Words as an Action ...


Who doesn’t like Ira Glass?

The man single-handedly popularized the podcast when his NPR show “This American Life” proved that with the right stories, the medium could reach millions.

The original premise for “This American Life” was to take an individual who isn’t famous or in the news and build a narrative that captivates listeners. Talk about the essence of storytelling.

He also has a sense of humor.

I guess he doesn’t do bar mitzvahs.

Which brings me to a video that captures Glass giving a pep talk to those trying to tame the creative process. Filmmaker David Shiyang Liu takes Glass’s words in typographic form and synchronizes the words with the audio. The end result is a 114-second action film like nothing I’ve seen before. Think Jackie Chan meets the dictionary.

Check it out.



No doubt, the distinctive sound of Glass’s voice drives the video. Still, the typographic gymnastics make for a fun watch.

A few years ago I caught up with Shiyang Liu when he was at the Melbourne studio Kick Kick Boom (now at AFVR Productions in NYC). Here’s what he had share on the video and, yes, the creative process.

Lou: What inspired you to create this video?

David: There was an event called the 30 Days of Creativity. It so happened that I was in a bit of a creative rut myself, and was encouraged to work on as many different forms of creative output as I could. It turned out that I had never made a kinetic typography before, and tried my hand at the one that eventually became the “Ira Glass on the Creative Process” video.

Lou: It’s cool how typography becomes the artwork in the video. Did you work with a graphic designer or typographer?

David: It was all me. Always loved typography, and Caslon was a highly underused font in kinetic typography, I feel, a domain usually reserved for more versatile sans serif fonts.

Note: This is what the Caslon typeface looks like when standing still.

Lou: Had you used this technique, verbal narrative + words, before?

David: Nope. It was a fun exercise, but it did take longer than I had expected. I envisioned that it would only have taken a day, instead of three.

Lou: Is there one part of the video that stood out in your mind?

David: Not particularly. The video as a whole was fairly intuitive to sculpt into words, and I just have to thank Ira Glass himself for that. There wasn’t any doubt as to what the words should have “felt” like due to the way Ira spoke. It was his conviction in what he was saying that gave me a very clear idea of what it should look like.

I’ve come to appreciate typography as a form of art and a way to tell the story.

It’s such a simple technique to bring a touch of fun or even levity to the storytelling. For example, our SlideShare deck on how clients can get the most of us features this vignette:

Now if I could just get my voice to sound like Ira’s.

Leave a Reply