Introduction: What is a Motion Graphic?

Think back to some of your favorite videos. What did you like about them?

If you’re anything like us, it’s not just one thing. Every individual part of the video, from the story to the graphics, just fit together perfectly. They complement each other, working in tandem to create something special.

What is motion graphics? (Motion Graphics Studio Definition)

Motion graphics is animation, but with text as a major component. Essentially, it’s animated graphic design.

Ever since motion graphics first entered the scene, there’s been a debate about the line between them and full animation. The opening credits of Hitchcock’s Psycho is an early example of motion graphics, where the marriage of sound, motion, and graphic design come together exceptionally well.

Motion Graphics Studios Examples

Let’s take a look at some examples of motion graphics in action.


La Effe Rebrand

Broadcast channel La Effe were looking to refresh their brand, something that would set them apart from other SKY channels. The new design, by Nerdo Creative Studio, is a meld of high-end art magazine-like styles cherry-picked from the history of graphic design, with a strong emphasis on typography. We think it’s fair to say you don’t see something like this on television every day.

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ITFT: Understanding the Blockchain in two minutes

Motion Graphics are great for creating a powerful explainer video. ITFT uses motion graphics to illustrate their points and show the blockchain in action. It’s an effective way to support a concept because it can help the viewer visualise it in a way a presentation can’t.

Telling a story

Beautiful World Motion Graphics

This video proves that you can use motion graphics to create an entire music video! The graphics itself tell a separate story that complements the song, the same way other music videos do.

It’s an interesting concept that highlights the different contexts motion graphics can be used in. You can use them to create an ad or even make a short film.

How to make motion graphics

You can use motion graphics to inject a bit of life and levity into a presentation or video in a variety of contexts. Making an infographic video? Give those statistics a bit of life by adding some motion graphics. Use them in videos you make to share on social media. Motion graphics are fantastic for getting your point across in an explainer video. It’s a great, affordable way to make a video.

What is an Animation?

Animation is a method by which still figures are manipulated to appear as moving images. In traditional animation, images are drawn or painted by hand on transparent celluloid sheets to be photographed and exhibited on film. Today, most animations are made with computer-generated imagery (CGI). Computer animation can be very detailed 3D animation, while 2D computer animation (which may have the look of traditional animation) can be used for stylistic reasons, low bandwidth, or faster real-time renderings. Other common animation methods apply a stop motion technique to two- and three-dimensional objects like paper cutouts, puppets, or clay figures.

A cartoon is an animated film, usually a short film, featuring an exaggerated visual style. The style takes inspiration from comic strips, often featuring anthropomorphic animals, superheroes, or the adventures of human protagonists. Especially with animals that form a natural predator/prey relationship (e.g. cats and mice, coyotes and birds), the action often centers on violent pratfalls such as falls, collisions, and explosions that would be lethal in real life.

The illusion of animation—as in motion pictures in general—has traditionally been attributed to the persistence of vision and later to the phi phenomenon and/or beta movement, but the exact neurological causes are still uncertain. The illusion of motion caused by a rapid succession of images that minimally differ from each other, with unnoticeable interruptions, is a stroboscopic effect. While animators traditionally used to draw each part of the movements and changes of figures on transparent cels that could be moved over a separate background, computer animation is usually based on programming paths between key frames to maneuver digitally created figures throughout a digitally created environment.

Analog mechanical animation media that rely on the rapid display of sequential images include the phénakisticope, zoetrope, flip book, praxinoscope, and film. Television and video are popular electronic animation media that originally were analog and now operate digitally. For display on computers, technology such as the animated GIF and Flash animation were developed.

Animation vs. Motion Graphics: What’s the Difference?

Graphics are an invaluable part of almost every business video strategy. Whether they move or stay still, share a story or a message, or are in your brand colors or in a new palette, both motion graphics and animation can enhance every type of video in a myriad of ways.

Since we at The DVI Group employ several incredible animators and motion designers, we’ve talked a lot about graphics—both static and kinetic—on our blog. Now it’s time to explore more deeply the topic of motion graphics vs. animation.

Motion Graphics vs Animation: What’s the Difference?

We previously listed some graphic trends we think we’ll see more of in the coming years and then chatted about graphic design specifically and its contributions to branding work. Transitioning from a discussion of graphic design to motion graphics, we also discussed how both graphic design and motion graphics are indisputably valuable parts of our creative output.

Animation vs. Motion Graphics

But we never delved into a deeper explanation of the “motion” portion of “motion graphics,” nor did we distinguish this type of design from its chic video cousin, animation. We’ve noticed that a lot of people new to creative media get the two mixed up, and to be fair, they can be very similar.

In all fairness, motion graphics are a type of animation.

