Text by Eugene Kan
Graphics by Type Loop
Photos by Ryan Garber
Text by Eugene Kan
Graphics by Type Loop
Photos by Ryan Garber
Our transition into a world driven by apps has been one of the most fascinating transformations for culture and society. For better or worse, it has created walled gardens that house hyper-connected lines of communication within them, but also simplified what were once complex and challenging tasks suited only for experts and professionals.
The creative world has benefited immensely from the latter and the ability to share and create work on the fly. This is thanks largely in part to apps created with specificity in mind, which combined with smartphones have fundamentally changed our approach towards creating.
The likes of VSCO, Instagram, Skiatook, and its predecessors are part social media platform, but more importantly, part creative tool. These tools have become an important part of the creator landscape. For Mike Guss and Mike Hobizal, they both embarked on Type Loop as a way to share their expertise and experiences with motion graphics to a larger audience.
Their initial act of sharing experiments on Instagram sparked an interest for those seeking to apply some of the same mesmerizing loops and movements into their own Instagram stories and materials. Motion graphics driven by type have this uncanny ability to transform a simple visual into something dynamic and finite. The aforementioned realms of photography and video editing are well covered, but Type Loop is a new type of tool that provides a low barrier to entry into motion graphic experimentation.
We’re not motion graphic experts here at MAEKAN, but 5 minutes into Type Loop, we soon understood the variables at play when it comes to manipulating type. Type Loop is not meant to be a technical overview and instructional manual on how motion graphics work but rather a try-and-see approach where a slight nudge of the slider can shift and bend type or accelerate its movement.
We took an hour one evening to speak with Mike Guss on his background as well as his thoughts around motion graphics, the start of Type Loop, and the importance of ensuring Type Loop remains a carefree and fun experiment for him and his partner.
You can download Type Loop for free via the App Store. It’s currently available only on iOS.
A sample of Mike’s personal work with motion graphics.
I eventually started to get messages from people who liked my work and asking me to help them design and animate their Instagram posts...mostly small shops who wanted to advertise a new product or upcoming sale. That’s when I realized that there wasn’t any simple animation tool out there for regular folks who are not motion designers. I could see the obvious gap.
You grew up in Japan. Could you talk a bit about your relationship with Japanese and how it’s influenced your work?
Japanese is my first language. I lived there as a kid and went to an all Japanese public school, so it’s just another way that I communicate. Growing up in Japan in the 80’s I found myself being heavily influenced by anime, robots, and science fiction, and started drawing at a very early age. I used to draw manga with my friends and seriously wanted to be a manga artist like Toriyama Akira, the creator of Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump. He also did all the character design for the Dragon Quest video game series, which got me interested in video game design.
When I was a teenager, my family moved to the States so my interest in Japanese pop culture sorta faded and was replaced with skateboarding and punk rock. By the time I was in high school I completely stopped using Japanese, except for when I spoke with my mom.
I learned how to play the guitar, joined a band and used my skills, purely out of necessity of needing flyers and cassette covers. Only later on did I realize that I was doing design. My Japanese is pretty rusty now, but every once in a while it’ll make its way into some of my personal projects. I get pretty nostalgic thinking about Japan in the ’80s. It was a golden time during the financial bubble, right before the financial crash in the early ’90s.
What was it like when you came over to America? What was that culture shock like?
It was definitely a culture shock, surrounding yourself with different types of people who spoke a completely different language. I knew how to speak a little bit of English, but I wasn’t very good at it. For me, I was able to connect with people through music. So playing in bands, skateboarding and things like that, that’s how I was able to make friends and kind of work on my, English skills.
How would you explain Type Loop? How did the idea come about?
Type Loop is an iOS app that lets you create simple type animations for your social media posts.
I got the idea for it when I first started using Instagram in 2017. I saw Instagram as a great place to document my ongoing design studies. It became a space for type, motion, and 3D experiments. It really came down to my own curiosity and drive to create something outside of client work.
I eventually started to get messages from people who liked my work and asking me to help them design and animate their Instagram posts…mostly small shops who wanted to advertise a new product or upcoming sale. That’s when I realized that there wasn’t any simple animation tool out there for regular folks who are not motion designers. I could see the obvious gap.
As I got more into experimenting with 3D it changed the way I approached 2D.In a way it’s almost like learning a new language. Through language you learn about the culture, tradition, and it helps you see things in a different point of view and it opens up your mind to new ways of thinking.
How would you describe motion type/motion graphics in the overall spectrum of graphic design?
