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What’s the difference between animation vs motion graphics vs graphic design?

If you are considering a career in motion graphics, it is important to be aware of subtle yet distinct differences between motion graphics and the closely related mediums that surround and even encompass it. First, let’s take a look at animation and graphic design to see how they connect and intertwine with motion graphics.

What is animation?

Animation is the artistic process of animating or bringing still art to life. Animation plays still images in rapid succession, where the subject appears to be moving, think back to the famous children’s cartoons you likely grew up watching. However, this is just one section of animation called narrative animation, this field is diverse and encompasses a variety of techniques across several industries. Whether it be in 2D or 3D, film production, game design, or user interface development, animators are broadly marketable and creative individuals. To learn more about career opportunities for animators, please visit here.

What is graphic design?

Graphic design prioritizes the exchange of information which makes the medium an ideal candidate for the creation of posters, infographics, and printed materials. This medium prioritizes color, composition, and typeface fundamentals to display information in often static positions called still graphics. Because of its lack of motion, still graphics are usually less time intensive and cheaper to produce than animation or other types of graphic design. As such, it is also more common and diversely utilized between industries. To learn more about career opportunities for graphic designers, please visit here.

What is motion graphics?

Graphic design motion, popularly known as motion graphics, can be considered the child of animation and graphic design. Motion graphics communicate information through visually engaging icons and text, which is inherited from graphic design. Then, motion graphics bring these components to life by way of motion, which it inherits from animation. Consider the design style you may associate with resources such as TedTalks, Powerpoint Presentations, or website tutorials. For this reason, motion graphics are commonly utilized in the industries of marketing, app development, and education. 

Motion graphics vs. animation

Whereas narrative animation is story-based, motion graphics are information-based. For example, in narrative animation, the audience may follow the character of a salesman as he tells customers about his product. Still, they might not be interested until he says “our product requires 50% less energy” – which sways the customers into purchasing the product. In motion graphics, there isn’t the same need for a story. Instead, the same example might look like an icon of an electrical outlet being slashed in half to visualize the “50% less energy”. Both communicate the same information, but in different ways. This doesn’t mean motion graphics aren’t artistic, in fact, motion graphics have become synonymous with bright colors, geometric patterns, and dynamic gestures. Rather, the art is in simplicity and sleekness.

Motion graphics vs graphic design

The line between motion graphics and graphic design may be more distinguishable than between motion graphics and animation. The sole difference is the use of movement. Simply put, motion graphics move and still graphics are still. If you see an infographic with the recycling logo next to “25% of all trash is actually recyclable”, then it’s a still-graphic. However, if you saw the same infographic on Instagram, where the three recycling arrows were chasing one another in the shape of a triangle, then it’s a motion graphic.

We hope this article has answered your questions about motion graphics and its related disciplines. To dive deeper into these related subjects, we recommend reading about RMCAD’s online and in-person animation and graphic design programs, or check out other stories on the RMCAD blog


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