Motion graphics may include:

  • Moving shapes
  • Moving colors
  • Moving objects
  • Moving elements of a background

Motion graphics all share one characteristic: they’re all created from scratch using the talents and software at the disposal of a trained artist. And in our industry, motion graphics artists are sometimes called animators as a type of shorthand, though their more professional title can also be “motion designer.” These artists are often adept at using different types of motion graphics software, such as:

How are Motion Graphics Different from Animation?

But we’re here to talk about the contrast between motion graphics and animation. Motion graphics are usually different from animation in three distinct ways:

  1. They favor abstract concepts instead of stories,
  2. They’re usually more informative in nature, and
  3. They typically avoid characters and textured backgrounds.

Examples of Motion Graphics Video

No Animated Characters: Intro Video for X-Rite Pantone

Let’s look at an example for point #3 above—the fact that motion graphics favor pieces without animated characters or texture-filled elements. One of our favorite motion graphics pieces is the introduction video we created for X-Rite Pantone, seen below.

Notice: the background is a flat color.

It’s a calming shade of soft gray. For this project, our artists weren’t asked to create vivid backdrops or involved worlds that an animated character could walk through. Instead, our clients at X-Rite Pantone wanted an abstract piece, filled with arrows, icons, and other elements that would make a big picture company announcement even clearer.

In this piece, our motion designers let the information do the talking and focused on flawless movement, clean lines, and icons that would convey information visually.

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Motion Graphics with Live Action Footage: Home Depot Installation Video

Motion graphics can also more easily augment a live-action video. Take a look at the Home Depot installation video below, and notice the tip popups throughout.

In our industry, these popup flourishes wouldn’t be called “animated popups”—they’d be called “motion graphics,” and they were all part of a custom Home Depot “graphics package” that we developed in order to create this video series.

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What is animation?

We’ve covered motion graphics, but you still may want an example of animation to help flesh out the contrast. How is animation different from motion graphics?

Animation may include:

  • Moving shapes, colors, and objects
  • Moving elements of a background
  • Moving characters, sometimes called “puppets”
  • Shifting light
  • Varied camera angles

As you may be able to tell from this list, one key difference emerges when you look at motion graphics and animation side by side: animation is often more visually complex. That doesn’t mean the motion design is easier or less skillful—on the contrary: it takes a skilled artist to know exactly which projects will benefit from the power of motion graphics and which need a full animated treatment.

Animators may use the following software:

Some types of animation require a larger video budget and a longer timeline than motion graphics. If your heart’s set on a realistic 3D animation video production or a deeply detailed custom look, be prepared for variable estimates from animation and video companies. But don’t fret—a good agency can often work with you to find the right visual style for your time and money constraints.

How is animation different from motion graphics?

As opposed to the three points above used for defining our view of motion graphics, animation distinguishes itself from motion graphics in three complementary ways:

  1. It’s usually more story-driven,
  2. It balances information and artistry, and
  3. It offers fully developed characters, objects, and worlds.

Learn more about our motion graphics and animation services here»

Examples of Animated Video

Creating an Animated Word with Characters: Sage HR Video

Below, check out one of most recent animation pieces, an introduction to a detailed HR software retention strategy called “Customer for Life” by the SaaS company Sage.

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Stunning 3D Detail: Doosan Ad

And a 3D animated piece we love is this Doosan ad for equipment telematics below—although it has a plain background for dramatic effect, the equipment is lovingly rendered in stunning 3D detail, incorporating real-life mechanical parts and an impressive “explosion” motion.

This level of 3D animation takes weeks, if not months, to properly rig, light, and animate in a way that looks believable. 3D animation is really an art form all its own and is usually very distinguishable from even 3D motion graphics.

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Animation or Motion Graphics…Which Is Right for Me?

That’s entirely up to you.

Some projects beg for an involved animated world and characters, but others benefit from the visual simplicity of motion graphics—however, keep in mind that although motion graphics are less character-driven, they often take just as much planning, thought, and care as a fully animated video! As we said above, be prepared to define your budget and time constraints. Sometimes, your project specifics will naturally lead to the perfect choice between two styles.

Motion Graphic Design’s Unique Traits & Benefits

Motion graphics aren’t just cool or pretty animation features. They’re a unique way to communicate. The best visual communication is blended with motion storytelling to create an engaging piece of content that helps brands share their story, reach people in alternate ways, and present their content in a compelling package.

There can be some ambiguity to the term. A motion graphic is the industry term for an animated video. Motion graphics could be 2D animations, 3D animations, or GIFs. They may include audio, voiceover, or sound effects. In some cases, they’ll incorporate technology such as 360-degree video, augmented reality, or virtual reality.

