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Deaf Culture and Expressive Captions for TV and Film

As reported in the Chicago Tribune today, PepsiCo has produced a Superbowl Ad based on a popular joke in deaf culture called Bob's House. Think how do deaf people find a house when they have forgotten the address? It was created with the PepsiCo EnAble network of employees with "different abilities." Based on some of the responses on You Tube, it has been very positively received by the deaf community.

Watching the captions on the video got me thinking about TV and Movie captions and how unexpressive they are. This seems especially a shame considering all the possibilities of visual expression in typography. Someone in motion graphics I would think would be on this, but alas it seems not to be so.

A quick Google on graphic design and captions/ typography and captions resulted in finding the website of Joe Clark, a Canadian designer who according to Atlantic Monthly is the "King of Captioning." He seems to be giving a lot of presentations on the subject and has the Open and Closed Project which seeks to write standards, conduct research, and offer training. They are seeking funding from industry, but not government. I wonder why that is so. This is the only research that I could find on the topic.

So I strongly recommend any graphic design students who are reading this to consider this as a thesis project. It seems a shame that no one has really worked on this in the US and it seems a smart way to demonstrate the power of design through universal design and kick-ass typography, as well as dealing with all the technical issues. I promise to serve as your advisor if need be, but someone should be doing this project.



I agree with you and feel that tv and movie captions aren't expressive at all and it should be vamped up. I think that PepsiCo did a great job with their Deaf Commercial Bob's House and I commend them for creating positive awareness for the community. Have you seen the funny webisodes Pepsi has made called Deaf Comedy Smack Talk? If not here is a link to the webisodes. Enjoy! http://my.break.com/content/view.aspx?ContentID=442998

Joe Clark

Because the captions in the Pepsi ad were barely captions; they were more like same-language subtitles, an almost completely pointless medium. Plus they were set in the nonfont Arial.

In short, they weren’t even trying.

And the making-of video isn’t even captioned all the way through.

Peter Bain

It's a great topic. My excuse for not tackling it for my thesis is that I don't watch enough TV. :)

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