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November 2008

Kinetic typography: more examples

Type As a follow-up to yesterday's post on kinetic typography, I would like to point you to several more examples. First, a clarification: my purpose in bringing up the topic of kinetic typography is not to suggest that you too should incorporate text elements in your live presentations in the same way that you see featured in the examples below and in the previous The Girl Effect example. Using apps like PowerPoint or Keynote alone would make such a task impossible anyway (though many tasteful, useful effects are possible with slideware alone, and not only by using animation effects). My real aim in highlighting kinetic typography here is simply to remind you (and myself) again that type matters and that the treatment of type requires careful thought. Though you would not likely use kinetic type to the degree used in these examples in a live talk, watching the treatment of type in these examples may give you some ideas for working with type on screen that evokes emotion or directs the eye in a certain direction, or that sets a mood, etc. The only real goal is to get us thinking about presenting differently. In the past — such as in this post on Helvetica — I have touched on the issue of typography. Before looking at more examples of kinetic typography in presentation, take a look at this presentation on typography (which uses kinetic type).

On typography

What is kinetic type?
Some smart designers at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University have been exploring kinetic type for over ten years (more info here). In a paper called The Kinetic Typography Engine: An Extensible System for Animating Expressive Text (by Johnny C. Lee, Jodi Forlizzi, and Scott E. Hudson), the authors have this to say about kinetic typography:

"Kinetic typography can be seen as a vehicle for adding some of the properties of film to that of text. For example, kinetic typography can be effective in conveying a speaker’s tone of voice, qualities of character, and affective (emotional) qualities of text.... It may also allow for a different kind of engagement with the viewer than static text, and in some cases, may explicitly direct or manipulate the attention of the viewer."

Kinetic typography – "text that moves or otherwise changes over time" — is a rather new field (though typography is certainly not new) and evidence as to which techniques work best and in what situations is something that is still being explored. It is believed that the first use of kinetic type on a screen was in the Hitchcock film North by Northwest; Saul Bass designed the opening credit sequence. Watch the opening below. The credits do not just convey information but also express emotion and set the mood for the film.

Opening title sequence from North by Northwest

Opening title sequence from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World
This is one of my favorite movies of all time. The playful type treatment below set the perfect mood for a very funny film. (1963, a few years after North by Northwest.)

Kinetic typography is used extensively in commercial advertising, but its applications do not need to be limited to presentations that sell soap and automobiles (as The Girl Effect demonstrated).
Here are some more examples to get you thinking. (Be warned: many contain adult language.)

The Devil's Advocate
Kinetic type set to an Al Pacino rant (Adult language).

Oceans Eleven
This one below is a bit different. Not every word is represented. The type is designed to show emphasis or match intonation, etc.

Pulp Fiction scene: "Marcellus Wallace
I pointed to this one well over a year ago, but I still think it is effective. Notice how the type is so large that it often bleeds off the edge; I like this effect. Watch it below. You may be interested in how differently the dialog hits you when you watch the actual film clip from the movie. (Adult language.)

Duck and Cover (old public service announcement from the '50s)
Very nice indeed. Watch it.

Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?"

I love this one. The only little mistake (which the designer recognizes) is the use of the "dumb" apostrophes a few times (the humanity!). But I love this routine (classic) and the type treatment.

If you vote, Starbucks buys your coffee
Wow, this one is quite similar to The Girl Effect. Watch it.

Another Starbucks message (RED)
Simple and short. Watch it.

Controversial Motrin moms commercial

The type is interesting, but for a lot of people that was not the issue. Watch it.

Music video:Yo No Se Que Hacer Conmigo
Looks pretty fantástico to me. Watch it.

Update: Alternative Rugby Commentary
Quite a few people suggested I checkout Alternative Rugby Commentary for interesting examples of combining text and other visual elements to quick-pitch narratives. Here's one below: The Ten Commandments. Brilliant. (Adult language; it's Rugby after all).

