Emily Oberman: All good design has a level of wit

The designer of numerous “Saturday Night Live” identities talks about the role of humour in her work.

Graphic designer Emily Oberman is known in the industry for her good sense of humour. “I think all good design has a level of wit,” says the Pentagram partner, who recently created the identity for Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary series.

“It helps you make an emotional connection to your audience: wit reaches across, reaches out of the computer to whoever is interacting with it and helps make something more human.”

Oberman’s work extends from the outright hilarious in Saturday Night Live to the “subtle wink” in her identity for On Being with Krista Tippett, a radio show and podcast series delving into issues of belief and meaning.

Oberman is best know for her work in the entertainment industry and has designed three identities for different series of Saturday Night Live, including the design of a new book published to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Finding fresh ways to design the opening sequence for the show is a task she relishes. “I think for some people they don’t even realise it’s changing. I think they just think the technology is changing,” says Oberman. “But for us it is reinventing it every time. And I enjoy that challenge.”

Conversely, she also likes to think of herself as a bit of a generalist who tackles completely new territory, such as her work for On Being.

“I love when I learn something, when I am a smarter person at the end of the project.”