11 Mar/19

Kinetic Typography

What makes for a good, impactful message? Well, as we all know, due to the way our brains function, it’s a lot easier to relate to / and remember an interesting story than simply dry facts. Beyond this, our brains also process visuals better than plain text, which explains why 65% of people are better visual learners and 40% of people respond to visual information better than they respond to plain text. Therefore, the key is finding a way to present information in a provoking visual manner, and one of the key ways of doing this is through today’s term, kinetic typography.

Though the term may seem daunting at first glance, it’s much easier to grasp once broken down. First there is the adjective kinetic, which comes from the Greek kinetikos, meaning ‘moving, putting in motion’, and which, in this case, was first used by John Lynch in his 1957 book Metal Sculpture to represent an artistic construction that depends on movement for its effect, writing: “It might be easier to define constructions, stabiles, mobiles and kinetic sculpture by what they are not.” Second, and coming originally from the Greek typos, meaning ‘type’, and grapheia, meaning ‘writing’, typography is (and has always been) about the art and practice of printing, as was first mentioned by Sir Thomas Browne in his 1646 work, Pseudodoxia epidemica (or Common errors), stating: “Those diminutive, and pamphlet Treaties.., pieces maintaining rather Typography then verity.”

The beauty of kinetic typography lies in its ability to take static words and, through motion, give them the impact and resonance that is typically reserved for the visual medium. Of course, living in a world of near constant information and creative sources like Apple Motion, Adobe Flash, and Adobe After Effects, it’s easy to think that kinetic typography is basically a product of the computer age; however, in truth, it’s much older. Going back to the genesis of moving pictures, one of the first instances of actual animated letters can be found in the work of turn of the 20th century film director and illusionist Georges Melies. As for the term itself, though the exact origins are rather murky, it is said to have originated in the late 1950’s, surrounding the work of cinematic graphic design pioneer Saul Bass, who was the first to implement kinetic typography in the open sequence of such Alfred Hitchcock classics as North by Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960).

As anyone who has recently been on the Internet can attest, we are a long way past these early examples. Though simple motion kinetic typography (where the text moves in relation to other text on the screen) can still add energy and emphasis to what would typically be plain text on a page, the new idea of fluid kinetic typography has the potential to add layers of depth and meaning to a message that would otherwise just be words. For example, simply adding a shape to visualized words can reinforce an idea, or the use of certain movements to convey surprise, fear, or worry can add depth, emphasis, and emotion to what would be a flat statement.