H/T: 15 stunning motion typography videos

Kinetic typography used to present The Girl Effect

Girl_effect We all know that a picture paints a thousand words. So, if you were to create a short on-line presentation that dealt with an important issue such as poverty and were trying to not only inform the viewer but also to make a profound emotional connection, it would make sense to use images of the problem — photographs of the actual people in need of help. You need words to inform and express much of the story, but you need pictures to really capture people's attention and make the message stick, right? Not necessarily. Kinetic type, or animated or moving text, is a powerful and creative way to add emotion, create mood, add emphasis, etc. in a way that can amplify a narrative in a very visual way by using nothing more than type and motion (and often layering, transparency effects, etc.).

In future I'll explore Kinetic typography here a bit more, but for now I bring up the topic so that I can point you to a very cool short presentation which tells a compelling story using nothing but dynamic type and a musical soundtrack that is very much in the background. Watch the YouTube version below, or go The Girl Effect website to see a full screen version of the video presentation.

The Girl Effect


Girls at the crossroads
The unexpected use of dynamic text rather than emotional images is very effective and a powerful juxtaposition with the short video presentations featuring actual real-life stories. The first presentation draws you in, then the interviews go deeper with real examples in a more traditional documentary style. Here's one below featuring Sanchita in Bangladesh.

Learn more about The Girl Effect
Girl Effect website
More video presentations from their website
Get involved
Spread the word

H/T to all the people who sent me The Girl Effect link over the past week or so. Good stuff. Thanks so much!

Design means putting yourself in the user's shoes

Design is about many things. Above all, it's about clarity, and intentions and about putting yourself in the position of the end users (or the customers, students, audience, etc.). When designs are not well thought out, even though it may all look good from our point of view, users get frustrated, confused, or even angry. Anyone who has used a poorly designed user interface on a mobile phone, for example, or gotten lost while following the signs on the freeway in a new city understands these feelings. And anyone who is squinting to see a figure or read a quote on a PowerPoint slide is experiencing a bad design of sorts. I always say the lessons are all around. I love examples of poor design, even for the simplest of things, because they are occasions to learn. Here's one.


On the road
Last week I checked in to one of the nice Hilton hotels in Japan. As is common in Japan, one of the staff took me to my room, opened the door, put my bags down, gave me the keys and left. I then immediately changed and went for a run before dinner. When I returned to my room I inserted the key the same way I have in any other hotel I've stayed in, with the front side and the hotel logo right side up. It did not work. I tried it again slowly, then quickly. Nothing. "Wait, do I have the right room?" I thought. Now I doubted my memory. Maybe the endorphins were clouding my memory. So I went back down to the front desk to sort it out. Before I could speak to the front desk staff, another hotel staff member asked me if there was any problem. I said it was my card, though I was not sure. He knew immediately what the problem was. He turned the card over and said that the card must be inserted with the back of the card face up. He laughed apologetically and said that this was not an unusual problem. "Ah, sou desu ka?" I said.

Even though I may have glanced at the back and seen the arrow (though text is unreadable), the large magnetic stripe "told me" to turn the card over. The gradient to the left on the front side (three shades of blue from dark to light) acts — at least on some sort of subconscious level — as a kind if directional cue.

With my glasses on I can actually never read the print. Like many people, I am near sighted, by the time I extend the card far enough away to be in focus, the 7pt or 8pt font is too small to read in the low light of a hotel hallway. Without my glasses, I can read the small print if I hold the card about 12 inches (31 cm) from my face. When I turn the card over at the height of the key reader, it is 24 inches (61 cm) from my eyes; text is unreadable. I assumed the arrow meant "this end in" but the stripe implies that you turn over the card, just like every other type of card (ATM, credit, club memberships, etc.).

On the road (yet) again
This week I was presenting for management at the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo. The key pictured below is similar to keys I have seen in other parts of the world and around Japan. It seems pretty obvious that the side with the logo and pattern and subtle but clear arrow is the the front and that that side should be facing up while inserting the key; there is no reason for a "this side up" message. The address and large stripe tells me that that is the back of the key. No confusion.


