Nobel Typeface: Motion Video

Exploring the characteristics of Nobel through the medium of a motion video

Create a 60 second video demonstrating the characteristics of a typeface using After effects with a timeframe of 2 weeks.

This motion video project highlights the characteristics of the Nobel typeface through a moving medium, which allows for unique expressions as well as constraints. Still images can only present so much information about personality, and a moving video is the next step in our expression of the characteristics of our typeface.

Music & Storyboard

—October, 1 2021—

Upon initial inspection, I thought that the genre of pop or techno would be a good choice because Nobel is a modern typeface which reminded me of popping and geometric/inorganic sounding elements. However, after considering that it was made in 1929, I decided that something along the lines of Jazz would be more suitable, which was all the rage in the 1930’s. Pop and techno beats gave off a trendy feel rather than a modern and classic feel.

Other things I considered while selecting my music was pacing, rhythm, and movement. Nobel is neither a fast paced nor a slow paced type. The width of some characters is on the thinner side, but the occasional almost perfectly circular letters widens the words and reestablishes a medium tempo. Since the letters are inspired by structured shapes, the rhythm of the song had to be orderly. Lastly, although Nobel has some movement, it is mostly static rather than flowing, so I decided something with staccato would be suitable.

Considered songs:

The Villain I appear to be Instrumental — temp is too slow (would need to cut out the beginning), and it is smooth jazz rather than staccato.

Upbeat Background Music — Energetic Drums—temp too fast

Bread Frenzy (9:00)—too funky for Nobel

“DANCE” — Modern Jazz x Blues Hip-hop Instrumental—over all ok but gives off a cool, untouchable vibe

Baguette Bop—repetitive beats and not enough variation

Funk X Soul X R&B beat—Same boat as “DANCE” and weird sound effect at beginning

Final two choices

I initially went with “Hold On, Please!”, but Yoshi advised me to find a song with more variation so the song can reflect action and scene changes happening on screen. The song has repetitive beats throughout which would make for a boring storyline.

The song I decided to go with was “Ringleader Raccoon.”

“Ringleader Raccoon” has the right balance of Jazz, structured rhythm, and staccato movement. It is also the right tempo that is not too fast but not too slow for the typeface. Another aspect of the song that made it appropriate was the amount of variation in the narrative at the right times. Because most songs I found were 2 minutes long, the climax of the song as well as variations in melody were drawn out for a 1 minute video. Since this song is only 1 minute long, the a full story was present in a short period of time, which suited the 1 minute animation.

Script

Because Nobel does not have an extensive history or unique real life application, describing the characteristics and the roots of development for the typeface was more appropriate. Seeing that Nobel stemmed from geometric shapes, I decided to make that the theme of the narrative.

Script draft and final

The first draft of the script contained lots of longer sentences and pieces of text which were hard to break up into frames during the animation. Fragmenting the language made it easier for the visuals on screen to coincide with the text being displayed. Between the draft and the final script, I also removed some unnecessary descriptions that could be inferred from the animation.

Storyboard

I roughly sketched out and ideated a few ideas on paper.

Sketches for Storyboard

Then, I translated this into digital form.

Aesthetic decision making
The characteristics of Nobel emphasize simplicity and geometry. To match this, I stuck with plain color graphics as well as low contract strokes for the visuals of the animation. All the graphics are either made from geometric shapes or from curves in the typeface itself to reduce introduction of elements that are not related to the typeface.

In addition, because Nobel sticks to the basics of geometry (squares, rectangles, and circles), I thought that I should do the same for colors by choosing red, yellow, and blue. Since Nobel is not a statement typeface and is relatively submissive on a page in comparison to other bold fonts, a toned down primary color pallet matched the typeface.

Storyboard draft with Animations

After my critique with Vicki and Yoshi, I made a couple of changes to add more dynamic movement and transitions during the climax of the song (adding large letters towards to middle).

Updated storyboard

In this iteration, I enhanced the drama in the middle by enlarging the letters. This both aids the narrative of the animation and the cohesion with the song since it also contains a climax at around this time.

Moving to After Effects

—October 7, 2021—

My thoughts throughout the creation of the animation scenes was compromising the narrative of the music with the narrative of my storyboard. Because the music was so important to the visuals on screen, I altered the motion effects that I had planned to do in my mind.

The actual animation and movement of the video mimics marching band movements as each item appears and disappears in harmony with the music. This popping or staccato movement suits the music and the typeface.

(This video includes some of the changes from the feedback session—I lost the critiqued file)

Animation feedback

  • Make sure the pacing is not too fast for readability (Grotesk part and geometric and curves part)
  • Ensure elements are aligned using a grid
  • Use easy-ease for flag movement/any other moving parts and make the flag movement faster
  • Sjoerd Henric de Roos section should focus more on the “inspired by Futura” and “using the base of Berthold Grotesk” (make that color block and text larger)
  • “Created a NEW typeface” — does NEW have to be all caps? Also fix the margins and alignment
  • “to form Nobel” — takes a long time to reveal “Nobel” also the flowing motion doesn’t really match the music

In addition to the comments made during the critique, I felt that the video was a bit too boring and wanted to add in some more exciting elements. The reveal of the name Nobel was not very exciting because the build up was so slow, so I changed up the reveal of Nobel and the large letter scene to be more engaging and dynamic with new types of movement like shakes and rounded turns.

Also, I changed the script of a line that emphasized the curvatures of Nobel and replaced it with describing that it is a geometric sans-serif typeface. I realized that I was straying away from the big picture of the characteristics of Nobel and hyper-fixating on smaller elements that may not need to be in a 1 minute introduction to the typeface.

Animation Feedback Part 2

  • Pay attention to baselines and don’t be so rigid with the grid for leading
  • Three letter examples are too much at once in a short period of time; reduce to one or incorporate the example into the describing words
  • Keep the color scheme consistent throughout (the three primary colors)
  • Some sections go by too fast (Geometric sans-serif typeface)
  • Make typeface “Typeface” to demonstrate the cap height better
  • Reduce the intensity of the grid

After following up with the alterations suggested in the feedback session, I had my final product.

Final Video

Reflection

In combination to learning After effects, I learned a lot about storytelling through this project. It reminded me that everything in design is about a narrative and all of the elements in a design should enhance a story that the designer is trying to tell. Ensuring the viewer is receiving clear communication of the characteristics of Nobel is not only limited to expression from the actual words and graphics on screen, but also embedded in the movement, sound, pacing, and colors on screen. Harmonizing these elements is difficult because there are so many considerations and technicalities at play, but I would love to refine my approach to this in the future.

Design and CS student at Carnegie Mellon University