Is there a difference between animation and motion graphics?

So, to help you identify the best marketing asset to promote your brand, we’ve used this article to explain the difference between animation and motion graphics. Below, you’ll find an outline of their similarities, differences and unique plus points, straight from our industry experts

Written by Jack Last

Much like traditional pen-on-paper art, digital content can take a wide range of different forms. 

Long gone are the days where a digital advert meant a flashing yellow banner on the top of a web page. Now, artistry, creativity and marketing innovation has well and truly rocked the advertising world.

Companies can choose to represent their brand in a wide variety of ways. Each of these options varies in its style, content form, levels of engagement and the level of specialism required to create them. 

Two of the most popular modern forms of digital marketing are animation and motion graphics. These are highly successful forms of video content, renowned for their high engagement, strong visual style, sense of fun and creativity, and the uniqueness of each individual asset.

But, because they are both types of video content, they are often confused with each other.

What are motion graphics?

Motion graphics are videos that transform graphic design elements into moving content.

Think of it like this - graphic design illustrates words in bold and artistic ways. Motion graphics takes these words, including their designed elements, and makes them move, bringing even more of an impact to the words.

They are bold and impactful. What’s more, these videos can be made as long or short, quick or complex, as you like. For instance, they can be used for everything from making your logo spin, to informing your customers about your latest company announcement.

As with graphic design, the text remains the core component of motion graphics. These videos make an (otherwise pretty mundane) piece of written information a fun, engaging and attractive asset to a brand’s digital presence. They are also fused with sound, to make the video easy to watch, memorable and ensure it achieves maximum engagement.

These videos feature bold and modern design, to catch the eye and retain attention. In fact, specialist motion graphic creators have the skill of captivating audiences, ensuring that they watch the video until the very end. This makes them far more effective at communicating a message to your consumers than a chunk of plain written text.

A wide variety of text can be featured in motion graphics, it all depends on the company’s needs and purpose for the video.

What is animation?

While motion graphics are a new, characteristically modern addition to the marketer’s repertoire, animation has been around for as long as screens have.

We’re all familiar with Disney’s ground breaking Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the gorgeous illustrated animations that it uses.

Well, although we’ve progressed somewhat since then, the concept remains largely the same. Today, animation is no longer restricted to the world of film, and this attractive, visually impactful content is used throughout the marketing industry.

When used in marketing and advertising, animation is a form of video content, featuring moving illustrations. It is an umbrella term, under which you can choose from a huge range of animation styles and techniques.

Animation continues to be an art form which captivates viewers, through a thoughtful narrative and storytelling. While motion graphics make a point, animation (as it always has) takes the viewer through a story.

Brands can choose between different types of 2D animations (like this charming example from our campaign with Ford), or 3D animations (see our fun Deliveroo pick up campaign). More on this below.

What are the different types of animation?

Remember, animation is an umbrella term - it covers a vast range of different styles, depending on the brand’s existing aesthetic, as well as the individual style of the animator.

They can encompass everything from sweet, traditional animations, to abstract, minimalist and vibrant modern designs - it’s all about considering what message you want your animation to convey, and how you want to achieve that.

1) Traditional Animation

Going back to the Disney example, traditional animation features in some of our most-loved childhood films. Think classics like Snow White, Bambi, The Lion King, and so on.

This technique was traditionally undertaken by using hand-drawn illustrations, which were featured in frames. Then, these frames were redrawn with a slight change, so that once enough frames were drawn, you could flip through each frame one by one, to create the effect of movement.

Although computer animation has largely taken over the industry, the original aesthetic of traditional animation still has a firm hold in animation. Thanks to their nostalgic charm, they remain a highly popular form of animation.

2) 2D Animation

2D animations feature 2D illustrations, which are made by using vector lines and shapes within an animation, before bringing movement to the drawing.

This branch of animation can encompass a wide range of animation types - essentially, any animation that does not feature 3D elements can come under this heading.

3) 3D Animation

3D animations are more complex to create, as they require the use of specialist 3D modelling software to create a 3D effect within the video.

3D animators can achieve this effect by, for example, using shadowing to create a multi-dimensional look, creating the impression of a hand reaching out to the viewer through their screen, or by showing multiple sides of an object, in a 3D rotation.

4) Motion Graphics

Motion graphics can (and often do) use illustrated or animated content, but they differ from other forms of animation through their use of text.

This text could be animated to feature a wide range of different movements, like the letters growing or shrinking, popping like a bubble, sliding across the screen, or changing colour - whatever animation style best fits with the brand’s style and the message that the video intends to communicate.

5) Stop Motion

Stop motion is a method of animating, which is very popular in the film industry. Remember Wallace and Gromit? Well Aardman is one of the world’s most well-known stop motion animators.

It works by using hand-made figurines, which are created using plasticine, without the use of any internal armature. This gives them complete flexibility, and so they can be moved however the animator wishes.

The animator then sets the figure in a position, takes a photograph, moves it slightly, takes another photograph, and repeats. Eventually, when you sandwich together all of the photographs from this painstaking process, it creates the effect of the figure moving.

