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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