This may seem like a very small thing, and it is. But the little things matter...and they add up. And this little experience with the cards is a simple reminder that graphic designs work best when they are created with the user in mind.

Speaking of the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton
Ricco_garr There are a lot of great hotels in Tokyo and the service is extraordinary in all of them. But the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo really does stand alone in my book. I don't stay there very often; typical business hotels are fine with me. But if you are a marketer or are simply interested in experiencing the intangibles that makeup such a powerful brand, you really should try to stay a night there sometime. You do not have to be in the hotel business; the lessons you can learn from the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo way of doing business and treating customers can be applied to other businesses as well. The man on my right in the picture above is Ricco Deblank the General Manager of the hotel. Ricco has amazing insights on branding and the hospitality industry. The working title of his new book in Japanese is "Passion for Service" (he has two other best-sellers out now in Japanese). I've known Ricco for many years and he truly does have a passion for service and he understands that the little things matter. Little things like presentation in all its myriad forms (such as this small detail).

Above is a photo I snapped during one of the short group discussions during my presentation. Notice the placement of the MacBook (behind the projector). This placement worked very well and allowed me to always have my eyes on the audience; peripheral glances at the computer screen — which no one could see — is all one needs if you know the material.

Beautiful example of the visualization of a story

Beautiful This morning I caught this short story on CNN (video below) on a very cool organization called D-PAN (Deaf Performing Artists Network) which, according to their website, "...create[s] media designed specifically to serve deaf audiences through the use of American Sign Language (ASL)." Their latest video is a visual interpretation of the song "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera. I never paid much attention to the song until I heard it augmented visually today by D-PAN. I think this is a great example of visuals combining with the music and lyrics to make a more powerful message. This is an inspirational little video for the deaf/hard of hearing and for the hearing alike. Frankly, I think it's better than the original; they did a great job with a good simple concept. You can watch the video below.


Whiteboard presentation: T. Boone Pickens on reducing America's dependency on foreign oil

T.boone_whiteboard Perhaps you've heard by now, but billionaire oil man T. Boone Pickens is on a mission to make sure the USA has an actual energy strategy under the new US president. He has a plan — The Pickens Plan — and he's been talking about it to anyone who will listen (watch this behind-the-scenes clip from The Daily Show), and he's put together a nice little four-minute presentation outlining the plan. Slides were added to this whiteboard overview presentation (below) with good results. The combination of the whiteboard, the actual map, and animated slides worked well and is something that is easily replicated live in a typical conference room or classroom. Some of the best presentations I have seen were by people who moved from using slides and video to whiteboard to using hands-on visuals such as maps or prototypes, etc. and then smoothly back to slides and so on. Now, Pickens does not get into great detail, but he gives you the story of the plan. In a live setting what would follow from this is lots of discussion, elaboration, and good Q & A, but in the first four minutes you got the story...and you want to hear more. That's how leaders communicate.

The slides
The slides were well done and introduced rather smoothly. They look very similar to the kinds of slides Duarte Design creates for Al Gore's presentations. The simple slides did a good job of supporting his narrative. Below are a few of the slides from his talk above.

Pickens gets right to the problem: "...we're importing almost 70%."

Slide in mid-transition. The yearly cost of the dependence = 700 billion/year. Next slide: 750 out of 1000 Americans have cars. In China 44 people out of 1000 have cars.

Pickens: "...we consume 25% of the world's oil..."

"...and have 4% of the people — that's a problem."

Pickens goes analog and brings out a map on poster board. "The United States is the Saudi Arabia of wind power."

Pickens's idea: take natural gas from power generation and use it for transportation, replace it with wind for power generation.

Case in point: Clearwater was a town in decline (slide with subtle Ken Burns effect).

"...but because of wind..."

"'s a booming community.."

"...this can all be accomplished in ten years if you have the right leadership."

