Arresting Graphics: Orange Is The New Black

Every time I watch Orange Is The New Black — the exceedingly popular tv comedy-drama based on the prison memoir — I try to match up the women’s faces in the opening credits with the characters in the show. Apparently, I’ve been wasting my time, since none of the women appearing in the opening credits actually appear on the show.

The story behind this unusual approach: show producer Jenji Kohan and design firm, Thomas Cobb Group, wanted to communicate that the show would tell many stories of women behind bars, not just the story of the memoirist Piper Kerman and her tv version Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling).

To achieve this, the Venice CA design group photographed real women in jail in closeups that manage to hide their identities but create a sense of intimacy.  Executive Producer Gary Bryman explains that they asked each woman to “visualize in their mind three emotive thoughts: think of a peaceful place, think of a person who makes you laugh, and thing of something you want to forget … Thomas found this really interesting sweet spot of cropped compositions that would not necessarily reveal who the person was, but at the same time provide a portal into their soul through their eyes.”




An interesting twist to this design approach is the inclusion of the “real” Piper in the opening credits. The author of this riveting tale is the blue-eyed woman who blinks about a minute into the opening and can be seen below.