Motion Typography Irritation

johnbutler's picture

Unimportant question, but I’m intensely curious.

Am I the only type nerd who finds “motion typography” sequences profoundly irritating? I think it started with those Dennis Leary voiceover commercials for Ford pickup trucks. I actually don’t usually mind Dennis Leary, and I tolerate Ford pickup trucks enough to own one. It became very popular very fast, and now it’s all over the place. But fading, thank God.

bemerx25's picture

Conceptually interesting but once the style entered pop culture, it rapidly lost it's experimental flavor and became "just another fad". I don't necessarily find them irritating, but I do find them less interesting now. Too many copycats and not enough questions being asked.

Nick Shinn's picture

It's evolution.
Type used to be juiced with ligatures, kerning, small caps, that sort of thing.
Then in the early days of DTP along came dimensionalization, gradients, dropshadows, textures.
Then animation, and now integration via composited space mimicking shot space.
It's all typography.

There is a typographic tradition of motion graphics, primarily in film title sequences.

But I know what you're talking about John, and I think the genre to which you refer is an unimaginative, literal interpretation of advertising copy, a heavy-handed attempt to drill the message into the viewers skull, power point on acid. But perhaps this approach is perfect for the product and the target market.


I was in a new F-150 recently, and when it started up, a message appeared on the screen, "Built Ford Tough".

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Jared posted this recently: It's one of the few I've seen that didn't provoke a yawn.

cerulean's picture

As an industry fad I generally like it because it's done by creative professionals. As a popular internet fad — which started with a wave of AfterEffects student assignments uploaded to YouTube, notably the famous Pulp Fiction scene — it is played out. Hundreds of "typography videos", none of which actually incorporate the practice of typography, dutifully pop each word onto the screen one at a time in a random rectilinear orientation, often in some uninspired choice of font like Arial or Impact, unkerned and riddled with spelling mistakes, and culminating in a rare reflection of the content at one or two key points. It only irritates me because I would love to watch them if they were any good.

daverowland's picture

There are good and bad ones. The worst have the text moving too fast for 24 frames per second videos, so it flickers across the screen. I thought the Cee Lo Green YouTube one was good and there was a good Nina Simone one on FontFeed (I think) recently

Don McCahill's picture

I find it mildly amusing that, as our civilization becomes increasingly illiterate, the medium most responsible for said illiteracy (television), is starting to have every spoken work printed out, as though there were still people watching who can read.

Or perhaps the graphics are like Oriental characters on tattoos and t-shirts. No longer words, but simply pretty designs.

scannerlicker's picture

Well, I do not find it irritating.

Typography in motion graphics is in this world since motion graphics itself; in every commercial, film title, "what's next" clips and so on.

But, in some sort of way, those spoken word type animations are in some sort of a hype. I've seen a lot of them being made as an academic exercise for motion graphics: the amount of short films done this way are massive!

And yes, I'm still waiting for one that would keep me interested.

oldnick's picture

I find it mildly amusing that, as our civilization becomes increasingly illiterate, the medium most responsible for said illiteracy (television), is starting to have every spoken work printed out, as though there were still people watching who can read.

There are: we call ourselves Old Farts who don't hear so well anymore...

blank's picture

Motion typography is another recent fad for fluffing up portfolios, just like snowboards, t-shirts, retro book covers, retro movie posters, and the current fluffing fad, information graphics that take longer to comprehend than a paragraph of good copy. These fads do become tiresome, but they seem to be a reflection of design's collective unconscious, if not design's living consciousness. And they give students a nice break from creating imaginary corporations to develop high-concept brand standards for. I focus on enjoying all the great things that churn up and try not to pay attention to the rest. Well, except for the pointless infographic fad, but that's because I would rather read an article than look at a conceptual infographic.

cerulean's picture

The real reason for using it in TV ads is to try to get their message past the mute button. It is a practical necessity in a struggling medium. And anyone watching who can't read is not likely to be in the market for a new truck. Illiteracy comes of being born into poverty and having insufficient help from a crippled education system to escape it.

