finding a type solution
for the marquee inspired the show‘s logo.
The graphic designer respon-
sible for creating the logo and
the video opening for the show-
the one who hit home runs with
the concepts Gurnee and Letter-
man pitched him - was Roger
White, a veteran of Letterman‘s
show on NBC and now a free
lance graphics consultant to
Letterman’s production com-
pany, Worldwide Pants lncor-
porated. White took us behind
the TV cameras to reveal the
techniques that were used to
create the graphics.
4 After NBC vetoed the concepts shown in Figure 3. White reversed the
direction of the tail and tried out various color treatments with a script
outline type. Type displayed on a TV screen will break up it it is not
thick enough. so the outlines had to be made thicker than would be
done for a normal print application.
 
5 Working with Prismacolor pencils on black construction paper, White
drew a cityscape and taped two type treatments on acetate overlays
onto the board. “I wanted to give Dave and Hal an idea of how each of
the logos would look,” notes White. "It’s easy to see with the overlays."
 
 
 
6 White pasted color laser prints of a logo he created in Illustrator over
the sign maker’s color photo of the theater. He also made another
variation of the logo superimposed on a skyline.
 
7 But Letterman thought the color laser prints were too busy. and he
scuttled the skyline. So the designer drafted a simplified version of the
logo in Illustrator. Noting that he manipulated the Entrez letters, White
says. “None of my logos is really the existing face.
 
8 The sign maker submitted a proposal, complete with fabrication
plans. with White's logo on the marquee. The corner embellishments
were added by the sign maker.
 
9 “Staying with the blue and gold that the sign company had proposed.
I proposed neon instead of paint for the top." says White. “Everybod
thought that was a fine idea." But then a battle ensued over which
colors to use elsewhere in the sign.
 
 
 
 
10  For reference, White compiled a final palette of logos. including two
of his earlier designs which have not yet been used.
 
11 White's first storyboard for the opening shows a very rough
sequence of shots. from an overview of Manhattan to riding in a cab
to the theater.
 
“When the show moved, every-
body kind of grew up, including
Dave who started wearing suits
instead of jackets, khaki pants
and sneakers. And the show
changed, too,” White. “Hal's
vision for an opener was a travel-
through idea - the eye of the
camera becomes your own.
Dave requested that the open-
ing be a little more refined, that
it change from surface shots to
an aerial version, showing New
York City sparkling and glitter-
ing from the sky. Within that he
wanted the flavor of Times
Square."
 
 
 
12 Refining his ideas with Gurnee's input, White included scenes in the
next storyboard that feature Times Square's special ambiance.
 
13 “From there I went to a photographic storyboard that folds out
showing what the opening should have originally looked like," says
White. who swiped pictures from a variety of sources. “Some things
remain similar, some do not.” (The storyboard is shown split into two
pieces here.
14 But after Gurnee had 35mm footage shot of Times Square from a
helicopter, White had to totally change the storyboard. This time it
featured electronically animated neon billboards (which would contain
more 35mm footage) that dissolved into the screen.
 
15 As part of their research, White and Gurnee walked through Times
Square and White took snapshots of various neon signs. Note that he
actually used the designs of the Wendy's and Roxy signs in the opener.
 
16 White refined sketches of the billboards’ neon borders in
Prismacolor pencils on black paper. “You can see the influence of the
Roxy diner in my pencil sketches.” notes White. “To save time, some
of them were duplicated and the colors changed."
 
 
 
17 White did preliminary pencil sketches for the graphic element that
would introduce Paul Schaffer and the CBS orchestra. “I thought Paul's
glasses might look interesting in neon.” notes White. But Gurnee liked
the keyboard instead.
 
18 Then White refined the graphic elements using markers. “I rendered
a side to the sign. which was a piano keyboard that would have been in
neon." says White. “Unfortunately. we ran out of time and I couldn’t
complete it for the final sign."
 
 
19 “I rendered the signs in Illustrator, using the typefaces we wanted
for the 3-D elements and designing them as if they were in neon." says
White. The designer started with Script Bold for the script and a modi-
fied Onyx for serif capitals.
 
20 Animator Wallace Colvard transformed White’s 2-D drawing of the
Schafter sign into a 3-D wire frame drawing using Wavefront software
in a Silicon Graphics machine.
 
21 Then Colvard modeled the sign, making it appear to flicker like a
real neon light. (This low-resolution picture was taken directly from the
screen of the SGI machine.
 
 Step-By-Step Graphics.
MAY/JUNE 1995 
Late Show title graphics and comedy animations 2007