Category Archives: Typography

The Rise of the Diegetic Intertitle

Pri­or to the integ­ra­tion of sound, movies often dis­played text-based inform­a­tion using title cards or inter­titles. This form of com­mu­nic­a­tion is known as die­get­ic con­tent, as the act­ors can­not see it.

How­ever, even after the inven­tion of the talk­ie, oth­er types of inform­a­tion needed to be dis­played — such as trans­la­tions for a for­eign audi­ence. This was usu­ally done in a very per­func­tory way, with non-descript­ive text (typ­ic­ally achieved using a font such as Times New Roman, with a black out­line to con­trast with any back­ground) on the lower third of the screen. This text is extern­al to the story, so it seemed nat­ur­al that it should be styl­ist­ic­ally different.

In more recent years, there are increased demands on visu­al storytelling — small screen devices (e.g. mobile) and com­puters have star­ted to become part of the lan­guage of cinema (and, by exten­sion — the video and digit­al screens on which they are ‘pro­jec­ted’). Addi­tion­ally, in today’s more mul­ti­cul­tur­al world, the require­ment to show mul­tiple lan­guages with­in the same film means that dif­fer­ent typo­graph­ic tech­niques can be used to enhance this aspect of the story. In fact, this is an exten­sion of tra­di­tion­al sub­titles — where often sound effects and untrans­lated lan­guages are still included.

As mobile and inter­net tech­no­logy star­ted to appear on screen, an edit­or would typ­ic­ally cut to a shot of the device — allow­ing the view­er to read the dis­play. As post-pro­duc­tion tech­no­logy improved, TV’s require­ment for an increased speed of plot expos­i­tion, and product place­ment costs (and leg­al clear­ances) required a more gen­er­ic approach, this even­tu­ally evolved to show the inter­face dir­ectly incor­por­ated onto the visu­al frame.

Sub­titles, cap­tions and inter­face design typ­ic­ally sits inde­pend­ently on top of the con­tent as a lay­er added in post-pro­duc­tion — i.e. as a semi-trans­par­ent wall between the story and the view­er. Integ­rat­ing these titles to make them appear part of the con­tent can be quite a tech­nic­al chal­lenge — espe­cially when they need to be tracked to a mov­ing camera.

This over­lay­ing tech­nique was demon­strated in movies such as Man On Fire (2004), Stranger Than Fic­tion (2006), Dis­con­nect (2012), and 2014’s The Fault In Our Stars, John Wick, and Non-Stop, as well as TV shows such as (per­haps most influ­en­tially) Sher­lock (2010) and House of Cards in 2013.

There are two main types of ele­ments in mod­ern cinema: die­get­ic — any­thing that the char­ac­ters would recog­nise hap­pen­ing with­in their world (of the nar­rat­ive story) and non-die­get­ic — any­thing that hap­pens out­side the story (for example, this would usu­ally be open­ing cred­it sequences).

How­ever, (much like mod­ern media itself) on-screen typo­graphy has sur­passed merely being integ­rated visu­ally into the back­ground plate. It is now becom­ing increas­ingly self-reflex­ive, and blurs these die­get­ic lines. This is often referred to as “break­ing the fourth wall”, and is per­haps best demon­strated in the open­ing titles to the 2016 film Dead­pool, where even the actu­al names of pro­du­cers are sub­ver­ted into nar­rat­ive elements.

For more exeges­is of the dieges­is (sorry, I could­n’t help it), see Tim Car­mody’s excel­lent 2011 SVA Inter­ac­tion Design present­a­tion “The Dic­tat­ori­al Per­pen­dic­u­lar: Wal­ter Benjamin’s Read­ing Revolu­tion”.

“A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That’s like, six­teen walls.” – Deadpool

Mind The Gap - Johnston100

Johnston100 by Monotype

Edward John­ston cre­ated the font used by Lon­don Trans­port over 100 years ago. Since then, needs have changed — so Mono­type were com­mis­sioned to redraw the entire set of glyphs, as well as cre­at­ing new weights such as thin and hairline.

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Kyle Cooper: “Watch the Titles”

Kyle Cooper, the acclaimed title design­er, art dir­ect­or and film­maker dis­cusses typo­graphy, his love for the imper­fec­tion of hand­made things, and his main titles for Dark­ness Falls, Se7en and Spi­der­m­an 2.

In Part 2, Cooper dis­cusses “integ­rated typo­graphy” and three clas­sic main titles that made a big impres­sion on him: ‘The Dead Zone’ by Wayne Fitzger­ald, ‘To Kill A Mock­ing­bird’ by Steph­en Frank­furt and ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ by Saul Bass.

