Emily Oberman on 20 years of design and redesign

New York-based graphic designer Emily Oberman has been working on the title credits for Saturday Night Live for the last 20 years.

Download options

“When you are a graphic designer, sometimes you have clients that stay, and sometimes you have clients that go. And when you have a client who stays you have to figure out how to reinvent things for them again and again,” says graphic designer Emily Oberman, who has been working on the title credits for Saturday Night Live for the last 20 years.

Reinventing for brands has its own set of unique challenges, particularly in the case of something so well known as Saturday Night Live: how do you make something new without losing a strong sense of what it is?

Oberman structures her talk around 10 things she learnt about graphic design (and life) during her 20-year stint at Saturday Night Live.

1. Reinventing something is hard but very rewarding

2. If something is worth saying once, it’s worth saying 100 times

3. Being funny is serious business

4. Not all church ladies are alike

5. Time is of the essence

6. Even great clients don’t always choose the best options

7. You need to use every tool at your disposal to create a complete world

8. It’s all in the packaging

9. Always thank the cast and crew

10. And always thank your audience

She illustrates these 10 points with examples from her expansive body of work. From a fictional pharmaceutical advert for a film, to the identity, logo, app and website for On Being, a radio programme on spirituality. For more on these projects you can watch our exclusive video interview with Emily Oberman, where she talks about the importance of wit in communicating emotion.

Oberman also presents the special Saturday Night Live 40-year anniversary commemorative book. The book is divided up into a week: Monday to Saturday, ending up with the actual show on the Saturday.

“The eras get all mixed up together, and you can make more interesting points about the show that way.”

The copy is simple: explaining just the basics of each day, while the photography is big and beautiful and set out in amusing and quirky double-page spreads.