Kinetic Type

In today's society, it is crucial to catch an audience's eye and then keep it. This task is becoming increasingly more difficult as we reach an age of things becoming more and more instantaneous. With this issue growing, new ideas and techniques in the graphic design field are a must. We are constantly looking at how we can grab the consumer's attention, pull them in and then keep them there long enough to portray whatever message we are asking them to consider. That being said, society has been introduced to the concept of kinetic typography, a relatively new animation technique that is also known as motion typography ("Definition of Kinetic Typography").

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The main function of kinetic typography is to emphasize whatever message the designer is trying to convey by animating the typography and sometimes combining it with audio. "It serves as a bridge to bring written text closer to the realm of film" (Yeo). The most common places to see motion typography is commercials, movies and websites. Its attention grabbing aspect makes it a popular choice among both clients and designers. It is captivating to watch the message interact with the viewer as words swipe across the screen, build and break down to catch our attention much more effectively than stationary text. One of the most effective and common uses of kinetic type is its use of ability to convey thoughts and emotions (MacMillian).

One of the very first uses of a variation of kinetic typography appeared in George Melies advertising work in 1899 ("History of Kinetic Typography"). Although it was not the kinetic typography we know today; it was similar in the sense that it involved moving typography to communicate a message. More similar to how it is used today, Saul Bass, an Academy Award winning filmmaker and graphic designer used it in numerous Alfred Hitchcock films during the 1950s. One of these films, North by Northwest, used the technique (which was incredibly rare during this time period) in its opening scene and credits to set up a feeling of suspense for the movie's plot ("Definition of Kinetic Typography"). During the silent film era, lettercards were used to display the movie's title and opening credits. The cards were slowly flipped through to allow the viewer to read them and absorb the information, but it wasn't a very attention-grabbing tactic (May). It is incredibly common to see motion typography in modern day movie's opening and closing credits. Some movies use the motion typography to set up the feeling of the movie or even during the movie to emphasize specific points in the plot.

So why make typography move? Why not just let it stand still and speak for itself? Motion typography grabs a viewer's attention quicker and holds it longer. Instead of just having a viewer glance at a piece of stationary text and maybe miss the point of the message completely; it is more engaging to have the copy moving. The viewer will be more likely to absorb the information and watch and read longer because they will be curious as to what happens next. Stationary typography is predictable; where as kinetic typography engages the viewer because who knows what will happen next.

With this in mind, there are many different ways kinetic typography can get the information across in a more effective and engaging way. One way is to physically illustrate the informations literal meaning. For example, if you have a phrase talking about a bird flying, the phrase could be animated in a fashion to make it appear that it is flying across the screen. Another technique is to give the word personality. Maybe you are working on a piece where you need to differentiate between two or more speakers; in a print piece, you could use a combination of font, color and size to show the viewer which speaker is which, but if the piece is motion based, you could also use movement to emphasize certain aspects of the conversation or even showcase which speaker is more dominate. Also, this is a great way to convey emotion in a speech or conversation or to differentiate between important and generic information. A third suggestion for successful kinetic typography is giving the words a rhythm or feel. A lot of kinetic typography appears in commercials and music videos, which often combine video, text and audio. If there is a catchy jingle or strong drum beat, the words could be animated so they go along with it (Pick).

Creating kinetic typography can seem challenging at first if you do not know how to use the proper software(s) necessary to create it. The most common softwares used are Adobe Flash Professional, Adobe After Effects and Apple Motion. Adobe Flash Professional is "the industry standard for interactive authoring" ("What is Flash Professional?"). Flash allows the designer to not only animate but now lets you create mobile and web applications. Adobe After Effects is a program that lets the designer to create visual effects and motion graphics. Typically used in film or online work, After Effects works with other Creative Suite programs such as Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator to help seamlessly integrate projects ("What is After Effects?"). Most web or motion projects lay out the images being used in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop.

As with most projects, it is crucial to come up with a solid idea and plenty of thumbnails. However, with projects that incorporate motion, it is usually a good idea to illustrate a storyboard of sorts to help lay out where you want things to go, and how they should behave in each frame. A storyboard is a series of thumbnails that helps create an idea of what each frame should look like and a concept of how everything should come together ultimately. Organization is a huge component when putting together any large-scale project that has many parts. It could help to lay out images or text in a program like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator to get a general idea of how things will look in a frame. After that, all that's left is to put it together in whatever program you decide to use for animating your text and animate how you feel is fit.

Kinetic typography is a relatively new animation technique for using typography in a new and different way. Although there is not much to it's history, there is much more to come for it's future. Although print may never completely go out the window, a large majority of the focus of graphic design is going to be on interactive and web design. It is incredibly important for both new and old graphic designers to at least dabble and learn the basics of these new techniques. Graphic design is always changing and kinetic typography is one of those new advances in the battle to keep the consumer's attention long enough to communicate the needed information.

  • Works Cited
  • "Definition of Kinetic Typography, BuzzWord from Macmillan Dictionary." Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus: Free English Dictionary Online. Web. 01 Mar. 2011. .

  • "History of Kinetic Typography." KineticTypography.com. Kinetic Typography Marketing Firm, 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2011. .

  • May, Julia. "The Art Of Film Title Design Throughout Cinema History." Smashing Magazine. Smashing Media GmbH, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Mar. 2011. .

  • Pick, Michael. "Motion Typography: 4 Approaches To Kinetic Text." Wisdump. Splashpress Media. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. .

  • "What Is After Effects?" Create Motion Graphics and Visual Effects | Adobe After Effects CS5. Adobe, 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. .

  • "What Is Flash Professional?" What Is Flash | Adobe Flash Professional CS5. Adobe, 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. .

  • Yeo, Zhiquan. "Kinetic Typography: Generation and Application of Affective, Animated Text." Kinetic Typography: Generation and Application of Affective, Animated Text. Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Web. 01 Mar. 2011. .