The Power Of Visual Rhetoric - Using Kinetic Typography To Learn About Black History & Civil Rights

Source: Versa

Kinetic typography and motion graphics are bringing to life the soaring oratory of the Civil Rights Era like never before. During the 1950s and 60s, many landmark speeches stood out in their power to persuade the conscience of a generation. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in particular, crafted brilliant language to inspire a burgeoning movement and to convince an at-time reluctant populace. During February’s African American History Month, the words of Dr. King are widely studied. Yet rarely before has the rhetoric of his writings emerged in such vivid portrayal as in the motion graphics below.

Kinetic typography is the combination of motion and text. Via animation, fonts take on lives of their own, scaffolding or cascading across canvases with the addition of music and/or narration. The zoom of calligraphy and the staccato of letters become at once mesmerizing and educational.

Dr. King’s addresses, when read quietly for homework, do feature his eloquent use of classical references and repetition. In silence, however, they do not achieve their most compelling effect. Like Shakespeare, his verses are meant to be heard, to be experienced, to be savored.

Source: Ryan Blackwell

When Dr. King’s words appear in the dynamic interplay of typefaces on the screen, the music and color and locomotion all elevate his passages to new heights. They take on an urgency, a potency of expressiveness, and a linguistic might. They crystalize the commitment of the freedom fighters pushing for fair housing, fair employment, fair public service. They honor the ardor of those who sacrificed much for so many.

The three videos in this post contain engrossing representations of Dr. King’s most moving rhetoric. In each case, he builds phrases and arguments in a powerful crescendo about human dignity and natural rights. His “I Have A Dream” speech may be his most famous, yet his final speech, “I’ve Been To The Mountaintop,” and his final sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct,” may together feature his most masterful craftsmanship with verbiage and values, rights and reason. By adding motion, the designers of these videos bring Dr. King’s messages to life.

The Drum Major Instinct (visualization by Versa)

 Martin Luther King (kinetic typography) from versa on Vimeo.

I've Been To The Mountaintop (visualization by Ryan Blackwell)

I Have A Dream (visualization by Deco, EMAV 2012)

For more resources and ideas about lessons for African American History Month, check out "Let's Talk About Race."