The Pickens Plan website
Same whiteboard presentation on YouTube
"Green T. Boone" talks to Larry King

H/T Brandon Mullins

Play is good for you (and it's good for business)

Tim_brown We talk about play around here a lot. Remember that play was one of the six aptitudes needed to be successful in today's world featured in Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind. I often associate at least one aspect of play and playfulness with the old Buddhist idea of the beginner's mind (or child's mind). That is, in the child's mind there are infinite possibilities, but in our adult mind (one filled with habits and routines) there often seems to be few. One of TED's newest talks online is by Tim Brown the CEO of Ideo. In this wonderful short presentation Tim makes many salient points about the role of play, playfulness, and creativity and why they matter in our professional or academic lives. You may be a designer of consumer goods, or a medical doctor, or a researcher, or a teacher — every situation is different. But listen to what Tim Brown says and ask yourself how the idea of play might be introduced into your organization in a way that would benefit workers, patients, and students, not only in terms of productivity but also in terms of simply having people feel better (and isn't there a correlation?). Watch the video below (or here in high-rez). Following the video I summarized some of Tim's points as I heard them.

Summary (in my own words)
Below is a quick summary of Tim Brown's points from the presentation. (The three slides are from Tim's presentation.)

Fear — such as fearing judgement from our peers — inhibits us and often prevents us from taking chances or sharing our ideas with others. Fear, says Tim Brown, leads us to be overly conservative and to keep our "wild ideas" inside. As adults we become overly sensitive to the opinion of others, we lose a bit of our freedom.

Timbrown_slide1 Children who feel the most secure in their environment are the ones who feel the most freedom to play. Should not corporations, then, create the most secure environments that encourage freedom, creativity, and risk-taking...and even play? Why not?

Playfulness can be pragmatic as well. It helps us find better solutions, more creative answers to complex problems.

As adults, are we too quick to categorize? Do we too quickly come up with reasons why it can't be done rather than exploring the possibilities?

Shocking people out of their normal way of thinking and getting them to forget their "adult behaviors" for a while (at least) can lead to better ideas.

Timbrown_slide2 Old habits are hard to break, which is why (ironically) we need some rules (e.g., suspend judgement in brainstorming, etc.) in order to break free from the habits which get us down, which dampen the creative process.

Experimentation is crucial. With constant experimentation, exploration you just never know what you'll find.

Construction play is a powerful way to learn (classic "learning by doing") for kids. Adults can do this too (called "thinking with your hands"). This behavior is about prototyping and quickly getting something in the real world "...and having your thinking advanced as a result."

The stuff that facilitates playful, building modes or hands-on learning, prototyping, etc. is abundant for young children, but is nearly non-existent as children move through the education system in later years. The typical office is even worse (except for Post-it Notes and the rare, coveted red stapler). We need to be able to work our ideas out more with our hands.

Timbrown_slide3 Role play can be used to experiment with non-physical designs such as health-care services, educational settings, etc. We should take role-playing more seriously (as children do). Role play is important for putting ourselves in the shoes of the endusers, looking at the world and experiences from their point of view. Role play is an empathizing tool. (My question: Did the designers of economy seats on passenger jets actually sit in them for 12 hours while staring at a wall during the design process?)

Playful exploration, playful building, and role play: three ways that designers (and perhaps you) can use play in their work.

But play is not anarchy. There are rules, especially for group play. Play also involves negotiation. There are rules about how and when to play. One does not play all the time — we need to learn to transition in and out of play. The design process requires both divergent and convergent modes. Playfulness is particularly important in the divergent mode. You can be a serious professional (or student) and be playful.

We need trust to play and be creative. The playing skills we learned as kids are not superfluous, they are a necessity.

Play like children play
Our societies condemn the adults who dare play. People say play is simply entertainment, passive, and undemanding. But there is nothing passive about a brain that is engaged, exploring, and discovering. Discovery happens, after all, through a kind of play. Learning happens through a kind of play. And a playful spirit is opened to the possibilities. This is just as true for medical doctors and scientists as it is for designers, business people, and teachers. (Below is a slide I use often that touches on this theme; excuse me if you have seen it before.)

Sample slide.

