Looking to break into the world of motion graphic design? Use these pointers to get a head start on this exciting pursuit.

Design in motion is a concept you’ve maybe seen defined in broad strokes, without ever being able to clearly pinpoint the requirements, possibilities, and limitations of motion design. While this gap in accurate terminologies shouldn’t keep you from experimenting with the wondrous realm of motion graphics design, it can hold you back if you’re committed to building a career in this field.

We’ve put together this back-to-basics guide to help clear up some common misconceptions, to share some motion design inspiration, and to show you some of the angles from which you can approach this digital craft, depending on which subgenre best suits your skills.

Let’s first address the 4-piece puzzle of motion design:

  1. What is motion design?
  2. What’s the difference between motion design and animation?
  3. Storytelling in motion design
  4. Usability in motion design

What Is Motion Design?

“Motion design” is in fact a shortened form of the term “motion graphic design.” Keeping in mind this important tidbit, you should find it easier to discern between all the various labels that are used interchangeably to describe the field of graphic design in motion. To be concise, motion design represents the practice of putting in motion any graphic design element, following the principles of graphic design: balance, alignment, hierarchy, contrast, rhythm, proximity, and color and space.

Considering the “house rules” of motion graphics design, it’s clear that the purpose of the artwork you’ll be creating won’t be entertainment-focused (and this will help us make an important distinction between terms in a bit!). Instead, your motion design projects will be efficient in conveying information in the blink of an eye, be able to explain complex projects in an easily digestible format, and help sell products/services/ideas with your creativity being the most costly production resource of the entire process.

Deepcrawl by Vladislav Olshevsky

The generous array of online tools that motion designers have available, and unlimited access to self-education resources, make the motion design field one of the most cost-effective career pathways to pursue when you’re starting from scratch without formal education under your belt. There is, however, an obstacle that can make your progress more tedious than it needs to be, and that is spreading yourself too thin with the learning process. This usually happens because of the blurry line between motion design and animation.

What’s the Difference Between Motion Design and Animation?

Let’s start off this comparison by taking a look at the 5 most popular types of animation:

5 Most Popular Types of Animation
Traditional Animation Traditional animation, also referred to as hand-drawn animation or cel animation, is a technique that requires each frame to be drawn by hand.
An animator draws the characters, layout, and backgrounds on paper, and then creates the visual in a frame-by-frame fashion. This was the standard practice for most of the animation productions throughout the 20th century.
Stop Motion Animation Stop motion animation entails a camera stopping/starting in minute increments, to create frames that are then put together to create the illusion of movement, usually of inanimate objects/characters. Another way to look at this type of animation is as photography remodeled into 3D animation.
Motion Graphic Design Motion design uses a combination of graphic design and animation techniques.
It entails graphic design skills and the use of animation principles to put abstract shapes, text, and other graphic design elements in motion.
2D Animation 2D computer animation uses virtual materials in a digital space, to create the same style of artwork as traditional animation. This is possible by recreating the traditional 2D animation workspace in the form of digital animation software.
Animators can follow a hybrid approach, starting off a project using traditional animation techniques and then completing/upscaling the final project using modern digital methods.
3D Animation 3D computer animation requires objects and settings to be created (and put into motion) in a virtual three-dimensional space. Modern filmmaking, the gaming industry, and breakthrough engineering design all utilize virtual 3D animation.

As you can see, motion design falls under the umbrella of animation as a creative field. Traditional animation, and its computerized successors, have an intrinsic focus on storytelling, characters going on emotional rollercoasters, and following a narrative line. On the other hand, a motion design animation works best for outlining ideas matter-of-factly, drawing attention to key points and serving as a visual aid to simplify complex concepts for a general audience.

Although most of the animation methods and techniques we’ve touched on above are not mutually exclusive from each other or from other types of animation, the ability to distinguish the difference between motion design and animation will help you stay the course when learning the ins and outs of motion graphics design and beyond.

Animated man floating while browsing his phone
Made by SVGator

The areas of motion graphic design that you can specialize in (or simply deep dive into while self-educating) are:

Practice your way into mastering one, or more, of the above branches of motion design, and market yourself appropriately. You’ll find yourself having a significantly easier time landing customers than you would by only labeling yourself as an “animator.”


Storytelling in Motion Design

If crafting a narrative is one of the main differentiating factors between animation and motion graphic design, you might be wondering where storytelling fits in between the two. The answer lies in the amazing minds of motion designers that are taking full-advantage of advancing technology. Artists aren’t settling for being confined to just one skillset anymore!

No-code animation tools, like SVGator, have laid flat the frontier between graphic designers and complex SVG animation, making motion design a significantly easier market to penetrate. Nowadays, motion designers are making themselves indispensable (to marketers in particular!) by creating animated content that’s both information-packed and engagement-oriented. Hiring a motion designer that can tell a story with animated vector graphics alone, for example, can help a client cut video production costs considerably.