Typographic Photography by Arne Lind

Johnston Underground, London May 1985

Hello, I am Arne. I live and work in Stock­holm, Sweden. I work as a graph­ic design­er and I became inter­ested in pho­to­graphy in the late 1960s. The interest raise dur­ing the 1980s as art dir­ect­or for a Photo magazine (FOTO).

A wide range of cam­er­as have been used over the years. Mostly Leicas. M2, M3, M5, M6 and a Lei­caflex SL2. In early years Prac­tica, Yash­ica, Can­on, Has­sel­blad 1000F. Later, besides the Leicas, Can­on Dial, Nikon, mostly FM and FE, occa­sion­ally a Leica CL, a Minox 35, Pentax 6x7, Has­sel­blad 500C and so on. The film has mainly been Kodak Tri‑X. Neg­at­ives are scanned in 16-bit (pos­it­ive scan then inver­ted), Pho­toshop is used for the final work which is lim­ited to dust and scratches besides crop­ping and image contrasts.

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Conan O’Brien // Farewell to NBC

This Kin­et­ic Typo­graphy pro­ject was cre­ated from dia­logue from Con­an O’Bri­en’s final epis­ode of The Tonight Show on NBC. In this dia­logue he describes his feel­ings about NBC and the situ­ation at hand. His per­son­al­ity exudes pos­it­iv­ity and humor and this dia­logue describes his char­ac­ter very well. Even through the hard­ships of leav­ing NBC he pro­motes hard work and kindness.


Paul Rand by Imaginary Forces

For Paul Rand’s posthum­ous induc­tion into The One Club’s Hall of Fame for 2007, Ima­gin­ary Forces cre­ated a short film, com­bin­ing ori­gin­al anim­a­tion with a video­taped inter­view of Rand him­self, that encap­su­lated his unique and time­less con­tri­bu­tion to the design community.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (end title)

Work­ing closely with Rob Cohen, the design team com­posed scenes sim­il­ar in style to a graph­ic nov­el, build­ing ten­sion and trans­itions using brush­stroke sil­hou­ettes of recog­niz­able char­ac­ters from the film, with 3D mod­els provided by Rhythm & Hues and Digit­al Domain. Mas­ter cal­li­graph­er T.Z. Yuan was also con­sul­ted for the ink brush writ­ing, to achieve a level authen­ti­city amidst the fant­ast­ic­al ele­ments of the film. The sequence was built around the Chinese cal­li­graphy of the five ele­ments — water, wood, earth, met­al and fire.

via Ima­gin­ary Forces

The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation

Nobody should be sur­prised that Power­Point does not meas­ure up to the great speeches of his­tory, such as Lin­col­n’s Gettys­burg address. And it is cer­tainly a shame when a poten­tially inter­est­ing present­a­tion is dumbed down by anoth­er for­mu­laic over-applic­a­tion of Power­Point. But when Power­Point leads not just to bore­dom but to bad decisions, it is a tragedy, not just a shame.


The Ministry of Type

The Min­istry of Type is a web­log by Aegir Hall­mun­dur about type, typo­graphy, let­ter­ing, cal­li­graphy and oth­er related things that inspire him. He is a design­er ori­gin­ally from the far north of Eng­land, now liv­ing and work­ing in Brighton in the far south of Eng­land. He loves hand-tra­cing and recre­at­ing old designs as vec­tor artwork.


onedotzero 2009 brand identity

This year’s fest­iv­al theme of ‘con­ver­gence and col­lab­or­a­tion’ inspired wieden + kennedy to take advant­age of one­dotzer­o’s vast fan base and con­stant, online con­ver­sa­tions to cre­ate this new iden­tity. They have har­nessed dia­logue from twit­ter, face­book, etc, and have chan­nelled the con­tent via spe­cially pro­duced soft­ware devised by com­pu­ta­tion­al design wiz­ard Karsten Schmidt (a.k.a. Toxi) through col­our­ful ‘rib­bons’ that move organ­ic­ally as if alive. These rib­bons grav­it­ate towards invis­ible paths that will ulti­mately mir­ror one­dotzer­os font and logo: a liv­ing, breath­ing iden­tity that encap­su­lates the themes of the festival.



The space-boy­scout in Tom Sachs got togeth­er with the design­er in Tom Sachs and they craf­ted togeth­er their very own super-offi­cial NASA shotgun.

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