By adding motion it adds a level of dimension that no longer feels static and dead. Visually it’s more interesting because you are including “time,” you are giving it a life cycle of its own. A beginning and an end. And interesting things can happen in-between that can’t be captured in static.
What are the unique avenues/experiences that can be explored specifically through motion type?
When I first started doing type experiments, it was always flat and static. As I learned how to use 3D tools, it gave it more depth to my work. When I started making things move through motion, it got way more compelling because I wasn’t limited to just a single static frame. It felt more like music versus just a single note on the page. I could convey emotion with very little “design” happening, depending on the speed and the way it behaved.
How has digital design changed the landscape of motion type/motion graphics?
When I was still fresh in my career I didn’t see many designers who were also motion designers. I think now that there are more tools accessible across discipline it has given a lot more freedom to those who previously might not have used them. As a designer I can use motion and sound to create an overlap of visual, verbal and emotional communication. It makes sense why some designers use expressive typography to communicate an emotion when the meaning of the word is just not enough. Typography is always evolving. Maybe eventually it will evolve into a set of visual symbols that encapsulates not just the meaning of the word but also how it feels and sounds. I didn’t grow up with the Internet. But I noticed that younger designers treat this like second nature and they’re really good at jumping between motion and 3d.
How does one think in a more 3D world versus 2D?
I come from a very traditional graphic design background in print. I didn’t get into digital design for a long time. The great thing about digital is there are no limits. It lets you incorporate motion, 3D, AR, etc. As I got more into experimenting with 3D it changed the way I approached 2D.
In a way it’s almost like learning a new language. Through language you learn about the culture, tradition, and it helps you see things in a different point of view and it opens up your mind to new ways of thinking. Coming from a biracial family and having lived in two completely different cultures, there are so many nuances you don’t pick up on unless you dig in and take the time to find out more.
We don't have investors breathing down our necks, telling us to add whatever features. We’ll just keep building it, and do whatever we want with it… and if it stops being fun for us, we’ll just stop doing it? At the end of the day, Typeloop is a passion project. So it's a way to experiment and hopefully enable, and inspire others. And the big thing too is, hopefully it'll open up doors to collaborate with other artists, designers, typographers, and brands.
What’s your process like tackling a project?
For my personal projects, I don’t have any structure. I work on random things when I feel inspired or get the drive to try something new. It could be a sketch on a piece of paper or 3D. The process is very organic with no end goals. If I like something I may post it on Instagram, but it’s never about the finished thing, but about the act of doing and hopefully learning something from it. Sometimes it could be an emotional outlet for something that I’m feeling frustrated about with life in general.
Obviously the work I do at Google doesn’t work that way. We have a clear goals of the problem we are trying to solve. It’s almost always a team collaborating that involves not just the designers but developers and project managers.
Much of your career has encompassed intense client work. What role does personal work in balancing your efforts?
When I first started designing professionally, I didn’t really understand what design was. My early influences were Vaughan Oliver, who did all the Pixies album cover for v23. It was design, but more on the borderline of art. The difference between design and art wasn’t very clear to me. When I got my first corporate gig at Getty Images back in 2005, that’s when I learned everything from project briefs, budget, timelines, brand guidelines, Swiss design, Brockmann, etc.. so that’s when it finally became clear to me that design is not art. It’s about problem solving. This was a huge wake up call, and completely changed the way I looked at design.
I work at Google during the day which is all about problem solving. My personal work is the exact opposite, leaning more on the experimental side and maybe drawing from those early sudo-design-art influences… doing and trying new way of doing things through experimentation. Sometimes my experiments can bleed into my day job, which is always fun and exciting.
How do you see the future of Type Loop playing out?
My co-owner Mike Hobizal and I, we built the whole thing from scratch, everything from the product and the brand. We both have a day job at Google and Instrument respectively, so we work on it whenever we feel like it, and will do whatever we want with it. We don’t have investors breathing down our necks telling us to add whatever features. We’ll keep building on it until it no longer becomes fun for us. At the end of the day Type Loop is a passion project. Its a way to experiment and hopefully enable and inspire others, and hopefully open doors for collaboration with other designers, typographers, artists, and brands.
For my personal projects, I don’t have any structure. I work on random things when I feel inspired or get the drive to try something new. It could be a sketch on a piece of paper or 3D. The process is very organic with no end goals. If I like something I may post it on Instagram, but it’s never about the finished thing, but about the act of doing and hopefully learning something from it.