Motion Designers From Around The World Unite To Create An Animated Typeface

Jeroen Krielaars opens up his “Animography” project, challenging After Effects animators to make glyphs whiz, pop and bang in only 25 frames.

Seeking something beyond Times New Roman? With a few clicks, it’s become easier than ever to try on fonts made by both seasoned experts and aspiring newcomers. Recently, Jeroen Krielaars, a dutch motion designer, pushed the idea of a type foundry to a new level by offering pre-animated typefaces that could be easily set and customized with Adobe After Effects. He dubbed the collective of animated alphabets: Animography

Wanting to evolve the project further, Krielaars invited animators from around to globe to tackle each of the 110 glyphs that make up the Franchise Bold typeface. Since the project began in May, animated letters and numbers have been trickling in through twitter, tumblr and dribbble, effectively revealing and uniting a wide community of independent motion design artists. (Full disclosure: I took part)

Today, Krielaars released the Franchise Animated typeface as a free download. I talked to him about how the project came to be and what it was like wrangling so many keyframes. Check out all the glyphs on giphy.

The Creators Project: Can you give me a little background on yourself? I see you run a small motion studio in the Netherlands.
Jeroen Krielaars: I run Calango, a motion & design studio in Amsterdam. I took a detour by studying visual marketing and brand management. After that I trained myself in graphic design, and later on I started to play around with motion design. My career consists of experiment upon experiment. Always trying to learn new things by simply doing them. Over the last year my focus has shifted more towards the directing side of things: Art & motion direction. 

Where did the idea for Animography come from? 
The first animated typeface I did, was Moshun. I designed and animated the whole thing in about 3 or 4 days, which is really quick in my book. It was just another one of my experiments. I tried to make a modular system to create typographic animations. After posting it on vimeo, some major blogs, magazines and even a newspaper quickly featured it. I liked it myself but I was shocked by this amount of attention. I decided to experiment some more and created another one, called Typogami. That one was also well received. People really seemed to like it but nobody really knew what to do with it. Interviewers asked me things like, 'Is this the future of type?' or 'Should all typefaces have animation in the future?'. Off course the answer was no and no. But in the months after that I saw more and more animated typefaces in motion design. Some good, some bad, and even some applied in commercial productions. That's when I decided to make a platform for it. A type foundry for animated typefaces. I decided to cut it loose from Calango, so other designers could join in with their animated typefaces. 

Your most recent project is Franchise Animated: a special-edition typeface. What sparked this crowd-sourced endeavor?
The most animated typefaces so far rely on a system. Every glyph appears in more or less the same way, making everything coherent, but also predictable. I wanted to make something that was still coherent but also surprising. It would be a lot of work for me to come up with so much different styles, so I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to collaborate with a large group of animators. It would also be a great chance to meet other creatives and make Animography grow.

How did you find and choose your animators? 
First I invited all the motion designers I look up to. Next I filtered the credits of the things I like on vimeo. And from there I started browsing blogs etc to find animators I haven't heard of yet. I didn't want to invite just anybody, let alone making it a free for all kind of thing. But I soon found out that handpicking 110 top talents is not an easy task. Luckily a lot of guys who were already on board made some great recommendations from their personal networks. It has been really great to get so many great people on board. I'm truly thankful for that.

What sort of limitations did you impose on them?
In order to keep everything coherent I set some limitations. I figured a color palette of 4 colors would be enough to make interesting animations, while still tying everything together. Also everyone had just 25 frames and a canvas of 500 x 600 pixels to work in. Some technical limitations were also necessary to keep the file self contained and accessible for everyone. So no external files such as 3D images sequences or bitmap textures, and no third party plugins. Other than that, everyone could just work his or her magic.

Were you concerned that, despite the limitations your set, the resulting animated font might not be something usable? Or was this more of a promotional project for Animography on the whole?
This thing is just another experiment. I had no clue how it was going to turn out when I started it. I gave the contributors the freedom to do what they wanted. Maybe it would be a complete disaster of 110 lame animations. But once the first animations reached my mailbox I was overwhelmed. Amazing to see that people spend so much time and effort in their 25 frames. But while the individual animations are really good, the question remains if the experiment succeeded. Is it coherent and surprising at the same time? Surprising yes, coherent maybe. I already noticed glyphs go really well together, while other combinations have a bit less synergy. I guess I won't really know until I see people using it. Other than that, this project is a success in a lot of other ways. As a promotional tool it turned out to be a great move.

What was the timeline for the project?
On May 1, I contacted Derek Weathersbee to ask if I could use his typeface for this project. After that I rounded up all the animators. There was no real deadline at first. I kindly asked if everyone could have it finished within 3 weeks. I did not want to be harsh in order to respect peoples ongoing workload... But handling 110 procrastinators is not that simple. In the end I had to put some more pressure on some of the contributors. And at the last moment some guys had to drop out because of busy schedules... But all things considered, I think 2 and a half months is not that bad.

Who do you expect to buy Franchise Animated? While all modern animators stand on the shoulders of others by liberally using scripts, plugins and typefaces designed by others, a whole animated typeface feels next-level in terms of ease. Have you confronted any stigma from motion designers? 
It will be downloadable for free, so my guess is a lot of people will be getting it. My other free and payed animated typefaces are downloaded by people from all over the world. Students, professionals and hobbyists. As a maker of things I also feel the need to do everything from scratch myself...But the static typefaces you use are also made by someone else. And it also depends on how you apply them. Most of the animated typefaces on animography have loads of settings to create different looks. 

And if seeing Animography inspires you to make something from scratch, I salute you! I love it if people do their own thing. I collect all those animations on a vimeo channel

And there's also a lot of editors out there. They work with moving images but aren't animators per se. 

With Franchise Animated there's another interesting aspect. If you open the file, you can have a look at how other people handle their animations. The file is completely open. You can have a look at what kind of expressions Sebas & Clim use, or how Daniel Savage handles his motion curves. It's a great source to learn from for both students and professionals.

What has surprised you the most by working on Animography? Something you've learned along the way?
I learned a lot on different levels. What I enjoyed the most is the togetherness of it all. Getting in contact with people I admire and meeting new people is rewarding. I feel proud when someone else is showing off his animation on dribbble, or tweets they're excited to see the whole thing finished. This is the 'making a campfire to roast marshmallows together' of motion design, if that makes any sense. Just enjoying making something nice together. 

I also noticed it's a nice break from large projects for most people. If it's just 25 frames of 2D animation on a small canvas, you can really focus on the details.

Do you have future plans for Animography past Franchise? Are you looking to make this your full time business or just hope to break even on your time?
I've got some new typefaces waiting to be released. One from myself, and three others. And a millions rough ideas for future ones. I'm also working with someone to make some decent tutorials on how to implement them in your design. 

Not planning to make this a full time thing, but slowly it eats up more and more of my time. For now, it's more a platform than a successful business. But who knows what will happen when we expand the collection a bit and more people get familiar with animated typefaces.