The whole "TV made everyone illiterate" idea is a few generations out of date anyway. Now people grow up with the internet, which for all its extra features is still composed almost entirely of the written word. Any young people who still watch TV now go to the internet to discuss the shows they watch and write fanfic about them. Reading and writing has begun to overtake speech as the main form of communication. If kids today, having portable telephones to carry with them everywhere they go, were illiterate, then you would think they'd all be talking on them, but increasingly they prefer to text each other on them instead.

oldnick's picture

If kids today…were illiterate, then you would think they'd all be talking on them, but increasingly they prefer to text each other on them instead.

Have you read much of what the "kids" write?

Té Rowan's picture

Yes. They write for efficient communication in a length-limited medium.

oldnick's picture

They write for efficient communication in a length-limited medium

Conventional spelling and grammar be damned...

OMG, LOL: ROFLMAO. AFIK, IMHO, IIRC, Efficient communication?

Chris Dean's picture

@johnbutler: I believe the term is “kinetic typography.” And I agree, it is getting a little long in the tooth. Do a YouTube search on it and you’ll find more examples of “look at me, I just learned how to use Adobe After Effects” than you can shake a stick at. Type, rotate 90°, repeat.

Personally, I think it most of it is all a pale imitation of Marcellus Wallace, which is ~5 years old and still one of the stronger examples of the genre.

A partner showed me a video entitled “Remix” which is an homage to the work of Josef Müller-Brockmann which I thought was very nice, but then again, I have a soft spot for Jo.

If you are interested in browsing a few more videos, some time ago I started a thread titled “Cool type videos”. It’s suffering from a pretty bad case of link-rot, but some of it still works.

It’s a shame most of the work is so cookie-cutter as there are some great pieces out there, and sifting through more than 5000 YouTube videos is like trying to find a needle in a stack of needles.

Té Rowan's picture

@oldnick - And that's so different from the newspapers' old telegraphic code how? Yes, the SMS and IRC codes are quite often overdone as all get. But, like the newspaper code, they were intended to get as much out of an expensive medium as possible.

You get one 160-character block per SMS. And, yes, text messages over a GSM mobile using the Small Message Service are called SMS's up here. A phone like my aging Nokia 3510 gives you ca. 20 characters per line. You type the message using the number keys. Believe me, this is not an environment to go all Shakespearean in.

oldnick's picture

that's so different from the newspapers' old telegraphic code how?

I am having some trouble deciphering this comment; any help would be appreciated.

Also, can anyone tell me how ANYONE survived before we had all of these must-have gadgets? I have as few of them as possible, which is to say, one—a prepaid GoPhone I use for emergencies. I pay $100 a year for service and minutes, and the unused minutes roll over. At the present time, I have about $220 worth of minutes left on my phone. I don't appear to be suffering from lack of gizmos, but maybe I'm deluded and, really and truly, my life actually sucks.

Chris Dean's picture

@oldnick: I haven’t activated my phone in at least 5 years and have never sent a text message. I’m just barely getting by with Skype/iChat/email/gchat/twitter/fb/google+… My life must really suck. I feel so alone. Is there a support group for people like us?

(thanks for the smile)

Don McCahill's picture


> Is there a support group for people like us?

There are lots of them. Check out Skype/iChat/email/gchat/twitter/fb/google+ … oh, wait a minute.


oldnick's picture

By the way: the next time you fire up your shiny little toys, give this a thought...

Té Rowan's picture

@oldnick - I used to read Morsum Magnificat. In one issue there was an article about a code used by US newspapers to compact news items before putting them on the wire. Fewer characters to send -> less sending time -> lower cable costs.

The one code that stuck in mind was 'fapib' = 'filed a petition in bankruptcy'.

oldnick's picture

@Té Rowan -

Cool; it makes sense. What goes around, comes around. My dad told me that, back in the day, cigarettes were taxed individually—rather than by the pack—and always unfiltered, so some manufacturers made double-long or triple-long cigarettes, which the "end user" then cut down to Lucky Strike size...either that, or they took really LOOONG smokes breaks. Beating the system is what it's all about, I reckon...

Syndicate content Syndicate content