(Note: As for the delivery of the presentation itself, I loved the idea of doing activities that got the audience involved with the speaker, with the ideas, and with each other. However, the computer onstage was a bit of a distraction. It's far better to place the monitors in front down low out of sight of the audience. It was not a deal breaker — it was still an inspiring talk — but getting the computer and lectern off the stage would have been nice.)

You can learn a lot from a child


Seth Godin presentation: how to build a tribe

Tribes I mentioned this before, but Tribes is an absolute must-read for 2008. Many of you already know much of what Seth Godin talks about in the book, especially if you have been following Seth and his blog, buying his books, etc. over the years (this is not a how-to book). But there is something special and "sticky" about the way he puts it together in Tribes that reminds us of our mission and our market (tribe) and inspires us to take what we do up to another level. I have the book, but I have listened to the audio version over the past weeks during stolen moments on the train or even while working out at the gym (not easy to do). Seth did a sold-out presentation in New York recently and he put the slides he used up here on Slideshare. But even better than that, Andrew Warner over at (great website) put up a video of Seth's presentation that night. It's not the highest quality recording of the presentation (tripod!), but it's of good enough quality not to distract... and it's free! It's all good stuff so watch the presentation here on the Mixergy site (there is a free audio download version there too). I was surprised and blown away when at 28:40 into the presentation, Seth used the Presentation Zen tribe/movement as one of his examples. Thanks, Seth. (And thanks to, too for the video.)

Seth Godin speaks in New York to a sold-out audience. (Click image to see video on

(Note: If you like Seth Godin's ideas, then I highly recommend you follow marketing guru Mitch Joel as well. Joel's weekly podcast is fantastic. I'm a member of the Mitch Joel tribe.)

PZ makes Amazon's Best of 2008
Amazon_best_2008 In other news, I just want to take a moment to thank all of you who purchased the book Presentation Zen which went on sale just about eleven months ago now. Thanks to you, Presentation Zen has made a few of the Amazon Best Books of 2008 lists, including Top-10 Business Books (#3), Best Computer/Internet Books for Dad (#1), and the Top 100 Customer Favorites for all books (#45). There has been virtually no traditional media coverage at all and almost no traditional marketing per se, and yet the book has quietly found a large audience (and growing) which includes business people, teachers, students, and professionals of all kinds and from all parts of the globe (surprisingly, I get a lot of mail from medical doctors and scientists; more technical examples coming). The reason, of course, is the tribe. That is, you. I'm grateful for the success of the book, but if the book or the blog, etc. has helped you in even the smallest of ways to be more successful in your work — your mission —  well, that's the most rewarding thing of all. That's what it's all about: helping others change the world.

Thanks again very much to all of you for your support and kind words (and suggestions) over the years, especially this past year. I love hearing from you and about your unique situations (and I will try to do a better job answering all your email). I greatly appreciate the work that you do and the challenges that you face; I've learned a lot from you. Through the blog, and the book, and all the presentations around the world, I have received far, far more from "the tribe" than I have ever been able to give. 本当にありがとうございました!(What?)

Get connected with the PZ tribe


Obama's victory speech

Chicago Finally, the 2008 US presidential election is over. Yesterday, each candidate gave their final speech of the campaign after the results were in. John McCain gave a very gracious and heartfelt concession speech in Arizona shortly before President-elect Obama delivered his victory speech in Chicago. We watched both speeches live here in Japan on CNN as did millions more across the globe. I intended to make a few comments about Obama's speech in Chicago today, but my buddy and famous communications expert Bert Decker pretty much says it all. It's a short post but please read Bert's comments on the speech. Bert wrote these observations immediately after the speech. They are spot on. Obama's speech brought out emotion. I'll never forget the day (it was November 5th over here). Watch the entire speech below (or here).

Japan celebrates
Here's a clip to give you an idea of the atmosphere here in Japan yesterday. Even all the way over here in Japan there is very great interest in Obama and the US election. Here are a few snaps of the newspapers I got this morning here in Osaka posted on my Posterous site.

Think graphic design doesn't matter?

