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Motion Graphics vs Animation Explained: Understanding Their Differences For Your Next Project

motion graphics vs animation

If you want to get into producing animated videos for your business, you might be wondering what the difference between animation and motion graphics is.

Motion graphics and animation are two styles that are often confused, for a simple reason. Both are moving images, but where motion graphics are static images given movement, animation is a series of moving images.

The best way to see the difference is to compare the two techniques side-by-side. Which is what we will be doing in today’s article.

We will discuss motion graphics vs animation, and then explore some real-world applications and examples of these techniques.

Let’s get started.

What are Motion Graphics?

Motion graphics is a form of animation that involves animating graphic design elements in a way that visually illustrates facts and information without the need for a specific narrative or emotional storytelling.

It utilizes motion design principles to bring static images to life through movement and visual effects. Motion graphics can be seen in various forms such as logos, typography, icons, and illustrations.

A common use for motion graphics is in explainer videos, where complex ideas or concepts are broken down into simple and engaging visuals.

What is Animation?

Animation is a dynamic and expressive form of visual storytelling that brings still images to life through the illusion of movement, captivating viewers with its ability to evoke emotion and convey complex narratives.

Unlike motion graphics, which focus on animating graphic design elements without a specific narrative, animation encompasses a broader range of moving imagery. It allows for the creation of characters, objects, and environments that can interact and evolve over time.

In animation, every frame is meticulously crafted to create seamless movement and fluidity.

Animators use various techniques such as hand-drawn animation, computer-generated imagery (CGI), or stop-motion animation to bring their visions to life. This art form requires a deep understanding of timing, weight, physics, and character development.

Whether it’s a whimsical fairy tale or a gritty dystopian world, animation has the power to transport viewers into different realms and elicit powerful emotional responses.

Similarities Between Motion Graphics and Animation

Both motion graphics and animation involve the manipulation of visual elements to create dynamic and visually engaging content that captivates viewers. While there are clear differences between the two, there are also some similarities in terms of their purpose and execution.

Simplifies Concept

One similarity between motion graphics and animation is their ability to communicate complex ideas or concepts in a visually appealing way.

Both techniques can be used to simplify information or data into easily digestible visuals, making it more accessible to a wider audience. Whether it’s using animated characters or graphical elements, both motion graphics and animation have the power to engage viewers by presenting information in a visually stimulating manner.

Artistic Techniques

Another similarity between motion graphics and animation lies in their technical aspects. Both require skilled artists who possess a strong understanding of design principles, timing, and movement. Whether it’s creating smooth transitions for motion graphics or bringing characters to life through animation, both techniques require attention to detail and precise execution.


Keyframing is a common technique used in both motion graphics and animation. Artists set keyframes at specific points in time, defining the position, scale, rotation, and other parameters of elements. The software then interpolates between these keyframes to create smooth motion.


Professionals in both fields often collaborate with a diverse range of creative individuals to bring a project to completion. Graphic designers, illustrators, sound designers, writers, and other specialists may also contribute their expertise to ensure that the final product is cohesive and meets the desired objectives.

How are they different?

Understanding the differences between motion graphics vs animation is essential when deciding which technique best suits your project’s goals.

Method of Communication

One key distinction between motion graphics and animation can be seen in their use of narrative storytelling versus visual illustration.

Motion graphics, as a subset of animation, focuses on animating graphic design elements without a specific narrative. They are practical for visually illustrating facts and information in a clear and concise manner. With motion graphics, the emphasis is placed on creating visually appealing designs and incorporating various visual effects to enhance the overall impact of the video.

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On the other hand, animation encompasses a broader range of moving imagery that includes characters, objects, and environments. It is often used for emotional storytelling, where the main goal is to evoke emotions and engage viewers on a deeper level. Animated videos have the ability to bring characters to life and create immersive worlds that captivate audiences.

Skill Sets

While both motion graphics and animation require creativity and a strong understanding of design principles, they often involve different skill sets.

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Motion graphics typically involve manipulation of graphic design elements such as typography, icons, symbols, and shapes. These elements are animated using software tools to create movement and bring them to life. The focus is on creating visually dynamic compositions that effectively convey information or messages.

Animation, on the other hand, involves the creation of movement by individually manipulating each frame or image sequence. This process requires more time and effort as it involves drawing or rendering each frame by hand or using computer-generated imagery (CGI).


The primary purpose of motion graphics is often to convey information or enhance visual communication in a concise and appealing manner. Animation, while it can serve informational purposes, is more commonly associated with entertainment, storytelling, and creating emotional connections with the audience.

Length and Format

Motion graphics are often shorter and may be used in a variety of formats such as advertisements, presentations, or social media content. Animations can vary widely in length, from short animated clips to feature-length films, and are commonly seen in theaters, on television, or online streaming platforms.

Audience Engagement

Motion graphics are designed to quickly grab the viewer’s attention, convey a message, and maintain engagement. They are employed to communicate data, concepts, or ideas in a concise and visually engaging manner.

Animation, especially in the context of storytelling, aims to immerse the audience in a narrative, creating a more sustained and emotionally resonant viewer experience.

How are Motion Graphics made?

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Motion graphics are created through the manipulation and animation of graphic design elements, such as typography, icons, symbols, and shapes, using software tools to bring them to life.

These elements are carefully crafted by a motion graphics designer who uses their creativity and technical skills to design visually appealing and dynamic animations.

