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All About Motion Graphic Design: Types, Purpose and Uses

May 6, 2021
9 MINUTES
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Stefanija Tenekedjieva

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As technology continues to develop, and the audience focus inevitably grows narrower, motion graphics find their place in the spotlight. Read on to learn about this type of graphic design and where to use it for memorable marketing and customer user experience.

From short films to animated advertisements, knowledge base tutorials to app interface, we see moving graphic designs everywhere. Animating graphics is not necessarily a thing that happened recently, but it has become more applicable since the era of digital marketing.

In this article, we will dive deeper into motion graphics, how it is different from animation, as well as the skills and competencies needed to produce motion graphic design. We will also explain the types and applications of this graphic design discipline to help you understand it better.

What is motion graphic design?

Motion graphics design is a subset or type of graphic design that bases its techniques on animation and film. In it the major component most of the time is text.

However, motion graphics are not the same as animation, mostly because they are way more limited in what they can produce. In a way, a flipbook animation is the oldest type of motion graphics.

For example, motion graphics include kinetic typography, animated logos, opening and closing sequences, and many other products. However, if a project requires way more hand or digitally drawn stances and complex animation longer than a few seconds, chances are that project is more filmic and requires a film animator.

Motion graphics are rarely the centerpiece on themselves but mostly exist to enhance the experience and help users understand something they are viewing.

For example, animated text or opening sequences either explain something or give credits to the author. In marketing, a motion graphics design can be used as an eye-catching element to grasp the viewer’s attention. In knowledge bases, they can be used in explainer videos that go in detail visually in something that is hard to grasp with words.

Motion graphics have been widely used since television became commercially available, in news graphics, commercials and films. Nowadays, you can see them pretty much anywhere: digital advertising, social media, UX design as part of app and website layouts, and the same uses as 50 years ago.

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What does a motion graphics designer do?

Motion designers work in advertising, film, or television, producing motion graphics. They could work on projects including trailers, title sequences, commercials, additional graphics for video clips, video game graphics, music videos, explainer videos, TV show credits and jingles and other motion designed animation that is simpler to produce and incorporate into static design.

To be able to produce motion graphic design, a graphic designer must have some important skills that require more than the regular skillset of a good designer.

Here are some of them.

Animation

For an object to virtually move, it needs to be “alive,” or animated. The word animation comes from the Latin “animatio,” meaning “bestowed with life.” Inanimate objects, and more importantly, in this case, drawn objects, are bestowed with life with the help of a skillful animator.

Through different animation techniques, such as celluloid, 2D, 3D, stop motion or procedural animation, a professional can make drawings move. Motion graphics is a separate type of animation, nowadays mostly done with the help of a motion graphics software called Adobe After Effects. Before, motion graphic designers used other animation techniques and tools.

2D Animation

The oldest and most classical of animation styles, in this motion graphics technique the moving object and its surroundings have no dimension of depth. It is of course implied to the eye by using distance, shadows and other optical illusions, but the motion design itself is created only with height and width in mind. 2D Animation exists 1908, so it predates all other styles of animation and motion graphics.

3D modeling

Although 2D animation is still present, rarely nowadays you see a video production that isn’t implementing a 3-dimensional animation technique. Motion designers today need to understand how to create polygonal meshes, bake textures, bump maps, normal maps, and lightmaps, be familiar with various shaders and post-processing effects so that three-dimensional objects seem like they are looking and moving realistically.

oh.my 3D modeling process. Credits: Aila Jane Aquino

Texturing and lighting

Textures and different light serve as a contrast to the 3D graphics design: they make it seem more realistic in the way the moving object interacts with the environment it’s in. You can manipulate the eye to think an object is closer or farther away by using different light and depth, so a motion graphics artist should be able to manipulate well with these elements.

Camera setting

Camera angle and movement, source of light, the choreography of the moving object and other elements comprise the animation perspective skills. A motion designer needs to see the animation from multiple angles and perspectives in order for it to make sense and seem realistic to the viewer.

