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March 8, 2009

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Kinetic Typography

When I wrote my last post, I googled “North by Northwest” to check the train route Cary Grant takes in that film. I came across a term I hadn’t (to my knowldge) seen before: kinetic typography.

Kinetic typography refers to the art and technique of expression with animated text. Similar to the study of traditional typography of designing static typographic forms, kinetic typography focuses on understanding the effect time has on the expression of text. Kinetic typography has demonstrated the ability to add significant emotive content and appeal to expressive text, allowing some of the qualities normally found in film and the spoken word to be added to static text.

A classic example of kinetic typography is the Saul Bass-designed title sequence for North By Northwest:

This concept reminds me of Walther Ruttmann’s great documentary film Berlin, which did kinetic typography the old-fashioned way: take a big, horking street sign and zip past it on a train:

It also reminds me (of course) of Bob Brown’s “Readies” and Eugene Jolas’s Revolution of the Word.

But kinetic typography in these senses are in some sense old hat — how are we taking kinetic type and making it new?

Here is a YouTube playlist of new, digitally produced exemplars of kinetic typography, assembled by Joćo Bordalo:

As you can also see, Prezi is a particularly good example of kinetic typography, optimized for mass production, in action.

Posted March 8, 2009 at 8:00 | Comments (4) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Design, Movies


I have to say, I don't love the examples w/ perfect audio/typographical sync. It feels like a waste; why replicate the same message on both channels?

Used sparingly, the effect can be powerful: WHAM, two info-processing centers of your brain are getting the same idea at the same time. But just watching the words you're hearing appear on screen, even when they're swooping around, gets pretty boring.

LOVE that Ruttmann clip. I'd never seen it. It's really wonderful! And really modern, too. Completely by accident, Philip Glass's "Train to Sao Paolo" was playing in iTunes as I clicked play -- which worked perfectly.

And, apropos of nothing except that "looking out the window of a train" perspective, it made me think of this classic Michel Gondry music video.

Yeah, I agree about the moving text-audio sync: in some of the videos, it's used for illustration or emphasis, and in other cases it's just playing out the string.

One of the best academic powerpoint presentations I ever saw involved single words or short phrases rat-a-tatting on the screen, way faster than your typical powerpoint, but since it was only about one word/sentence, it effectively served as punctuation.

I still love the way Colbert uses speech against text dissonantly in his "The Word" segments. Mode of thought demanding further exploration.

Ah, Ruttmann! GREAT filmmaker, experimental-turned-documentarian. He and the Russian Dziga Vertov are the two great makers of montage documentaries; many people who've never even heard of Ruttmann know Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera pretty well.

I use Ruttmann's film as an example of the changes cheap paper and print advertising brought to the metropolis, especially the shift from horizontal to vertical reading -- signs, newspapers, ads, movies, are all read bolt-upright, while books are usually read flat.

I always find people making interesting choices when they're reading something on their phones -- do they hold it up in front of them like a newspaper, or tucked into their body like a book?

One advantage of vertical reading -- you're less likely to feel nauseous on a car, bus, or train.

The opening of Ruttmann's Berlin also works really well scored by The Books' Lemon of Pink -- particularly "Tokyo."

I'd agree that it seems somewhat pointless when the audio and the text are synced. Most kinetic typography you find out there is just an homage to a movie scene.

This is a cool change of pace by a Seattle focused satire blog where the 'speaker' is the expired Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. There is no audio. All of the tone and meter come from the typography.

Posted by: skeleton on June 15, 2009 at 11:28 AM
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