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American Psycho titles and business cards

Contributed by Sasha Mikhedov on Oct 28th, 2022. Artwork published in .
American Psycho titles and business cards 1
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American Psycho is a 2000 cult thriller about Wall Street investment banker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) with an alternate psychopathic ego.

The font used for opening titles and the business card of Bateman’s colleague Paul Allen is Copperplate Gothic. It’s a typeface with tiny flare serifs designed by American artist and type designer Frederic W. Goudy in 1903, with additional weights added by Clarence C. Marder of ATF.

From a discussion by Lola Landekic with American Psycho director Mary Harron and title designer Marlene McCarty, for Art of the Title:

In the opening you use a typeface called Copperplate. How did you decide on that?

Mary: Yes! Gideon Ponte, the production designer, found it. We were looking for something 1980s and minimalist. That was very important. I’m very big into typography. Love typography. It’s very important when you’re doing a period film — that all the typography has to be of the period. If you get the typography wrong, it’s like getting the hairstyles wrong.

Marlene: We were referencing some of the opulence of the 1980s, those American “boom” years, and Copperplate Gothic was a typeface that was used a lot in the late ’80s to represent money, luxury, power. Originally this typeface was used on signage for banks and law offices so it carried with it the aroma of power and wealth, significant attributes of Patrick Bateman’s character. Prior to doing American Psycho I had worked at M&Co with Tibor Kalman and we used Copperplate Gothic rather a lot then… but always with the idea that it brought that luxury and power to the project. Whether we were using that seriously or whether we were subverting that meaning … so that’s where that idea came from. The kerning was merely a carryover from the stylistic tropes of the ’80s and the grid was loosely based on vertical thirds of the film screen.

Marlene: I can’t remember if I typeset it with an old fashioned typesetter and had it output to negative film for the animator or if I set the type on a computer. American Psycho existed right on that cusp between the analog and the digital.

Copperplate, the same typeface, appears again later in that scene with the business cards… It’s like a little callback.

Mary: Yes, indeed. It sets the tone and it’s a bit of a joke. When you see it later, you may not know it’s the same thing. It’s quite an elegant typeface. It’s like, Oh, this is the ultimate. This is so good we used it in our title sequence! [laughs]

Read the full interview on Art of the Title.

American Psycho titles and business cards 2
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American Psycho titles and business cards 3
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American Psycho titles and business cards 4
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American Psycho titles and business cards 5
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  • Copperplate Gothic
  • Shelley Script
  • Sabon
  • Bodoni
  • Helvetica
  • Edwardian




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5 Comments on “American Psycho titles and business cards”

  1. Thanks for your contribution, Sasha!

    Let’s include the other business cards featured in the movie, too.

    The famous card waving contest starts with Bateman’s own card, which has “bone” coloring. “The lettering is something called Silian Rail”. Some people heard “Silian Grail”, “Silian Braille”, “Cillian Braille”, etc. The name is fictional – it’s some sort of Garamond, used in caps and small caps, with oldstyle figures. The print isn’t quite centered: it’s shifted to the left and also sits a tad too low. The ampersand in the company name isn’t centered either. The card was printed with so much pressure that the type is actually debossed, so that no layperson can possibly miss the fact that it’s letterpress printed. Winking Cat Press once commented on this phenomenon:

    […] in the past a deep impression was the mark of poor pressmanship. The ideal impression was considered to be the ‘kiss’ impression, or where the form touched the paper just enough to leave behind the image but not to leave an impression in the paper. Nowadays the deep impression on heavy stock is much sought after because it’s something that can’t be done digitally, and when people pay for the cost of custom invitations (or whatever) they want something that shows that it wasn’t done cheaply on a home computer. It’s a status thing.

    David Van Patten’s card (“eggshell with Romalian type”) is set in a Bodoni, printed on textured paper, without any discernible impression.

    Timothy Bryce claims “you ain’t seen nothing yet”, and pulls out his card, with “raised lettering” (nope – unless he refers to the deep impression mentioned before, but that’d be the opposite of “raised”), “pale nimbus … white”. The typeface is Helvetica, set with faux small caps. Note that URW’s version of Helvetica is named Nimbus Sans.

    The scene is concluded with Paul Allen’s card, set in two weights of Copperplate Gothic. “Look at that subtle coloring. The tasteful thickness. Oh my God. It even has a watermark.” (It doesn’t.) Like Bateman’s, it suffers from too tightly spaced (small) caps.

    Later in the movie, Luis Carruthers presents his new card. It’s printed in two colors, gold and green, with the former out of register and shifted to the left. The typeface is Edwardian, a pretty whacky choice, certainly in comparison with the “safe classics” used by his colleagues.

    Curiously, Pierce & Pierce apparently didn’t maintain a corporate design. Each of their many vice presidents got to have their own card made. As a IMDb contributor pointed out, the word “acquisitions” is misspelled on every single card. So much for classy.

    For more on the subject, see also Claire Green’s article for Hoban Cards. She concludes:

    As a whole, the cards are much like their owners: potentially appealing at first glance yet predominantly unoriginal and flawed.

  2. For some titles, Copperplate Gothic is also paired with either Shelley Script or English 111.

  3. Eagle eye! Added, thank you.

  4. Just made a breakthrough discovery that Patrick Bateman’s card ISN’T set in Garamond, it’s actually Sabon Bold with oldstyle figures. The numerals gave it away.

  5. Well spotted! Adjusted, thanks.

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