Transitivity of Kinetic Typography: Theory and Application to a Case Study of a Public Service Advertisement

Visual Communication, Vol 16, Issue 2, 2017
Xianzhong He


Abstract | With the advance of computer technology, kinetic typography, the animation of moving text, is becoming widely used in human communication. Yet, to date, there have been few social semiotic and multimodality studies in this area. This article draws on a case analysis of a national television public service advertisement in China to demonstrate how the concept of transitivity can be used to understand the meaning-making processes of kinetic typography. Kress and Van Leeuwen’s Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design (2006[1996]) transitivity of visual grammar and Leão’s ‘A systemic functional approach to the analysis of animation in film opening titles’ (2013) transitivity system of animation are applied in the analysis. The results show that their models can be basically applied to the analysis of kinetic typography. However, they also have restrictions that can be improved. For this reason, the author proposes an extended model of transitivity for the analysis of kinetic typography. The article ends with a discussion of some cross-cultural aspects of the analysed advertisement.


Photo by Flickr user Kevin (see original), used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.