Fluid Typography: Defining a New Form of Temporal Typography

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Theorists including Michael Worthington (1998) and Jessica Helfand (1994) recognise in temporal media the capacity to add additional dimensions to typography. ‘Type in motion’ is indeed an established field of typographic practice. In most cases, however, texts fail to acknowledge that
temporal media allow type to do more than just ‘move’. Contemporary examples feature typography that evolves, or exhibits behaviour, further blurring the boundary between image and type. At present, no method of analysis, or even
terminology, exists to sufficiently identify and describe this kind of typography. Perhaps the most appropriate term, ‘fluid’ typography, was identified by Eduardo Kac (1996) as typography that presents different identities over time.
This aptly describes the typography that is currently encountered, for example, in MPC’s Channel 4 identity, in which the figure ‘4’ is constructed from environmental objects. These objects are, for a time, pictorial (a part of
the landscape), then their identity changes; they become abstract components of a letterform. Kac’s term, however, was never intended for such artefacts. It was formulated specifically for his holographic poetry, in which letterforms
appear to change when the viewer changes his or her physical location relative to the hologram. Similar features can now be seen in contemporary, digital examples, such as the fluid, typographic works of artists such as Dan Waber and
Komninos Zervos. Yet these examples go further than Kac’s own works. They present forms in flux that are, in a moment, text, and in another, image.
This presentation will propose a definition of ‘fluid’ typography that can incorporate this new form of temporal typography, and observe how theorists have, as yet, failed to acknowledge this unique hybrid of text and image. I will
ask how typographic theory can be updated to allow for such type, propose new terminology to distinguish varying forms of temporal typography, and propose methodologies for the analysis of ‘fluid’ typographic artefacts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventNew Views 2: Conversations and Dialogues in Graphic Design - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jul 200811 Jul 2008


ConferenceNew Views 2: Conversations and Dialogues in Graphic Design
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • typography
  • kinetic
  • fluid
  • temporal


Dive into the research topics of 'Fluid Typography: Defining a New Form of Temporal Typography'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this