Recap | Homegrown After Dark: Motion Graphics

This week we held our first Homegrown After Dark session at Centerline, with their very own Mack Garrison. Mack is a Motion Graphics Designer at Centerline, and apparently a lover of corny jokes of which he shared a few. Puns aside, Mack is a great presenter and his passion for his work is evident in the way he talks about it.

Everybody likes to move

Motion graphic design takes many different directions. Forty-four percent of people sit in front of the TV with a device in hand (guilty), yet we take for granted how motion graphics have become a part of our daily lives. We see them on our TV’s, websites, smartphones, tablets, and video games. Mobile gaming profits are set to soar this year, and games like Two Dots are delightfully beautiful in their design and storytelling.

Motion graphics are a great way to tell a story. They can be easy to digest and increase engagement with your audience. They can make connections and send powerful messages that deliver a strong impact. And if done well, they can do it with typography alone, like this video for the Girl Effect:

When Mack saw this video it blew his mind. Until then, animation and design were separate in his mind. Seeing this video showed him that, like design, animation can have hierarchy, emphasis, make bold use of typography, and be eye-catching. It was this realization that changed the direction of Mack’s focus.

What are Motion Graphics?

Motion Graphics are the combination of three distinct disciplines:

  • Design
  • Animation
  • Film-Making
The same principles and elements we use in design are utilized in motion design. Form, line, shape, value, texture, and color all have their part in motion design. And you will find repetition, alignment, context, harmony, emphasis, and variety in supporting roles.

To show how the principles of animation are used in motion design, Mack shared this video based on the book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.

Pretty remarkable, to see so much life embodied in those squares.

To demonstrate the role film-making has in motion design, Mack shared this video that pays “homage to every editor out there in those dark rooms creating art with moving images.”

Tell more of the story

Putting a still image in motion tells more of the story. Movement increases interest, and enhances the sense of the visual, it gives it more emotion and generates a more poignant response from the viewer.

Motion Graphics can be used to shape the story you are telling. Mack compared using motion design and web design to tell a story. Web visitors follow their own path, with motion graphics you can control how the story plays out.

Get RIPPed.

After giving us an overview of what motion design is, Mack discussed the four part creative process when a motion graphic project comes into Centerline.

  • Research
  • Ideation
  • Presentation
  • Production


The more you understand the foundation of the project and the client’s business the more successful and effective the project will be. The creative brief plays a very important role in this part of the process. Consider where people will see the content, what type of devices will it be seen on? Who is the audience and what is the message? What is the desired action for the audience to take? Take your insights from the brief and seek inspiration.


In this stage the first deliverables will be created to show them the concept and determine the style of animation. There are several tools that can be used together or on their own to get the concept across to the client.

  • Style Frames
    • Text treatments, graphic styles, colors, etc.
    • Still frames.
    • Script is in place at this point.
  • Story boards
    • Sketches that outline the concept highlighting key elements of script
    • One or two frames for major scenes from the script
    • Texture, this is more important for 3D animations
    • Good way to be clear on concepts before begin g process of animating
  • Motion Comps
    • 5-10 second build of the scene
    • Gives a basic idea of what it will look like
    • Use when it is difficult to get style idea across in a still alone
    • Good for clients who just can’t visualize the motion, or if there is a really unique motion to demonstrate.
  • Mood boards
    • Stylistic
  • Animatics
    • Used with 3D animations.
    • Takes the storyboard sketches and times it out with VO.
    • Helps client envision it before you build the 3D animation.


Before presenting to the client, you need to present to your team and sell the idea to them. You need to be able to justify your design decisions. The writer will need to make sure that the content is right, and the project manager, who knows the client’s taste, and wants for the project, plays devils advocate for the client. Once the team and then the client is sold on the project, it goes into production.


The production stage begins with pre-production and gathering assets together for the project. Assets include: stock footage, rough cuts, 3D modeling, VO, stock images, and any video shot for the piece. With all the assets collected, production begins. Timing is set and the animations are created and build details are finalized.  The last stage of production is when final edits are made and  the sequence is rendered to create the finalized deliverable for the client.


After taking us through the stages of a motion design project, Mack emphasized that, as in all design projects, the details matter for the success of the project. Not just the details in the piece, but in all aspects of the project. From organization to presentation and everything in between, it is the extra effort in the details that have a big impact on the quality of the finished project.

I want to thank Centerline and Mack for opening their space to us and sharing their knowledge. I really enjoyed our first Homegrown After Dark. Mack is an engaging speaker and his presentation was a great introduction to the world of motion graphics for anyone interested in either learning a new skill or considering using motion in a future project. And the the content was focused on Motion Design, I think there were aspects of the content that are applicable or adaptable to other design and creative disciplines.



By Amy Lyons
Published February 14, 2015