Storyboard creation

A storyboard is an outline of the scenario and animation process. A motion graphics design needs to be able to direct and formulate the process and narrative of the animation, and a storyboard can help them draw out a draft.

sotryboard 1.png storyboard 2.png storyboard 3.png

Storyboard to finalized animation process. Credits: Alder Guttierez

Drawing and illustration

This might seem too obvious, but motion graphic design is impossible if you cannot draw. The animation and software skills are what allows a graphic designer to give motion to their projects, but the drawing and illustration capabilities are essential as a base.

Graphic design basics

Similar to the last example, motion graphics is a subset of graphic design, so you would still need to know all the basic principles and skills that allow a person to produce graphic design. Then, you learn extra skills and gain knowledge in other fields, to be able to work in motion graphics.

Different types of motion graphics

Based on the effect and usage of different motion graphics, they can be split into three types:

  • Emotive motion graphics: Used to invoke an emotional response in the audience. They are mostly used in advertising as a way to elicit an impactful response and create memorable storytelling.
  • Promotional graphics: Used mostly for marketing purposes, in order to make a product or service memorable and to keep the focus of the viewer for a longer period of time. Since text is less catchy than images, visual content is more and more used in promotional efforts. Motion graphics are even more efficient in that than static images.
  • Explainer videos: This type of motion design is used to simplify and explain hard-to-grasp processes and actions, and find their usage mostly in knowledge bases, UX design, tutorials, etc. Any type of storytelling that requires many technical terms and detailed explanations can be better through the usage of explanatory motion graphics.

The areas of application of motion graphics

When it comes to different industries, you can include motion graphics in pretty much any kind of business. As we mentioned, it is widely used in the film and advertising industry, but individual businesses can also use it in their respective marketing efforts.

These are some of the most common applications of motion graphics:

  • Sharing of information and explanation: As we mentioned, motion graphics can simplify storytelling, help guide users in better understanding of products and services, and can help pack big amounts of information into biteable-size, comprehensive videos.
  • Branding: Brands often use motion graphics to enhance their logos, brand marks, websites and apps. Web designers often use motion graphics to make websites more appealing and dynamic, but also to infuse a brand’s identity in the final product.
  • Digital marketing and social media: As we mentioned before, the average audience member’s focus is way shorter, so a moving graphic design is more likely to attract attention in people scrolling through social media.
  • Video editing and credits: In filmmaking and other types of video production, kinetic calligraphy is mostly used in opening and closing titles, cutaway sequences and credits.

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How motion graphics enhance the user experience on websites

Far more than just entertainment and decoration, motion graphics can be used to help a user interact better with digital products and have a much greater experience throughout their usage.

Motion design can help web designers produce enjoyable, easy to navigate and intuitive layouts for users through the implementation of grids, dynamic backgrounds, transitions and graphic cues.

These elements can help a user learn how to easily navigate a product, where the natural direction of movement is and have a different sense of perception of time. For example, waiting for a screen to load when there is nothing but a blank background may seem way longer, than waiting for a screen to load when in front of the user is an interesting design, a character moving or simply a unique loading icon and dynamic background.

Motion graphics can also help the web and app designers create a seamless transition from one screen to another: a user will not notice a screen shifting and buttons moving, if the transition is animated.

Also important is that motion graphics in UX help users know what to do next, what is the next step and how they should next interact with the app or website. Using the previous example, a blank loading screen might make the user believe there is some sort of glitch. A bit of motion design shows them there is something in progress.

Conclusion

It is as clear as day that motion graphic design went from an additional element in videos, films and television productions, to one of the most common types of advertising design and UX elements.

If you are thinking about whether or not to invest in motion graphics to enhance your branding, marketing and customer experience, the answer is yes. There is no doubting the importance of motion graphics. At the same time, if you are a graphic designer looking for a sign if you should learn motion graphics, well, the answer is also yes.

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Stefanija Tenekedjieva

May 6, 2021

Journalist turned content writer. Based in North Macedonia, aiming to be a digital nomad. Always loved to write, and found my perfect job writing about graphic design, art and creativity. A self-proclaimed film connoisseur, cook and nerd in disguise.