When it comes to motion graphics, a lot of people begin with the actual design process far too early. Nonetheless, it actually is crucial to have something you can always return to while constructing your graphics. Good preparation and a detailed plan keeps your head clear and allows you to effectively keep track of your next steps.
The first thing you need to do is conduct some in-depth research about the subject you are working on. What is it about? What kind of people are involved? Are you working on a motion graphic that has to explain a complex technical process in an entertaining way? If the answer is yes, you need to learn that particular process and understand it in every single detail.
Are you working on a commercial for a specific brand? If so, you should learn everything about the corporate identity of that brand and the customers they have. Ask the company that requested your help to provide that information. This will not only contribute to your research but also demonstrate to the company the amount of enthusiasm you put in your work. Also, you should take a look at previous commercials they have produced. Of course you don’t want to imitate them, but you should get a better feeling for the heart of their brand as well as the messages they’ve tried to convey with their designs in the past.
You should do some technical research to find the right software for your project as well. Will your standard motion graphics software meet all the requirements, or are you planning to produce some effects that demand other tools? Perhaps you’ll need 3D software or particle plugins. The sooner you know what tools you have and need, the better.
This is where the creative struggle often begins, but there’s no way around the requirements here. You need to have an idea, and it needs to involve the overall style and look of your motion graphic.
This is not an easy task. How do I begin? What shall I do first? Those are the questions that artists are most afraid of while sitting in front of an empty piece of paper or an empty canvas.
The most important thing is that you always look and listen to new and diverse content and that you also don’t ignore stuff that seems to have nothing in common with your project at first sight. This content should have a certain level of artistic quality and that it’s not just another generic TV production or Internet meme. The quality of what you consume is in most cases equal to the quality of what you produce.
The strategy behind this is of course NOT to copy someone else’s art, but to find connections between several ideas you like and think might fit to your current project. This can be an exceptional drawing technique, a special kind of storytelling in a movie, an interesting contrast in the dynamics of a piece of music, exciting architecture, or even some fascinating, new technology. By connecting your everyday observations and experiences, you can hit on ideas you wouldn’t even dream of. Collect those observations and experiences and let them be your inspiration for your next creative idea.
Mood boards are the first manifestation of your creative ideas in a visual way. They are a collection of elements that help you keep track of your thoughts. Mood boards will become useful for at least two reasons. First of all, they function as an instrument to visualize your ideas to your clients and co-workers. Secondly, they can serve as a record of your initial creative decisions. They also represent the beginning and summarize your inspirations. If you ever come to a dead end, it often helps to go back to the beginning and become re-inspired by it.
A good mood board communicates the atmosphere of your final design, the look and feel of your design. Basically, they lay out everything that you cannot describe in words. The general impression is much more valuable than the details. The more elements you use to visualize your ideas, the more specific it will become. I like to use as many different media types as possible to present my ideas from various perspectives and not only from the perspective of a designer.
With a storyboard we can take a closer look at how our design might look in motion. For this we need to visualize motion and animated elements on a static medium. Storyboards consist of a sequence of several images that relate to each other in a comprehensible way.
Filmmakers love storyboards! They are the best and easiest tool to plan a scene. Every major change of a shot gets its own little drawing in the storyboard. Many notes and arrows are used to indicate what happens between several images and which elements are moving, if the context doesn’t make all of that info obvious. There are an infinite ways to create a storyboard.
Some people create rough scribbles, or even full on masterpieces. Others outsource their drawing process to other artists or companies. Some people, mainly the ones with the rough scribbles, like to support their images by many notes and explanations about what they had in mind. These notes can be instructions for the camera, reminders for the production department, time designations for the several shots, and so on.
I personally like to develop my storyboards on paper (sadly I have to number myself among the people with the bad scribbles), but there is also a lot of software that provides pre-built elements to play around with such as characters, shapes, etc.
Presenting your idea to other people is a unique opportunity to observe their reactions. Do they understand what you are planning to do? Do they like it? What do they dislike?
In this context, it is also essential to hear the opinions of people that aren’t designers. How do they feel about your concept? Do they like it? Do they understand what they’re looking at, or do you have to explain it to them?
Listen to every statement you can get and make objective decisions about whether or not they will influence your work. At this stage, it is still easy to make changes, even big ones. At a later time even small modifications to your design might cause a lot of extra work.
I know the process of preparation can sometimes be a bit boring, but it is exactly that process that distinguishes professionals from amateurs and beginners. The last two would immediately open their design software and begin building something with no plan. At some point they will have no more ideas about what to do next. They will consult the works of other people to “get inspired by those”. This is not what we are going to do.
After you’ve gone through this preparation process, you should have a detailed plan that will guide you through the whole production. You’ll always know what to do next which will enable you to create your own, unique motion graphic design.
To learn more about Graphic-& Motion Design, you can preorder the free eBook, “Motion Graphics Design Academy”.