Good and Bad Type in Motion and Print

Examples of type used effectively and not so effectively

toyota board.jpg

This commercial for Toyota was created by Brand New School. The slogan of the spot is “THE CAR THAT READS THE ROAD.” Brand New School created custom typography as three dimensional elements that the car passes on its journey. This is an excellent twist on non-font typography because the idea is that each word is inherently designed into objects, yet the objects are created digitally with 3-D generated type or other generated elements. Each typeface is designed with proper typographic anatomy and is specific to each object that it is depicting.

 These are 3 still frames from the spot. In the first frame, one can see a distinct sans serif typeface built out of bricks. The weight, proportion, and tracking serve to carry the weight of the bridge. Notice the non-font representation of the word “Birds” in the sky. The second frames show a car made out of a typeface reminiscent of the 1970’s with its chrome edging and italic sans serif classification.

The third frame is the climax of the commercial and shows that the whole

city is made of type. Brand New School says of their process,”..we ended up designing just one custom-made alphabet for all the cars, but made all sorts of letter-like shapes for everything else.” I am classifying this as a “good” example because of it’s refreshing use of custom designed typography to support a message.


This You Tube video that advertises Fred and Sharon’s Movies is an example of bad typography. In the first still, the type is stretched out of proportion to convey the appearance of perspective. The problem is that the background that the text is over does not lend itself to have text moving in perspective. One might see this if it were travelling through space like one sees in Star Wars movies. However, in this situation, the text would actually hit the bride and groom in the face if it were to truly travel in the scene in this perspective. The other problem with this stretching technique is that it changes the proportions of the letter forms. The word “movie” is stretched so much that the counters and bowls do not have their intended curves. Ellen Lupton, on her companion web site for her book Thinking with Type:  A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students, calls scaling type out of proportion a “type crime”. She writes,”This senseless torture alters the line weights of the font as well as the proportions.”

The second still shows a lack of attention to kerning, tracking, line length and alignment. The web site address is tracked so closely that the letters touch making it hard to read. It is better to reduce the point size to fit the area or choose another typeface. Certain letter pairs have considerably more space between them then others like the v,i and a,n. This means that the kerning needs to be adjusted. Dividing the web site address into three lines does not read well. The phone numbers have no hyphens and are justified which looks odd with the centered alignment of the web site. There is no typographic hierarchy, so the viewer is not sure which piece of information is more important.

On both stills, the stroke and outline of the type alters the counters of the letters in a way that fills them in.

Update on 2010-02-05 01:54 by Siena Design

More Good and Ugly


There are 3 frames from the credit sequence for the film, A Series of Unfortunate Events, created by Jamie Calieri.  Effective typographic techniques are used to set the tone of the film. The film is about disasters that befall a family of orphans and is set in a nonspecific time yet has elements of the Victorian age, mixed with current times.  There is an eccentric, odd tone to the movie. The art direction emphasizes the somber tones and fabric patterns of the Victorian age in its costumes, set design and overall color palette.

This is an example of good typography for the following reasons. The typeface choices reflect this mixture of Victorian and current aesthetics. In the first and second frames the job position line is set in a sans serif all capital letter typeface that is modern in feel. Contrasting this are the credit names which are set in serif type which suggests traditional formality. To further the contrast, the names have initial capitals that are set in a non-italic serif family member thus giving an unconventional quality to the type that is in keeping with tone of the film. The loose tracking of the names and the larger point size as compared to the sans serif job titles create typographical hierarchy.  The alignment is purposely indented to create a feeling of movement and oddity.

The end title uses the same type techniques as the credits but is enhanced by scrolling flourishes which are also reminiscent of Victorian design. The title seems very formal yet the Lemony Snicket name is set in a sans serif all caps typeface that is contemporary and ties in with the credits.

The placement of all these elements work within the composition of each frame. The text becomes an integral element in the overall layout of the paper cutout artwork of each scene. Calieri says of this piece, “I wanted to make an enchanting, inviting piece that not only held true to the sentiment of the Lemony Snicket books, but also paid tribute to the amazing talent listed in the end credits." This effective use of type is one component of the overall piece that helped him achieve his goal.


Stacked type is another “type crime”. The western alphabet was created to sit on a common baseline. Therefore, when type is stacked, the varied widths of the letters make it hard to read. The line spacing of the stacked type is very tightly leaded which also contributes to the lack of legibility.The layout of the stacked type parallel to the tree creates two vertical areas that hinder the viewer’s eye from being drawn around the page effectively. In fact, the negative space between these two elements is the area that the viewer’s eye is drawn to because it is actually being framed by the two elements. The script font inside the tree looks like it is scaled out of proportion to fit inside the width of the tree, which, as was discussed earlier, is another “type crime.”