Here is a list of four key steps involved in the creation of motion graphics:

1. Conceptualization: The first step in creating motion graphics is brainstorming and conceptualizing ideas. This involves understanding the client’s goals and objectives, researching the target audience, and developing a creative concept that effectively communicates the desired message.
2. Design: Once the concept is finalized, the motion graphics designer starts working on designing the visual elements. They use graphic design principles to create aesthetically pleasing compositions, selecting appropriate colors, typography styles, icons, symbols, and shapes that align with the overall brand identity.
3. Animation: After finalizing the designs, it’s time to bring them to life through animation. Using specialized software tools like Adobe After Effects or Cinema 4D, the designer adds movement and transitions to each element. This involves setting keyframes for position, scale, rotation, opacity changes to create smooth animations.
4. Post-production: Once all animations are completed and refined for timing and visual impact consistency across different scenes or shots within a video project; post-production takes place where audio is added (such as voice overs or sound effects), color grading occurs if needed, exporting/rendering happens before delivering final files in various formats requested by clients.

Motion graphics designers play a crucial role in creating engaging visuals that captivate audiences’ attention while effectively conveying information or messages without relying on traditional storytelling techniques found in other forms of animation services.

How is Animation made?

Animation production involves the careful crafting and manipulation of individual frames to bring characters and objects to life through movement and storytelling.

It starts with a storyboard serving as a blueprint for the entire animation. Each frame is then meticulously hand-drawn or digitally created, capturing subtle changes in position, expression, and timing to create fluid motion.

To achieve this, animators employ various techniques such as traditional hand-drawn animation, where each frame is drawn by hand on paper or using digital tools. They may also use computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation, which involves creating 3D models that can be manipulated in virtual space.

Regardless of the technique used, animators must possess a keen eye for detail and an understanding of how movement can convey meaning and emotion. They carefully consider factors such as timing, pacing, and character design to ensure that their animations effectively communicate the desired message or story.

Overall, animation production is a time-consuming process that requires artistic skill, technical knowledge, and creativity.

Motion Graphics vs Animation: When to use each technique

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Motion graphics and animation are two distinct techniques that can be used to convey information or tell a story. When it comes to choosing between the two, it is important to consider the content and goals of your project.

Motion graphics are ideal for visually illustrating facts or data in a concise and engaging manner, while animation is better suited for emotional storytelling or creating immersive worlds.

When to use Motion Graphics

Corporate Presentations

Use motion graphics to create engaging title sequences, transitions, and informational graphics for corporate presentations. It’s an effective way to convey data, key points, and messages in a visually appealing manner.

Advertising and Marketing

Employ motion graphics in advertisements, social media campaigns, and promotional materials. They can quickly capture attention, communicate product features, and create a strong brand presence.

User Interface (UI) Design

Integrate motion graphics into user interfaces to enhance user experience. Animated elements can provide feedback, guide users, and make interactions more intuitive.

Explanatory Videos

Create short explainer videos using motion graphics to simplify complex concepts or processes. This is particularly useful for educational content, product tutorials, or instructional materials.

Product Launches

Integrate motion graphics into product launch events or announcements. Animated visuals can create excitement, highlight key features, and provide a memorable introduction.

When to use Animation

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Create animated films, TV shows, or web series for entertainment purposes. Animation allows for the development of characters, intricate plots, and immersive worlds that engage audiences over a longer duration.

Character Animation

Use animation for character-driven projects, including animated shorts, feature films, or character-based advertising campaigns. Animation excels in bringing characters to life with personality and emotion.

Video Games

Develop animated characters, environments, and sequences for video games. Animation is crucial for creating realistic movements, interactions, and cinematics within the gaming experience.

Educational Content

Produce educational animations to explain scientific concepts, historical events, or complex processes. Animation can make learning more engaging and memorable.

Healthcare and Medical Visualization

Use animation to visualize medical procedures, cellular processes, or anatomy. Animated visuals can simplify complex medical information for both professionals and patients.


Understanding the differences between motion graphics vs animation is crucial for businesses looking to create engaging videos that effectively communicate their message.

While there are similarities between the two techniques, such as the use of visual storytelling and motion to convey information, they differ in terms of content and goals.

Motion graphics are often used when businesses need to explain complex concepts or present data in a visually appealing way, while animation is more suitable for creating narratives and bringing characters or objects to life.

The creation process for both motion graphics and animation involves careful planning, designing, and animating.

Overall, understanding the distinctions between motion graphics and animation allows businesses to make informed choices when it comes to creating videos that engage their audience.

By leveraging these techniques effectively, businesses can enhance their marketing efforts and leave a lasting impact on viewers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can motion graphics be used to tell a story?

Yes, motion graphics can be used to tell a story. While motion graphics typically focus on animating graphic design elements without a specific narrative, they can still convey information and emotions through visual storytelling techniques.

What are some common software tools used to create motion graphics?

Some common software tools used to create motion graphics include Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, and Autodesk Maya. These programs provide a range of features and functionalities that enable designers to bring their ideas to life with dynamic visuals and animations.

Are there any limitations to what can be accomplished with motion graphics?

Yes, there are limitations to what can be accomplished with motion graphics. While they excel at visually illustrating facts and data, their focus on graphic design elements without a specific narrative can make it challenging to convey complex emotions or tell intricate stories.

How long does it typically take to create a motion graphics video?

On average, it takes several weeks to create a motion graphics video. This process involves concept development, storyboarding, graphic design, animation, and editing. The duration may vary depending on complexity, length, and the level of detail required.

Can animation and motion graphics be combined in a single video?

Animation and motion graphics can be combined in a single video, creating a dynamic blend of visual elements. This fusion allows for the practicality of motion graphics and the emotional storytelling power of animation, resulting in a captivating and innovative viewing experience.