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NewsJul 05, 2021

A List of Typographic Music Videos

Written by Dominic Ayre RGD

By Dominic Ayre RGD, Partner & Creative Director at Hambly & Woolley

Typography and music hold equal amounts of fanaticism for me. Music might edge type out only because I found it first, however there is an argument to be made there too. The first tape (ahhh cassettes...) that absolutely changed my life was called Street Sounds Electro Vol. 1. The sounds I heard coming out of that small stereo in my elementary school room at the age of 11 were weird, raw, bleepy and laced with energy. I was bitten. The reason I say that music comes before type was arguable because I heard the music as I looked at the tape cover and was inspired by this large type only inlay. I loved the impact, the colour and immediacy of it and how the image evoked the sounds coming out of the tape player (huh, graphic design...). So maybe the two don't separate for me.

You can probably tell then from that set up that when music videos collide with typography I quickly turn into that giddy 11 year old again. To me it makes complete sense that musicians would find so much that can be done with type, the visualization of language. The examples I have below (with a few honourable mentions) are ones that I go back to all the time from years past. They are by artists that I really love and the videos are an easy way for me to be re-inspired by their humour, inventiveness and impact. 

Justice — DVNO

The french duo has been interested in typography and the pop culture cache of logos and graphic design for a lot of their time producing. DVNO immediately appealed to me and anyone over the age of 35 probably knew it as an homage to all things 80s. Shiny chrome, heavy metal and video game logo and lots of laser effects.

Justice — D.A.N.C.E.

Justice's other song D.A.N.C.E. used great t-shirt inspired, hand drawn type visuals as well. I sometimes flip this as my favourite Justice video. Depends on the day.

Lushlife — Magolia

I am not sure how I came across Lushlife's Magnolia video but anyone who knows me knows I love tactile type. I often watch this and think how much time it took to cut all the cardboard. It is like a 'handmade' kinetic type video.

Röyksopp - Remind Me

So this isn't a purely typographic video but one that I am always impressed by because it really jumped on the world's obsession with infographics. The merging of that classic airline safety guide aesthetic with the storyline of modern life always reveals something new each time I watch it.

Kanye West feat. T-Pain - Good Life

Sort of similar in look to the hand drawn feeling of the Justice T-shirt video, this Kanye film just has a beautiful vibrancy balancing B&W.

Honourable Mention

Kanye West feat. Rhianna - All of the Lights

I can't really include this in my top 5 as the typographic component of the video is only 1 minute long but has a great vibrancy to it... (see next)

Enter the Void - Opening Title Sequence - Gaspar Noé

...however, it could be argued that Kanye's inspiration for All of the Lights are the opening titles to Gasper Noe's film Enter the Void (just saying).

Husbands — Dreams

Hands down one of my favourite pieces of graphic design ever (along with Why Not Associates's Comedy Carpet). I show this to all my typography classes. When this came out I was sending it to anyone I knew that loved music and design. At the time Husbands were really only known in France but since this song was featured on Emily in Paris, it got rediscovered. The typographic look of the video is great and is fun to follow along to but the true wonder is how it was made. Watch the video first and then watch the making of it here.

Disclaimer: The following videos contain scenes of nudity. Viewer discretion advised

NSFW: Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra — Want It Back

The stop motion calligraphy in the video is dazzling. As mentioned I love when you can see the handcrafted nature of a project and this is just dazzling. By using the female form it reminds me of the cast video work of Robert BrownJohn James Bond intros or, even closer, the beautiful moments of calligraphy in Peter Greenaway's 90's classic The Pillow Book (a movie all hand letterers should see...)

Alex Gopher — The Child

I would argue that this started the whole obsession with kinetic videos 10 years ago. A great song using a Nina Simone sample. The video has some very funny moments which results problematically with a black man in a cab being chased by the police, all in type. 


Dominic Ayre RGD

Dominic Ayre RGD has worked in Toronto as a designer for more than 25 years. At Hambly & Woolley, Dominic focuses on high-level strategic initiatives with clients such as York University, the RGD, OCAD University, CIFAR and Quadrangle Architects. Currently on faculty at OCAD U, Dom is an enthusiastic mentor to new designers and is known in the design community for his expertise in typography, web platforms, design trends and popular culture.

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