When it comes to motion, many question whether the animation of design elements is necessary or whether it spends design time on something that is purely aesthetic and falls short on purposeful design? Well, the answer is yes and yes.
I’m not trying to purposely confuse you with answering positively to both parts to what appears to be an ‘either or’ question, and I don’t have an affinity for the word ‘yes’. Like a lot of things, when judging if it’s beneficial or not, it comes down to balance.
Knowing your purpose (more specifically, its purpose).
Ultimately, if you’re at the “I want to make things move” stage, you’ve gone through your process in creating some powerful visual content, or you already have the content available to you. In both scenarios, the content itself would have been created to fulfil a purpose or meet a requirement. This is important to understand before deciding on any movement to make sure your animation backs this purpose up rather than muddling it.
Once you understand the content’s purpose, you’re in a good position to ask if making it move will be adding any additional value or is purely aesthetic. Graphics and content that have been imbued with motion have done so too primarily ensure that value is added. That value may be engagement, notification, or drawing attention to specific aspects of the content to promote a message. If your desired movement will benefit the graphic in some such way, then animation could be a good route to go down to further reiterate the initial purpose.
Execution (it’s got to be good).
Communication in any aspect needs to be engaging and hold attention. The human brain is a fickle thing, so you need to to be able to capture it’s notice. When adding movement to anything, understanding the way in which things move is important. Just a basic understanding of movement allows an animator to work with (or against!) the limitations of movement in the physical world to create a piece that makes sense and functions smoothly.
Exaggeration, one of the key points in animation, should be the golden rule; too little and the movement doesn’t look natural, too much and the movement becomes comical. Striking the right balance proves to be vital in delivering a piece of motion that is both visually pleasing and value adding. Along with the exaggeration of movement, timing needs to play a part, but this comes down to context. You don’t want to prolong the boring bits, so often having key visuals hold for a few more frames and allowing your precursor and post motion be a little quicker will make a marked difference.
With the execution of your moving masterpiece, test it on a select audience before committing to making it public. Criticism is a good thing! If your execution is lacking in punch, you may be doing exactly want you don’t want to and devaluing your content. Remember, the ultimate goal of adding motion is to add value and reiterate your purpose, just in animated form!
Benefits (Are there any?).
Motion can add another level of depth, though you have to be careful as any addition of animation should be as an accent to the overall impact. If you are adding motion to uplift what is visually lacking or sub-par content, then the more important thing to do would be address these concerns. A slight brand refresh may be a good task to undertake before looking to animate content that is not performing as you want.
Furthermore, the main benefit should be to enhance the communication of your content. This is a huge plus which should definitely add value as it helps your brand connect with your audience better. Ensuring the execution is professional will help create a positive impact and truly capitalise on the benefits that motion can bring.
So which one is it, necessary and purposeful or time consuming and un-needed?
The answer is still both. Hopefully, after reading this article, you can see why both are relevant and the answer can be dependent on context. Motion design is a positive and engaging tool in this ever changing world of graphic content. As visual architects, we need to be constantly at the top of our game and ensuring that we are producing and creating content which you can have a conversation with and leaves you informed, entertained and engaged.
Yet, we also need to be mindful that design for the sake of design is as useful as a square wheel; it’s not going to take you on a comfortable journey and ultimately could end up clouding any message you are trying to create.
“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” – Jeffery Zeldman