Chad_reader As the eyes of the world turn to the US presidential election in just a few hours, it's a good time to remember just how important design is, even the design of something people take for granted (or at least they used to) like the design of a simple election ballot. It's almost exactly eight years ago that the results of the 2000 US election between Al Gore and George W. Bush began to hang in the balance. It would take thirty-six days after election day before the outcome was decided. Bush won Florida (and therefore the presidency) by 537 votes; nearly 6 million votes were cast in Florida (you do the math). Some said the election was handed to Bush by the Supreme Court (by halting the recount of ballots), and others say that the Democrats tried to steal the election by insisting that officials count the hanging chads. Lost in all the noise of that thirty-six day fiasco in 2000 is the fact that the problem was not really one of politics or shenanigans but of poor design. A nonpartisan investigation into the Florida elections in 2001 did indeed point to the crucial role design played: "Gore's best chance to win was lost before the ballots were counted, the study shows. Voters' confusion with ballot instruction and design and voting machines appears to have changed the course of U.S. history." (USA Today: Florida voter errors cost Gore the election.)

The lessons of the Florida butterfly ballot
There have been volumes written about the poorly designed butterfly ballot, and many graphic design classes have used the Palm Beach County ballot of 2000 as a good example of bad design (such as this class at MIT). In fact, two books that I often recommend — A Whole New Mind and Universal Principles of Design — both talk about the infamous butterfly ballot purely in terms of usability and design (i.e., poor design) and not politics. Below is a photo of the ballot used in Palm Beach County in 2000. It's not hard to imagine how someone with poor eye sight, who is tired and anxious, etc. could make a mistake. It seems many people realized their mistake as 5237 people in Palm Beach County alone voted for both Pat Buchanan and Al Gore and were therefore invalidated.


Alignment: fundamental design principle
There are several problems with the ballot above, but one big problem as pointed out in Universal Principles of Design is one of poor alignment:

"...most confusion probably resulted from a misalignment of the row and punch-hole lines. This conclusion is supported by the improbable number of votes for Patrick well as the number of double votes that occurred for candidates that were adjacent on the ballot."
                                         — Universal Principles of Design

The fact that Gore was third on the ballot but looked second surely confused some (voters may have assumed that the major candidates would be in order). Yes, there are arrows, but you'd be surprised what people glance over or do not see (or think they see). Also, the word "Democratic" appears in ALL-CAPS in close proximity to a line that runs directly to the second punch hole, the punch hole for the Reform candidate.

The goal of a graphic designer — in almost every case — is to make things clear and eliminate as much ambiguity as possible. Clarity and ease of use should be the mantra. Often this will require usability testing, for what is obvious to the designer and the hand full of managers who approve that design may not be obvious to the thousands of users in the real world. So, how would you redesign the ballot above from 2000? Below is a rendering of one idea that you can find in the
Universal Principles of Design book. This page from an old MIT class has many more. It's a good exercise and a good reminder that design matters, even the design of what seems like the simplest of an election ballot.

A possible redesign adapted from page 23 of
Universal Principles of Design.

Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check

Guys_book Here's a must-have book for you: Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition by our buddy Guy Kawasaki. This wonderful book is a compilation of Guy's best writing in recent years (Guy's blog is one of the most read blogs on the net). Any business person — or others who want to change the world with their ideas — will find this book very useful, practical, and inspiring. I think young entrepreneurs especially can benefit from the wisdom contained within the well-written 496-page book. I love the format of the book. There are 94 chapters (organized into twelve clear sections) so each chapter is a short instructional, illuminating, and often provocative chunk. This is the kind of book that I'd like to get while I'm back in the US for Christmas. The brevity of the chapters and clarity of the writing are perfect for the professional or student who looks for some stolen moments of down time and something instructive, inspirational, and witty to read. I keep the book on my nightstand and have been reading several chapters every night (though I sometimes took the book out on the balcony as you can see from the pic below). Loads of lessons and important advice in Reality Check. I highly recommend it.

Photo: Out on the balcony at home in Osaka, Japan.

Watch Guy's BNET video presentation
To give you a good feel for the book, watch this video of Guy Kawasaki as he touches on a few lessons from the book.