Motion Graphics and the Art of the Abstract

By December 7, 2017 January 23rd, 2019 Design Tips, Motion Graphics
motion graphic design

Motion graphics tell stories: stories of products, of studies, of whatever your business needs. The medium interweaves threads of visual and aural communication to connect with viewers on numerous levels. And in telling these many-textured narratives, motion graphics rely on storytelling techniques to achieve their goals. One such technique is that of the comparison — but while metaphor and simile in writing can help develop audience relationships, they can dilute the accuracy of technical information. Relying on the abstract (rather than the concrete) allows motion graphics to double their communication efforts via narrative, art direction, and animation.

animated explainer videos

Narrative Abstraction
Not all motion graphics have voiceover. Some rely on music or on-screen text to build momentum. However, when working with technical material, a voiceover makes room for boosted communication — especially with a technical subject matter. Here’s why: the voiceover doubles your opportunity for communication.

When a voiceover describes a technical subject matter, you’ve freed up your screen to “translate” that technical story into an abstract one. Without losing any accuracy, your viewer can hear the specifics while receiving a visual comparison, giving them something to understand in associative terms. By balancing communication between visual and auditory comprehension, you’ve expanded your ability to communicate quickly, clearly, and effectively.

abstract motion graphics

Art Direction Abstraction
Whether or not your narrative takes an abstract approach, consider whether your motion graphic’s visuals should be abstract as well. Complex and technical content lends itself well to abstract visuals. When a shape represents a complicated idea, it relies on symbol rather than literal meaning to bring life to an idea, giving a viewer the chance to quickly understand the big picture rather than an element’s detail. If your subject matter is technical, there’s a chance that it might be patented or under development while your motion graphic is being produced. Abstract art gives you the opportunity to communicate your primary ideas without compromising the integrity of your product, process, or security.

animated stories

Animation Abstraction
Once your art is finalized, you’ve thought through your narrative and what represents it for your viewers. One of the final pieces to the motion graphic puzzle — the animation — is another opportunity for some abstract support. No matter whether your narrative or visual direction have used abstract techniques, animation can convey tone and movement through non-realistic means. Abstract animation techniques include:

  • Pulsing
  • Sliding
  • Expanding

Whether or not your subject matter would deliver these movements in real life, each of these techniques can signal emphasis, hierarchy, or narrative development for the reader. And, abstract animation can be a budget-saver! Character animation or complicated movements can take time to create and align with music or voiceover, but subtle animations can keep your project scope in check while conveying specific meaning.

create motion graphics

A Concrete Conclusion
Abstract elements in narrative, art, and animation can build layers of meaning, simplify technical material, and develop audience relationships. Keep in mind, though: abstract terms don’t mean unclear ones. If you’re working with abstract elements, keep strong visual communication tenets in mind. Each decision should help you further clarity and key messaging for your viewers. With well-considered decisions and a touch of the abstract, your motion graphic can communicate clearly and effectively for any goal.

Have you used abstract elements in your motion graphics? Tell us about it.

Abi Pollokoff

Author Abi Pollokoff

Abi Pollokoff is the Director of Content for Killer Infographics. Originally from the Chicago area, she moved to Seattle in 2014 from New Orleans. With a BA in English, French, and Italian and an MFA in Poetry, she is dedicated to exploring the nuances and possibilities of language. Before joining Killer, Abi spent time as a writing instructor as well as the associate editor at a book-publishing company. These experiences bolster Abi’s work with Killer and enable her to write for diverse audiences, and she strives to apply this perspective to target the unique goals of every Killer project. Abi enjoys developing strong working relationships with clients and creating a human connection through the writing process.

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