TypeTalk: The Dos and Don'ts of Type in Motion

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Q. Do you have guidelines for typography in motion graphics?

A. Type has gone multimedia, appearing in many forms beyond its traditional role in print. As an element in motion graphics, typography is used in marketing materials, websites, presentations, commercials, television intros, movie titles, and video games, to name a few.

The characteristics of type in motion are different than those of type in either printed matter or as static type on the Web. Nonetheless, moving text still should adhere to the basic principles of good typography and design. Here are pointers for creating effective type in motion that will attract, hold, and affect your viewer:

• Follow the fundamentals of good design regarding composition, balance, emphasis, and information hierarchy. Consider the arrangement of each frame.
• Apply the standards of good typography with regard to kerning, tracking, line spacing, line length, etc.
• Use “smart” punctuation, including smart quotes (also known as curly or typographer’s quotes), as well as en and em dashes. Follow all the correct typographic conventions used in print typography; see my past columns for details.
• Make sure your typography is legible on the range of devices it might be viewed on, from a smart phone to a movie screen.
• Consider reinforcing important narrated points with text, charts, and/or graphs.
• Know the demographics of your target audience and design with them in mind. A younger audience can read and absorb type in motion easily, but keeping it “slow and simple” works best for older viewers.

• Don’t go too fast or too fancy. Avoid excessive speed, fades, and special effects — each of which can confuse and irritate the viewer, reducing comprehension and effectiveness.
• Don’t put more text in a frame than the viewer has time to read before the next frame.
• Don’t select fonts that translate poorly. Test your text at the lowest resolution and the smallest size of a potential viewer’s screen or device.
• Don’t overload your piece. Beware of using too much movement, narration, other sound, and activity all at the same time. Keep it simple for the greatest absorption, retention, and impact.

Learn By Example
You’re expecting your viewer to watch, read, and listen at the same time. By following these Dos and Don’ts, you’ll be on your way to creating exciting, engaging, and effective type in motion. Here are several examples that get it right:

The Pump
The styling, arrangement, and hierarchy of the typography express the message perfectly. The image and type interact well, creating a strong composition that draws the viewer’s attention and holds it by keeping the elements in the frame to a minimum.

National Parks: Give 2 Cents
Not only do the combination and treatment of type and image enrich the narration, but smart quotes are used, which they are too rarely in type in motion videos.

What is mappiness?
Entertaining charts, graphs, and thought balloons, with easy to read typography, help illustrate and reinforce the narration as well as the overall message of this charming piece.

Stuxnet: Anatomy of a Computer Virus
A powerful concept with strong and effective motion, combined with dramatic use of type and color, gets the point across in this well thought-out piece.

Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.

Posted on: December 14, 2011

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.

4 Comments on TypeTalk: The Dos and Don'ts of Type in Motion

  1. Thanks for a timely story and the example projects were very interesting – even The Governator’s, LOL.

  2. thanks for this topic!
    I’m the author of the animation “The pump”! and I’m really happy to see my video in this article!


  3. Really nice piece, Mathieu, I’m happy to have been able to showcase your work!

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    T H E T Y P E S T U D I O
    Westport, CT

  4. I saw at least one straight quote and two misspellings in the mappiness video. So maybe that would be a useful “Do” to add to your list (proofreading). And in my opinion, although overall the Stuxnet video was very well done, I dispute their choice of using Avant Garde’s alternate characters, or at least the way they used them, particularly in the word “STATES” in United States.

    Otherwise, very nice article. Thanks for what you do.


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