Motion Graphics for Complete Beginners

Discover the art of bringing graphics to life through animation in our guide to motion graphics.

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Portrait for EnvatoBy Envato  |  Updated November 27, 2020

You might have heard the terms ‘motion graphics’ and ‘motion graphic design’ but, if you’re like me, you might have had a hard time working out exactly what they mean.

Put simply: motion graphics refers to animated graphic design.

‘MoGraphs’ (as the industry sometimes refers to them) is really the art of bringing graphics to life through animation. Simple graphic forms can be animated, while flat images, such as photographs, can be edited to suggest the illusion of movement.

How do ‘MoGraphs’ Differ from Animation?

MoGraphs is to Animation what Graphic Design is to Art; one piece of the larger discipline. Graphic design often has a commercial aspect to it, as do motion graphics, while art and animation tend to focus more on entertainment. That’s not to say that graphic design can’t also be entertaining – Robert M. Ball’s Beautiful Death series, for example – but entertainment is not the primary purpose.

Motion Graphics Designer Jared Flynn put it succinctly, suggesting that an animator utilizes character and narrative to communicate ideas, while a motion designer reduces that communication to more the basic elements of color, space, and typography.

In conjunction with students at the University for the Arts in Bremen, Envato marketplace author placdarms contributed to this fantastic educational video about the basics of motion graphic design. If you’ve got 23 minutes to spare, it’s packed with so much great information that I think everyone could take a little something away from it.

How to Use Motion Graphics

First, a little history. The inception of motion graphics goes back decades. Early cinema relied on motion graphics techniques for opening titles. Their creative exploration came in the 1940s and 1950s when artists such as Oskar FischingerSaul and Elaine Bass, and Pablo Ferro began pushing motion graphics techniques to their limits.

The opening credits of Hitchcock’s Psycho and North By Northwest were both designed by Bass. This iconic style remains a reference point for designers even today, representing the unique ways typography and form can be presented.

These techniques were also used heavily in the abstract designs for, well, pretty much every James Bond film title ever.

Daniel Craig will feature in the 2019 Bond film I’ve tentatively titled MoGraphs are Forever.

So popular were motion graphics techniques in the 1960s and 1970s that their style is often utilized as a callback to the era. The Archer title credits are a great modern example of this:

Motion graphics have also long been used for logo reveals, especially in television networks or movie production companies. 

The pervasiveness of technology means that animations can be applied to almost anything to give them a boost in our busy lives. Motion graphics can be used to great effect in animated digital billboards. Websites can utilize them – sparingly though, please – to highlight or draw attention to particular areas.

Check out some of the best openers on Envato Elements.

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