Motion Graphics (Unit 4)

When designing for the screen, people tend to underestimate the importance of type. You would be wrong to think that only print designers have to kern, adjust, weight and organize type meticulously.

Always keep in mind that you are designing for the screen. In opposition to printed work, the user can easily resize your screen design, and you sure as hell do not want to lose your serifs due to the user’s high screen resolution. Using sans serif typefaces retains the readability even at smaller font sizes.

The written word is still the primary vehicle of choice for mass communication. However, words are no longer bound to the printed page. Numerous forms of digital communication are dependent on typography. Video is no different. Image and sound are at the heart of video, but the explosive growth of motion graphics is still dependent on the centuries’ old art of typography.


A key component of typography is legibility, the ability of the reader to comprehend what is written. Good typography leads the reader through the text, inherently communicating the message. Poor typography works against the reader, confusing them in the process. There are many factors that come into play when determining what is legible. Typeface, font size, color, placement and spacing are all part of the equation that translates from print to motion design. Movement and timing are factors that aren’t part of the print tradition but are vital elements of motion graphics.


Typefaces are the uniquely styled shapes that make up letterforms. Typefaces are commonly referred to as fonts, the difference being the font is the actual digital file used to create the typeface. This goes back to early days of the printing press when a font was a collection of lead letters, displaying a typeface, to be used for physical printing. It’s no different in the digital age. For instance, Helvetica is a typeface, but a user installs the Helvetica font file on their computer to use in their applications. Throughout history, typefaces were designed to take advantage of the technology used to create the fonts and influence the meaning of the printed word.

The shape of the letterform lends itself to the legibility of a typeface. The human visual system is able to recognize words not only by their letters but by their overall shape. Serif typefaces are most commonly used in large blocks of text, such as paragraphs and the page layout of books. This is because the serifs help define the shape of the word and help lead the readers’ eye. Serifed fonts help in motion design when there is title on screen that can only be up for a short time, but because of digital display resolutions serifs can get muddy and be hard to read at small sizes. Clean sans-serif typefaces, such as those influenced by Swiss typographers, present well on digital displays. The clean lines and well defined angles of a Swiss-inspired typeface provide contrast and make it easy for the viewer to identify the letter form.

Motion graphics are a time based media, visual information is revealed to the audience over a specified and controlled duration. On the printed page, the viewer determines the pace at which they consume what they read. In this way a print typographer is able to block out and fill a page with type, even decreasing its size and placing the text into columns to fit as much legible type on the page as possible. On the video screen, the viewer becomes passive and the pace is determined by the motion graphic designer. For this reason the motion designer must be aware of how much text is on screen at one time and the pace at which their audience can read it.

Kinetic Type and Movement

Good typography is important, but without motion there are no motion graphics. Kinetic typography, in which animated text is the primary narrative element, is one of the most popular styles of motion graphics. Kinetic typography goes hand in hand with timing. The number of frames a word is on the screen is contingent with what the designer wants the audience to know and feel. The secret to good kinetic typography is for the animation of letters and words to be motivated by the message they imply. Arbitrary animations and movements on the screen will eventually grow wearisome to the audience and will lose their interest.



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