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Definition of motion design

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Ben van Hamelen
Definition of motion design
on Sep 21, 2010 at 9:15:54 am

Hi there,

I hope I got the right forum for this.

I'm currently working on some kind of thesis centered around motion design. To start off it seems logical to first investigate the definition of motion design. Thing is, online sources going into this are scarce and those that do usually have different ideas on what the definition would be.

My question is: what is the definition of motion design? Is it the same as motion graphic design or is there a difference? If so, what the difference in your opinion?

Any replies will be greatly appreciated.


Ben van H.

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Stephen Smith
Re: Definition of motion design
on Sep 21, 2010 at 4:56:37 pm

I prefer "Motion Graphics" but I don't think it matters.

I would say that "Motion Graphics are graphics used mainly in video/film to convey a message".I don't know, I just made that up. I may also need to mention that it is different for print graphics because the imagery is seen beyond one image. Anyways, hope that gives you a little help.

What I really wanted to say is that Motion Graphics have come a long ways in a very short amount of time. Go to and look at movie titles for recent films and you will see some amazing complicated work. Then look at some of the great titles of not that long ago and watch how simple they are. Technology has come a long way in a short period of time. A matter of fact I started out editing deck to deck and that was not that long ago.

Here is a link to some inspiration motion graphics that I have collected on my blog.

What degree is this for?

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

Check out my Motion Training DVD

Check out my Motion Tutorials

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Gary Hazen
Re: Definition of motion design
on Sep 21, 2010 at 6:14:26 pm

"...look at movie titles for recent films and you will see some amazing complicated work. Then look at some of the great titles of not that long ago and watch how simple they are. Technology has come a long way in a short period of time." - Stephen Smith

Complicated high tech work doesn't automatically equate to good design. Saul Bass was creating amazing title designs with motion graphics long before After Effects or any of the other modern day tools existed.

Regarding Motion Design vs. Motion Graphic Design, they are not necessarily the same thing. Some metal sculptors create huge structures that are designed to move with the wind. The motion is part of the dynamic of the artwork. Are these sculptors also considered motion designers? Was Rube Goldberg a Motion Designer?

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Ben van Hamelen
Re: Definition of motion design
on Sep 22, 2010 at 1:10:11 pm

Thanks for the replies! This definitely helped. Gary's reply instantly changed my original idea that motion design = motion graphic design. Valid points.

I'm still working on creating my definition of motion graphic design. It'll probably come down to something like 'a sequence of images changing over time, aimed at communicating a message'. Don't bash me for being inaccurate, it's a start I just came up with. I expect to have it done by Friday. I'll post it by then.

A translated version, that is. To answer Stephens question: I study Communication & Multimedia Design in Holland. Doesn't do much with motion graphics, it's kind of a thing I taught myself. And it proves useful for the thesis.

Thanks again!

Ben van H.

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Walter Soyka
Re: Definition of motion design
on Sep 23, 2010 at 1:51:01 pm

Your post made me curious, so I did a little digging around to see if I could find a definition I liked. So far, I think Wikipedia's article on motion graphic design has the best definition:
Motion Design is a subset of graphic design in that it uses graphic design principles in a film or video context (or other temporally evolving visual medium) through the use of animation or filmic techniques.

I specifically like that it ties traditional graphic design and traditional animation/film technique together, but it's still broad enough to encompass Rube Goldberg.

Like Gary said, if you haven't seen any of Saul Bass's work on film title design starting in the 1950s, you should check it out. His optical work was incredible, and defined the state of the art at the time.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events

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scott novasic
Re: Definition of motion design
on Oct 4, 2010 at 11:09:13 pm

Honestly, I dont think the film or tv thing matters. Were content creators.. that content can end up on the web, a smart phone, a stadium big screen, tv or film and more. Motion Graphic Design is the term i have heard most. The art and sensibilities of graphic design used with elements in motion. Balance, pacing, color and transmitting a well laid out message are all tenants of graphic design that need to hold true while
animating elements. Good design is still good design. Those principles we are taught in college design class should also be 'followed' when incorporating motion.

This is such a fluid issue... in that technology and what we can display imagery on is constantly evolving.


Animation & Visual Effects
Scott Novasic
Los Angeles Ca

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Kimberly Smith
Re: Definition of motion design
on Nov 24, 2010 at 8:01:47 pm

This is a topic that has fascinated me throughout two decades of film and video work. Many times, over the years, I have been invited to facilitate video making workshops.

The biggest obstacle for people I have observed is a general confusion between "thinking" and "tools". This is why people often spend large sums of money for what they think is the best hardware and software available and then produce crap. No amount of money and technology will help you if you are illiterate in the language of motion pictures which is another way of saying motion graphics.

The beautiful thing about being literate in film language (motion graphics) is it transcends existing technology and often generates new technology as it evolves. Mind you this language is just over one hundred years old and it is evolving rapidly. People have discovered very consistent elements of this language that are a kind of visual grammar. It can be applied in any medium - live action, animation, abstract, realistic, large screen or small. It will serve any artist or designer no matter how technology evolves. Think "story showing".

It is great to be able to feel this form of expression in your body as much as possible. Get away from the computer, go out doors with some friends and play with it. All you need is a video camera to begin the practice. Here are some games...

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Heather Crank
Re: Definition of motion design
on Oct 26, 2011 at 6:04:12 pm

This might help!

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