Definition of Motion Graphics Edit

The definition of graphic design is ambiguous at best. In general, people graphic design looks like, but people have different ideas about exactly when it becomes distinct from fine art, photography, illustration, or some other form of digital art. Some formal definitions are flawed because they are too specific, suggesting designs intended for a restricted usage. Other definitions suffer from being overly vague, and allow graphic design to be interpreted as anything using typography or imagery. Defining graphic design is problematic, but it is not as difficult to define as the branch of graphic design commonly referred to as motion graphics. There are competing ideas about what motion graphics means. For the purpose of clarity, I will define motion graphics as designed non-narrative, non-figurative based visuals that change over time. A misleadingly simple explanation of motion graphics would be to say that it is graphic design in motion. Under that broad description, a rotating restaurant sign could be classified as motion graphics, which would be incorrect. However, a stationary sign which presents sequential images of designs that change over time would be an example of motion graphics. The distinction of non-narrative, non-figurative based visuals is to separate motion graphics from the larger general definition of animation or film. Motion graphics often incorporate video, film, animation, photography, illustration, and music. The boundaries of these related art forms are difficult to delineate, especially with multimedia works. A video or film of an actual moving object would not be considered motion graphics, unless the footage were integrated with design elements, such as type, shapes, or lines. Animation (traditional, or digital) may or may not be considered motion graphics. Significant use of type or animation of forms that would not be considered strictly narrative in nature would be likely to fall in the category of motion graphics.

Motion graphics are generally short pieces of time-based visual media which combine the languages of film and graphic design. This can be accomplished by incorporating a number of different elements such as 2d and 3d animation, video, film, typography, illustration, photography, and music. Common applications of motion graphics are film title sequences, animated logos at the end of commercials, lower-third elements, etc. Broadcast graphics are motion graphics has a strong presence in television. Commercial graphics, entertainment, and show packaging graphics are just a few of the venues in which motion design is found.

Distinguishing motion graphics from other disciplinesEdit

Film. Although feature films may contain motion graphics (for example, Shynola's work in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" or MK12's work in" Stranger than Fiction"), very few (if any) are actually considered motion graphics pieces in themselves.

Visual Effects. Visual Effects are primarily concerned with creating special effects that look realistic, while motion graphics serve a purpose more ambiguous - one more akin to graphic design.

Character Animation. Both tradition 2d and 3d character animation can be used within motion graphics, but usually aren't motion graphics in themselves. Significant use of graphic design principles or stylization can blur the lines between traditional animation and motion graphics.


Like graphic design, it's hard to pinpoint the exact start of the motion graphics as a discipline. In the early 20th century people such as Viking Eggeling, Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye were experimenting with films that resemble motion graphics. Saul Bass' film title sequences in the 50's and 60's took it a step further and into the public eye. In the late 70's and 80's people such as Harry Marks and Robert Abel helped bring dynamic computer-generated graphics to broadcast television.

It's unclear when the term "motion graphics" was first used. In 1960, John Whitney started a company called Motion Graphics Inc. and frequently used the term in his work. The term rose to prominence in the early 1990's, alongside the advent of the affordable desktop computer.

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