Nominated for Best of the Year Vimeo Staff Pick
Featured on Motionographer
Created by Smith & Lee - the designers and animators who brought you the title sequences for Juno, Up In the Air and many more.
Directed by: Gareth Smith
Drums: Jonathan Pinson
Animation: Gareth Smith, Theo Alexopoulos
Music Consultant: Jake Bloch
Sound Design: Theo Alexopoulos
Thank You: Jenny Lee, Graham Clark
Textless is a passion project that began a number of years ago, back at around 2011.
I, like many designers, have a deep love of signage. And Los Angeles is a city of signs. It’s also a city of cars, and the only way to attract a driver’s attention is to put up a large sign (usually angled perpendicular to the street for maximum and quick readability). The result is a multi-layered, chaotic patchwork of signs that advertise every business you could imagine. Billboards are also a vital part of our skyline, and their shifting ads mark time far more reliably than the seasons.
Many consider Los Angeles to be an ugly city, and I wouldn’t have disagreed when I first moved here. The signage certainly contributes to that reputation. In most cases they aren’t beautifully designed, or elegant. They’re loud, badly kerned, and crowded.
But as parts of the city become gentrified I have grown to miss the older signs, especially the hand painted ones. These signs have far more personality than the ones designed by illustrious design firms.
As you wander through a gentrified area, you can get the sense that a single person designed all of the signs. Gentrification and its signage strips the community of the variety of personalities and human experience that exist in a hugely multi-cultural city like Los Angeles. It makes a neighborhood feel comfortable, predictable and safe. It’s the Instagram-ification of a community.
A particular image frequently appears in the skylines of Los Angeles: a massive, blank billboard... Spectacularly white in the California sun, featuring the word “AVAILABLE.”
This is what provided the seed of the idea for Textless. I saw these empty billboards and wondered what the whole city would look like if all the signs were empty.
For me this was a way to explore the very thoughts I explained above. Textless became a tribute to the loss of the eclectic signage that I love in this city.
The idea for the improvisational jazz drum score came toward the very end of the project, when all of the shots were assembled. We were trying to figure out what sound the signs would make while collapsing. After testing a few options, we realized adding sound effects just made the short feel like a comedy. Jazz drums felt like an auditory version of the visuals, and we feel they work beautifully.
We were hugely fortunate to be introduced to one of the great contemporary jazz drummers, Jonathan Pinson, who improvised the score.