There is more to moving type than meets the eye.

Making type move across a screen isn’t a new phenomena—it actually dates back to the 1950s when film title design was an emerging artform—but in recent years its popularity has exploded. There are more movies and TV shows than ever, which means even more title design and more animated typography sequences. More importantly than this, the unstoppable rise of the internet and computing power has led to motion typography being used on websites, in apps, and pretty much everywhere where there is a screen.

Advancing technology and software has made animating typography accessible to many more people. This combined with the increasing use cases for kinetic type means that if you are a budding graphic designer, motion typography is a string that you should definitely be adding to your bow. You might currently be asking yourself things like ‘What even is kinetic typography?’ or ‘What do I need to make kinetic typography?’. Well, we are here to answer those questions and more, so join us as we take a deep dive into the wonderful world of motion typography.

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What is kinetic typography, and what is so good about it?

We know that the term ‘kinetic typography’ sounds pretty fancy, but it is actually just a more technical way of saying ‘moving text’. Kinetic typography is an animation technique that integrates motion with text, which is why it is also sometimes known as motion typography. There is no fixed way in which the text should be animated, and the lettering can shrink or expand, move around the page, change color, undergo distortion or be subject to any number of creative techniques that a graphic designer wants to use. The text animations can be short and simple, or more elaborate and complex.

In contrast to static text, kinetic typography animations are more capable of capturing the attention of viewers. Manipulating and transforming text with movement can achieve a wide variety of effects—it can create emphasis where it is desired, it can convey emotion and conjure up ideas, and it can transform simple text into a powerful message. The only limit to what you can achieve with kinetic typography is your imagination.

One of the best things about modern kinetic typography is that it is more accessible than ever with a lower barrier of entry for anyone who wants to get started. With the explosion in web design and higher broadband speeds, there are now more and more opportunities to create and deploy cool typography animations.

Can you hit me up with some sweet kinetic typography examples?

The earliest example of kinetic type has been traced back to 1959 and Alfred Hitchcock’s feature film North by Northwest. This groundbreaking kinetic type title sequence paved the way for the use of motion typography in film and TV title design. This has now developed into an artform in its own right, and some of the most iconic and amazing examples of animated typography compositions come from this area of design.

Over time, animated typography moved from film and TV and started to appear in more and more contexts. Advertising has made use of the ability of moving type to capture the attention of audiences, realizing that dynamic text is much more captivating than static text. Now we’re seeing kinetic typography in all kinds of info videos and explainer videos. A really brilliant example of how effective motion typography can be comes from Apple’s video announcing that every one of its products will be carbon neutral by 2030. It uses accelerated typography animation along with hand-drawn style animations, and its use of green as a color along with white really helps to reflect the core message of sustainability. In our opinion this is one of the best kinetic typography videos we have seen.

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Another cool area in which animated type has proven popular in recent years is in lyric videos. You might be asking what a lyric video is [you ask a lot of questions] so let us tell you. Lyric videos are music videos for songs, but instead of being the regular music video, they have the lyrics animated throughout the video. These videos are often fan made and uploaded to YouTube, and lots of them are amazing video examples of the endless fun and creativity that people can express with this type of animated typography project.

Take this video for Bush More Than Machines—it uses a combination of fonts that really reflect the mood and tone of the song, and the background color is minimal and adds significantly to the feel of the video. Our favorite kinetic typography music video is quite likely this version of Queen’s timeless classic Bohemian Rhapsody. It uses a combination of brilliant typography, creative illustrations and vibrant colors to produce visual representations of the lyrics. It’s an amazing piece, and the fact that it was made as a student assignment is even more impressive to us.

OK, I’m sold—how do I start making kinetic typography?

The first thing you are going to need to get started creating motion typography [apart from a computer] is some software. There are some free options available for getting started, but most graphic designers use Adobe After Effects to create with. The next step we recommend taking is to spend time watching tutorials and reading articles on how to create kinetic typography. It would also be useful to learn the rules of typography and how to use text from a graphic design perspective.

There are any number of graphic design courses and animation courses that you could take to improve your general ability, and there are also a large number of courses out there that are specific to kinetic type and that you could take to focus on developing this valuable skill.

Metal sculpture of jumbled letters against the sky.
Photo by Nathaniel Shuman / Unsplash

Whether you decide to work things out yourself or to take a more study based path, there are some general things that you should be keeping in mind. You should think about who your intended audience is and what message you are trying to convey. There are a massive number of different ways you can animate type, and your job as a motion designer is to make sure that the message and the design are aligned.

Some final words of wisdom

As with much of graphic design, it can be very helpful to look around and see how other graphic designers are incorporating kinetic typography and what techniques they use. The goal isn’t to steal ideas wholesale, but to be inspired by what you see and to come up with new ways of applying styles or adding your own twists. It’s also important to get creative and have fun!

If you are hoping to become a freelance motion designer, then creating motion typography will be an important weapon to have in your arsenal, and we hope this rundown has helped you to get to grips with the main concepts.

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Kinetic typography: the what, why, and how | Linearity
Kinetic typography: the what, why, and how