contrast is a key aspect of visual design

Visual design, 10 tips for the aspiring motion designers

When we talk about motion design, we focus on animation too much, and we don’t care too much about video visual design.

Animation is a crucial aspect of a motion design project, but it is not the only one that needs consideration.

We should focus more on the graphic design of the elements that populate the animation.

In this article, I want to share some tips and critical aspects of developing your visual design skills and taking them to the next level!

Let’s have a look!

1_Focus on Composition

2_Set the ratio

3_Choose the mood

4_Blend it all!

5_The best hierarchy is the visual one!

6_Typography is more than text 

7_Contrast is the key

8_Pump up the value

9_Flip the canvas!

10_Learn to draw

1_Focus on Composition

A solid composition is an essential aspect of creating all kinds of images!

Composition drives every good painting in the history of art and photography; you have to master it!

The “rule of third” is the most famous composition guide, but it is not the only one!

Many other “composition blueprints” exist, such as the famous golden ratio, the golden diagonal, or the triangular grid.

Placing the elements in a meaningful way and guided by those principles will guarantee you create better images that are easier to read.

You will also be able to communicate your message to the viewer smoothly. 

2_Set the ratio

There is another secret that will boost your visual designs: the ratio!

The ratio is a proportion which is constant through different elements.

For example, the human body is driven by the one ratio called “the golden ratio”, and it is the proportion of 1,618.

You can also find it in many architectural buildings and famous paintings.

The next time you have to design a frame, try to use a constant ratio to determine the distances from objects or their proportions in scale.

If an object has a scale of 100, to create a smaller one, try to do 100/1,618. The result of 61,8 will be the scale of the second object in correlation with the other one.

Another typical ratio often used is the square root of 2 (1,414) and the square root of three (1,732).

Try to use these proportions to set up your design, and you will unlock a more pleasant and harmonic view of your visuals! 

3_Choose the mood

I have found an essential aspect of pre-production handy: creating mood boards before setting up a motion design project.

Mood boards are a collage of meaningful images you want to refer to while creating the design.

Every mood board image could refer to a detailed aspect, such as textures, lights, or how something is displayed or built.

It is straightforward to create meaningful mood boards to show to your client; they are helpful to know if the kind of design you will go to develop further will be effective for him or not.

You can also create many mood boards for a single project, showing different explorations of the same subject or developing various aspects of the project.

Mood boards effectively communicate to the client the mood you will develop before you spend many hours designing it and discover that it is not exactly what the client expected.

4_Blend it all!

When you have almost finished your design, add layers and images on top of the frame that will allow you to blend it all.

This little trick will let you get more uniform and well-composited frames!

For example, you can use layers of light, the dirt of the lens, particles, noise, colours or chromatic aberration that will help you better blend all the elements or narrow the colour palette supporting them.

You can also add a LUT and place it in “Color” blending modes!

Be aware of subtly using those layers of mixing; they do not have to pop up very much but be present very slightly over your images.

5_The best hierarchy is the visual one! 

Setting up a visual hierarchy is the essence of a good design.

When you place your elements on the canvas, they have an order of relevance.

Try to establish it first before you start to design. Keep in mind the message you want to communicate; This will drive the hierarchy of your elements.

Ask yourself: Is this element relevant to the story? Is this one of the essential components?

Do not be just decorative when you design; try to express meaning and leave it to guide the hierarchy of the elements in your scene.

6_Typography is more than text 

How many animations did you craft without any text?

Unless you are intensely focused on illustrations, I bet the answer is: “a few.”

In my opinion, typography is one of the most underrated aspects of good design by motion designers.

That is why I highly recommend you to study typography. You have to know how, when and where to choose the correct font. Know the character’s attributes and play wisely with the font’s weight.

By mastering the use of fonts, your message will be clear and will stand out. Typography is one of the essential elements of every design and is a functional and beautiful element of your motion design videos.

7_Contrast is the key

Contrast, Contrast and Contrast.

Contrast is one of the critical aspects of creating compelling designs and animations.

You can create contrast in many ways; it is vital and present!

For example, you can create contrast by scale, colour, direction, meaning, or value.

If you create contrast in your image, you will surely grab the viewer’s attention!

8_Pump up the value

Another way to make your visuals stand out is by working with values.

Let’s forget all the beautiful colours you add to your design; watch your image in black and white!

How does it look? Is it pretty flat and grey? Or is it full of dynamic contrasts of black and whites ideally related to the visual hierarchy you set up early, focusing on your core message?

When you work in black and white using values, you go deeper into your visual’s core.

Your final design will look dull if your values do not have enough contrast and the image is flat and grey.

Add more or less value to colours by working exclusively in black and white, and be aware that your design’s core element must be the most contrasty and stand out more in your scene! 

9_Flip the canvas!

One particular tip that will unlock your design is: flip the canvas!

When placing elements in your scene, try to watch the image by flipping it horizontally or vertically.

You will discover that many objects on the canvas feel “wrong.”

When you see your canvas from a different perspective, the weight and shape of the elements also change.

Be sure to create a design that remains consistent and balanced in various directions of the canvas, and I guarantee that your visuals will be rock solid!

10_Learn to draw

One of the essential skills you need to develop as a motion designer is to learn how to draw or sketch images!

It is crucial for two different reasons:

The first one is that you cultivate the good habit of watching things meticulously by learning to draw.

By sketching, you can evaluate how a surface is made or how light is working and lighting an object.

The second aspect is that you must learn to translate your thought visually.

Blocking some shapes and creating a decent drawing is enough to make a rough storyboard or block some poses or shape elements.

If you have no idea how to draw and feel very uncomfortable, I advise taking a drawing course; there are many books and resources about the theme.

The ability to translate what is in your mind by drawing it will benefit your brain, designs, and career as a motion designer!

Do you find the tips helpful?