Typography of Good Motion Graphics

Finding the Music in the Typography of Good Motion Graphics

When describing good typography, terms like rhythm, proportion and motion are frequently used. The music of superior typography has a good measure to each line of text in a paragraph. Horizontal motion and a vertical motion even of static typography can aid in the ease of readability and ultimately the flow. This flow is the same you find in psychology or the gaming world.

“Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” Flow, Wikipedia]

These same qualitative terms apply to motion design. With motion design, however, you have a limited time to present the text. We all have a need to read text that is put in front of us. Here are a few recommendations of how to make the best use of the typography in order to aid in the flow of reading and assimilating content.


Determine the parameters of the project. Screen resolution, device, and distribution system all play a part in the final product as well as who the project needs to speak to. Attention to the rhythm, proportion and motion of the typography are important.


Choose your font, size and color carefully. Serif fonts can be tougher to read on a smaller screen, but can be easier to read in properly leaded formatted blocks than a san serif font. Text that needs to be read quickly needs to have a higher contrast to its surroundings there is a reason why warning road signs in the US are black text on a yellow background. Its one of the best combinations for reading quickly and at a distance.

Measure Horizontal Motion of Static Typography

High contrast road sign.
High contrast road sign.

Pay attention to the measure, or the word spacing and width, of the columns. Word spacing can vary from a fixed distance in ragged right or left text, to an elastic space in justified text.

“Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work, a better average is 40 to 50 characters.” [Horizontal Motion, Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web,
http://www.webtypography.net/Rhythm_and_Proportion/Horizontal_Motion/2.1.2/, site no longer active]

This is a useful rule of thumb but consider your audience. A dyslexic, or time-stressed executive for example, who has difficulty tracking will have trouble reading wider column.

Vertical Motion of Static Typography

Leading for typography.
Leading for typography.

The vertical space between lines of text, leading (or line-height), is used in a different way to the horizontal space but is equally important in the readability of text. Creating a rhythm and balance to the leading of paragraphs and headings allow the reader to predict a pattern and creates a comfortable flow.

When you start with these basic principles of rhythm and proportion, motion design of text and maintains greater readability across a wider audience.

A Fun example of typography in motion graphics.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.



O'Connell Design
O’Connell Design

O’Connell Design is a creative studio dedicated to film and motion, game cinematics, and engaging visuals. For more information on our studio and to view our portfolio go to www.oconnelldesign.com.