We’ve been talking a lot about graphics—both static and kinetic—for the past few blogs.
A month ago, we talked about how both graphic design and motion graphics are indisputably valuable parts of our creative output. We also listed some graphic trends we think we’ll see more of in 2021. We then chatted about graphic design specifically and its contributions to branding work.
But we never delved into a deeper explanation of motion graphics, nor did we distinguish them from their chic video cousin, animation. We’ve noticed that a lot of people new to creative media get the two mixed up—after all, if you see drawn shapes and characters move across a screen, it’s got to be animation, right?
Right. In a way.
Let’s explain further.
Defining motion graphics
Before, we’ve defined motion graphics as taking “the concepts of graphic design into the realm of video.” Motion graphics artists use the visual techniques of graphic designers, we said, but their images move.
In all fairness, motion graphics are a type of animation. They’re moving shapes, they’re moving images, and they’re all created from scratch using the talents and software of a trained artist (who could also be called an animator). But motion graphics are usually different in three ways:
- They favor abstract concepts instead of stories,
- They’re usually more informative in nature, and
- They typically avoid characters and textured backgrounds.
Let’s look at an example for point #3. One of our favorite motion graphics pieces is the introduction video we created for X-Rite Pantone. Notice how the background is a flat color—a sort of soft gray? For this project, our artists weren’t asked to create vivid backdrops or involved worlds.
Instead, they let the information do the talking and focused on flawless movement, clean lines, and icons that would convey information visually.
Motion graphics can also augment live-action footage. Notice the tip popups in this Home Depot installation video. In our industry, the popup flourishes wouldn’t be called “animated popups”—they’d be called “motion graphics,” all part of a custom Home Depot “graphics package.”
There’s a time and a place for everything, and what motion graphics don’t cover, animation sees to in spades.
Some types of animation require a larger budget and a longer timeline than motion graphics: if your heart’s set on realistic 3D animation or a deeply detailed custom look, be prepared for variable estimates. But don’t fret—a good agency can often work with you to find the right visual style for your time and money constraints.
And as opposed to the three points above, animation distinguishes itself from motion graphics in three complementary ways:
- It’s usually more story-driven,
- It balances information and artistry, and
- It offers fully developed characters, objects, and worlds.
Check out one of our most recent animation pieces, a hype piece for a new software product from Bucher + Suter. Our animators created a modern world of clouds, plants, shapes, and podiums, filled out by fun athlete characters and complicated movement.
And a 3D animated piece we love is this Doosan ad for equipment telematics—although it has a plain background for dramatic effect, the equipment is lovingly rendered in shocking detail, incorporating real-life mechanical parts and an impressive “explosion” motion.
But which one do I need?
That’s entirely up to you.
Some projects beg for an involved animated world and characters, but others benefit from the visual simplicity of motion graphics—however, keep in mind that although motion graphics are visually simpler, they often take just as much planning, thought, and care as a fully animated piece! As we said above, be prepared to define your budget and time constraints—sometimes, these specifics will naturally lead to the perfect choice between two styles.
In the end, as long as you contract an agency with ample experience, they’ll be able to lead you in the right direction. Rely on their artists and creative directors to find the perfect look, and your needs will always be perfectly met with visual beauty to spare.