Needless to say, storytelling in motion design will look a lot different than it does in your favorite Disney movie. It could be an animated logo nailing the exact need that the brand’s catering to, a UI animation that streamlines an online shop’s checkout page, or an onboarding mobile app animation that converts simply because it strikes the right chord in users.

Animated man working on his PC and finding inspiration for a new story
Motion Design Storytelling - Made by SVGator

Usability in Motion Design

Accessibility and usability concerns in the world of motion design should be on your radar, as crafting excellent animations will do more than just embellish a web page or mobile app’s UI. The goal will always be for your motion graphics to improve the user experience, help reduce the cognitive load, and extend the capabilities of communication via design alone.

It’s worth noting that being a motion designer will require you to constantly put your soft skills to work, as convincing others that animations are not hindering UX is an underlying theme in this field. Learning how to design accessible animations is your first step in being able to persuade the stakeholders of your design projects with no holdback.

Usability in motion graphic design revolves around your ability to link each design decision to an expected, or desired, user behavior. Motion design animation gives you immense leverage in communicating with and guiding users, even without supporting copy. Take success state animations, for example. The click of a checkout button that triggers a morphing animation to a green checkmark when a request is fulfilled can efficiently communicate the following: that the payment has been completed, funds have been successfully withdrawn, your order is being processed, etc. When done correctly, animation is an incredible UX asset!

The 12 principles of UX in Motion
The 12 principles of UX in Motion by Issara Willenskomer

Motion Design Project Ideas

Practice is the best educator! Accessing many of the amazing motion design tutorials available online, joining communities of motion designers, and even reading this blog post can all help push you closer to your career goals. But practicing your motion graphics and problem solving skills and creating a portfolio of projects to get your foot in the door is where true growth happens!

On that note, let us show you some attention-grabbing, yet manageable, motion design project ideas you can breathe life into, even as a complete novice:

Explainer Motion Design Video

Creating explainer videos using animated vector graphics is a brilliant way to build up your visual communication skills. Driving a message home using motion graphics is a designer’s ability to convey information in layman’s terms – which means, in this case, you’ll need to practice turning multifaceted concepts into visual content that can easily reach, entice, and persuade a given audience.

Practice suggestions:

  • Create animated assets with a transparent background.
  • Overlay transparent video animations on a raster video to create mixed media explainers. Use explainer video briefs to create a variety of striking artwork for your portfolio.
Car switch animation
Car switch by Dinos & Teacups

Kinetic Typography

Learn how to create your own handwriting animation and other animated typography effects – this is an awesome skill to nurture in the world of motion design! Kinetic typography is an incredible tone-setter in any design context. Use it in videos with minimal text for an impactful and dramatic effect (teasers, announcements, promotional clips), to perk-up a brand’s tagline, or simply to break-up an explainer video into smaller chunks for a better flow.

Practice suggestions:

Example of kinetic typography where handwritten text is animated
Kinetic Typography Example - Made by SVGator

Motion Design in UI

UI motion design is such a fascinating creative playground! You can focus on streamlining user interactions for the web, and/or tackle the particularities of mapping out intuitive mobile interfaces. For motion graphics in the mobile realm, make sure you familiarize yourself with Flutter/React Native dev handovers (these are two of the most popular UI software frameworks at the moment).

Practice suggestions:

Brand Design in Motion

Motion design is a valuable asset when it comes to implementing a branding strategy at lower costs (vs. traditional media), with quicker turnaround times, and with the possibility to re-purpose visual content in countless ways. Having an eye for cohesive design will help tremendously if you choose this flavor of motion graphics!

Practice suggestions:

Logo Animation Collection by Alex Gorbunov

Landing Page Motion Graphics

The best landing page examples out there all have a few distinct elements in common, and web animations are among them. Motion graphics do the groundwork of engaging users and getting them to the landing page’s CTA, ready to up conversions. Choose to work with SVG animations to create impressive interactive motion designs without hindering performance!

Practice suggestions:

User Retention Pages, Social Media Content and Other Customer Touchpoints

Offering just one “spécialité de la maison” as a motion designer is an ideal route to take when you’re still a novice. This allows you to learn quicker, and to not get easily sidetracked. But do know that your talent for digital animation can be put to great use in so many more ways! Your artwork can be fun, intriguing, thought-provoking, and educational, and it can reach (and impact!) users at a myriad of touchpoints.

Practice suggestions:

Animated unsubscribe page by Agathaco

Final Thoughts

Motion design is one of the most versatile forms of animation that you can master by self-educating, and you can do so with personal drive, a full-featured animation tool, and lots of practice. Ready to create greatness in motion? Choose one of the design project ideas we’ve shared with you, and get started today!