The use of plasticine gives stop motion animation a characteristic design, which is immediately recognisable by viewers. Although modern technologies have made the creative process much easier, today’s stop motion animators still have this fun, clay-like visual style.

When created by a professional animator, these videos are a brilliant way to stand out in the busy digital marketplace.

At OK Social, our talented team has extensive experience creating all forms of animation. We have the skills and software required to create an animation which suits the exact style, content, sound and design that you had in mind. Our tailor-made animations are designed to help brands engage with current trends, bring youth and energy to their digital presence, and achieve all of their key deliverables.    

Can animation and motion graphics be used together?

Short answer: Yes, absolutely! In fact, when you use these two elements together, the combination can achieve some incredible, highly engaging results.

We love this example from our Taco-Bell promotional campaign. The purpose of the video was to promote Taco-Bell’s new Click & Collect service, which was opening near Wembley Stadium, London. So, to make this message fun, thereby encouraging people to pay it a visit, we decided to blend motion graphics with quirky, on-brand animation.

In the video, we illustrated key words in a bold, branded and animated typography. Then, we made this content even more engaging, we added in 2D animations of moving tacos.

The result - a whimsical and stylish video, which made this new announcement in a fun way, which perfectly suited all of the brand’s digital platforms.

Animations can bring even more clarity to a piece of motion graphics. Relevant animations can make it clear, from an immediate glance, what the video is about. Then, the viewer only needs to keep watching to find out more information.

It’s also another great way to boost the engagement and views of a new piece of video content.

When done well, by a professional animator, video content that contains these features can achieve remarkable results for a brand. For instance, reports have revealed that users will spend 88% more time on a website if it has video content. Furthermore, videos have been shown to generate 1200% more shares than image and text-based content combined.

Investing in video content is a great, cost-effective way to expand your brand’s outreach, get your product in front of new customers, while promoting a more appealing brand image. Tick, tick, tick.

The key differences between animation and motion graphics

To help you choose the right style of video content for your brand, let’s go over the key differences between animation and motion graphics. 

  1. The content - a motion graphics video typically includes on-screen text, combined with shapes and sometimes images. In comparison, the main piece of content within an animated video is animated characters.
  2. The typical purpose - an animated video is the best option for brands that are looking to tell a story within their video. In a motion graphics video, the main purpose is to use text to create visually stimulating animations, which are geared to grab attention. The video’s job is to communicate a written message in a more engaging way. 
  3. The dimensions - another huge difference between motion graphics and animation is the variations in dimensions. Animation could feature either 2D or 3D elements. Motion graphics, however, are typically associated with a 2D style.
  4. The design - as with modern graphic design, motion graphics most commonly feature a bold, colourful and abstract style. With animations, while traditional story-like drawings are especially popular, you can opt for a wide range of different styles. 
  5. Their appeal - while both types of video content can be used for a wide range of different purposes, motion graphics typically have a larger number of use cases. They are more formal in style, and so can be used for both formal businesses and youthful brands alike. Whereas animations may deter businesses that pride themselves on their formality. 

Animation videos are most commonly used for: 

Marketing campaigns - see the OK Social showreel as a fun example

The uses of motion graphics include (but aren’t limited to):

As you can see, both types of video share a lot of similar use cases, and they are, equally, great ways to get your audience enthused about your company.

The best way to identify whether animation or motion graphics (or both) would be best suited for your company is to consider what you wish to achieve in your video, and what style your audience would expect to see from your brand.

If you are a bank, wanting to talk your users through a new website update, a motion graphics video would be a solid option.

If your edgy drinks brand has introduced a new product to its range, a lively animation video is sure to grab your audience’s attention.

Either way, our talented creative team can deliver a custom-made video, which brings your vision to life.

At OK Social, we create results-driven content, carefully crafted to build on your brand’s existing aesthetic. Working with our experienced and talented design team of animators and motion graphic designers, you can create on-trend, artistic content that makes your brand stand out amongst a crowded marketplace.

Our team can offer you the full content creation package, including audio and voiceovers, illustrations and graphic design, all driving impressive web engagement stats.

To get your marketing strategy off the ground running, get in touch with our team today - share your vision with us, and we’ll work with you to create some extraordinary content.

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I’m Jack, the Motion Director here at OK Social. I’ve been working in the world of motion design and animation for nearly 10 years. I had the pleasure of working with leading agencies and brands around the world, such as Samsung, Ford, Shell, Deliveroo, and Starbucks, to name a few.

From a young age, I’ve always been interested in animation, from making stop-motion films in my room as a kid to learning animation on my first computer. It started as a passion and still is to this day. Part of what I do now is more than just animation. I help craft the narratives of the stories we tell to ensure they make an impact to the audience and remain worthy of their attention.

So how do I do that? It starts with asking the right questions, leading to solving the right problems. First, diagnose what the problem is. Then, we can start to see if we can help. I believe that communication plays a key role in delivering a smooth and successful project. Looking into the future, I’m excited to expand my knowledge into creating more engaging stories that make a difference.