Most Significant Benefits of Motion Graphics

  • They generate emotional interest. Thanks to the phenomenon known as “emotional contagion,” we immediately empathize and mirror what we view on the screen. When you are telling emotional stories, motion graphics gives you many tools. Mood music, powerful voiceover, and stunning visuals culminate to create an impactful story and an emotional user experience.
  • Compress information for easy comprehension. Visual communication happens almost instantaneously. It’s so effective because it targets the way your brain processes information. That’s why many concepts are easier to understand if you can see them.
  • They’re a passive experience. It’s no surprise that consumers are looking at more and more video content every day. You remember when a substitute teacher put on a video in class; it often meant you didn’t have to do anything. Motion graphics are the same. Viewers don’t have to expend much mental energy as they watch and relax. A majority of consumers rather watch than read. When you need to deliver a contained message, do it with motion graphics.
  • Repurposing. Now that nearly all social media platforms support video, you can disseminate your video in several different places and manners, helping to extend the lifecycle of a campaign. You might break up content to place a feature for a specific group. You might add your motion graphic to an e-book or presentation. With evergreen topics and explainer videos, you have a well-designed piece of communication that can serve you well for years.
  • Great when short on time. Most motion graphics are 30 seconds to three minutes long, which helps very much when you need to make an impact ASAP. By combining audio and video, motion graphics make the most of human processing capabilities. This lets you say more with less content.

When Should You Use an Animation or a Motion Graphic?

Despite the fact that the line between motion graphics and animation is so thin as to be imperceptible to the untrained eye, there is one. In certain cases, it’s impossible to tell exactly which market industry the video explanation belongs to. That’s why a lot of people use them interchangeably: Contrary to popular belief, this is not the case.

But first let’s take a look at some of the different types of animation before we explore the differences between animation and motion graphics.

So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

The Primary Styles of Animation

Animation has been an integral aspect of American culture since the early 1900s. Artists have always sought innovative methods to bring their ideas and tales to life, whether it was through the painstaking process of hand-drawn cell animation or the more recent and popular 3D computer-generated animation.

There are primarily five distinct animation techniques.

Hand-drawn Animation

The term “traditional animation” is used to describe the form of animation used in the earliest major motion movies, which was mostly a frame-by-frame technique done by hand.

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2D Animation

2D animation uses images made in 2D applications, is the most prevalent type of animation.

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3D Animation

Images produced using a 3D modeling program are called 3D animations.

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Motion Graphics

When asked to define motion graphics, the term “supplemental animated graphics” comes to mind.

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The term “stop motion” refers to the method through which still photographs are transformed into animated 3D works.

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An Overview: What is Motion Graphics?

With the use of animation and movement, motion graphics breathe life into otherwise static visual design, often without the need for a linear storyline.

So, do you want the bars on your graph to pop out a little more? That’s a moving picture.

Do you want your website’s logo to rotate continuously? What you just saw is an example of motion graphics.

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Animating characters to make a children’s fairy tale come to life is your goal, right? It’s not animation at all. This animation style is unique.

Why should you go with motion graphics instead of a much cheaper, static infographic?

Motion graphics can be compared to visual assistance. With the use of motion graphics, even the most complicated concepts can be presented graphically. In other cases, such as when trying to illustrate a more complex or abstract concept, words and static visuals just won’t do.

A small use of animation can explain everything clearly and quickly. Consider how certain password fields make a buzzing noise or turn red if you input the incorrect password, prompting you to try again immediately.

An Overview: What is Animation?

Motion graphics are a subset of the larger field known as animation. The history of animation goes back more than a century. Want to learn more about the past? Have a look at this fantastic animation resource.

Hand-drawn cartoons, computer-generated imagery, animated television, claymation, and motion graphics are all examples of animation.

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When it comes to promotional videos, the content is what sets motion graphics apart from other animation styles.

Motion graphics are often understood to involve the animation of various graphic design components, such as text, images, and abstract shapes. Motion graphics are a subset of animation that involves the use of movement to enhance static visuals like graphs, infographics, or site designs.

So, when do you use the term animation compared to motion graphics?

When you want to narrate a story to your audience, animation is the best technique to use in this. Those familiar with Pixar’s work will agree with the fact that animation can be an effective means of conveying emotional and dramatic content.

Main Differences Between Motion Graphics and Animation

Now let’s take a look at the main difference between animation and motion graphics. If you’re trying to decide between motion graphics and animation for video production, the following are some of the significant distinctions that might prove to be game-changers.

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Consider scaling up while planning your next video project. The production itself has its own quirks, so let’s see how they stack up against the inside.


When comparing the average team size in the animation and motion design sectors, there are significant differences.


It stands to reason that the degree of expertise would vary between animationand motion graphics, given the vast differences in team size and production structure between the two fields.

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It seems to reason that the tools used in animation design would be different from those used in motion design. Adobe After Effects can be used for all motion design projects, whereas Cinema 4D can be used in 54% of situations.

When it comes to animation, After Effects can be used 78% of the time, whereas Flash/animate is only used 57% of the time. More than 30% of studios utilize TVPaint, Harmony, Maya, and 3DS Max, whereas just 17% use Blender.

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