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Scripts for motion design vary from those of a long-form visual project. A movie, for example, will rely heavily on dialogue as well as visuals. A branded animation is a little different. With a short time to create a narrative and pass on a message, it's crucial to project the right content in a truncated period.

This is where signifiers come into play. Motion design does not rely on flat prose but kinetic text. This means that signifiers, such as symbols, can bring an idea to life and stir a visceral response in a viewer. Signifiers are also known as visual hints. Think of them as similar to musical stings and cues. At their heart, signifiers tell your audience what to think and feel based on the visuals that unfold on-screen.

In addition to cutting down on long descriptions, signifiers are also a great way to share a universal message - not everybody that watches your motion design content will be a native speaker of your language.

Coupled with an appropriate colour palette, branding, and, yes, the aforementioned sounds, signifiers take a viewer on a guided journey through a motion designer's imagination. Compelling use of signifiers in motion design will follow this law to the letter, keeping viewers rapt through a project's running time. But, of course, motion designers understand this better than anybody - as you’ll see when you watch this video.

Photo credit: Google Looking Glass by Elastic

Visual signifiers immerse viewers in a motion design universe

Motion design thrives by crafting a narrative without forcing it down the throat of the viewer. Signifiers help spin an exciting and engaging story through visual language.

Awesome tools for a motion designer's workflow

Meggs' History of Graphic Design

This is a classic design history textbook with great motion graphics and design inspiration. I loved learning about past design movements, and this made me observe design around me in a different light.


Every motion design artist should have a sketchbook handy to brainstorm or sketch ideas before jumping onto the computer :)

Adobe Photoshop

Photoshop is an extremely powerful tool for motion design artists, helping you create photo-realistic styleframes to animating frame by frame. It’s a great program to have in your toolkit!

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If we compare motion design to building a house, the eventual animation would be installing the roof. Firm, reliable foundations need to be laid first in the form of illustration.

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