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Creativity Bytes: A Brief Guide To Kinetic Typography

Ronnie Bruce’s animation of Speak with Conviction by Taylor Mali.

Here’s a quick reference guide that will seek to explain the trends, terms, and movements of the brave new media world of art and technology. So you can skim, digest, and be a pseudo-expert next time you’re cornered at a Speed Show exhibition in your local cybercafe. Because, hey, life is short and art long. This week: Kinetic Typography.

So, what is kinetic typography?
It’s basically text that moves, used in animation and title sequences to, well, animate words. As a technique it allows designers to imbue words with characteristics, power, emotions, and moods—merging motion with text. You know that saying “a picture paints a thousand words”? Well, kinetic typography has animated a thousand words… and then some.

Where did it come from?
Early examples of it are found in film. Saul Bass used it in a variety of opening credits sequences, most famously for filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock in films like North By Northwest and Psycho. Complementing Bernard Herrmann’s musical score, the title typography reflected the themes and mood of the film. Now the technique is used across a wide variety of entertainment for the same reason, along with television shows, web design, advertising, short animations—it also has its own dedicated Vimeo channel and is a YouTube favourite. Due to the advent of Adobe Flash, Adobe After Effects, and Apple Motion, everyone’s at it, animating speeches, poems, stand-up, film quotes, their drunken conversations, etc, etc.

Saul Bass’ title for North by Northwest, with the words imitating the formal lines of the skyscraper, moving up and down like a lift, then the movements of the crowds.


This week you’re really digging…
Jarrett Heather’s Shop Vac, animation based on Jonathan Coulton’s song of the same name and the website The Art of the Title Sequence, which features some great writing and videos on title sequences from films and TV shows, many of them featuring kinetic typography.

Nano talk
Kinetic typography is part of the animator’s and graphic designer’s creative arsenal, and its ubiquity and popularity has spread with home-editing software and online distribution channels. Maybe one day someone will make a whole feature film using kinetic typography. Maybe not.

Describe yourself as…
The novelist Chuck Jones.

Keywords
Typography, motion, dynamic, expressive, kinetic, design, moving, communication, text.

Difficulty level
Fluid.

Age range
A to Z.

Tagline
Words speaking just as loud as action.

To recap: It’s typography in motion, text as dynamic visual expression.

Next week: Interactive architecture

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