The Difference Between Motion Design and Animation

‘What is the difference between motion design and animation’ is probably one of the most popular questions asked from digital artists and from people running video production agencies. Even though they are quite different, they have a few similarities too. 

For example, the similarity between both of them is that motion graphics and animations are two forms of visual art. And, the most common factor among them is that both include objects, graphics, 3D, 2D characters. All of them are given movement and artists breathe life into them.

First thing first: Giving movement to a 2D or 3D graphic is known as motion graphics. On the other hand, animation is a broader term that is used for the art of making objects move and creating moving imagery. A few examples of animations can be seen in DVCs, whiteboard animation, cartoons, and clay animation. 

Motion Graphics Vs. Animation 

Motion graphics are also a part of an animation. 

Motion graphics and animation are often used interchangeably. There are a few similarities between the two which become the reason why they are so commonly interchanged in conversations. Both of them are an art of taking a static image and bringing it to life, motion graphics and animation are both forms of digital art in which characters or graphics are given real lifelike movements. 

What are the softwares used in Motion Graphics and Animation? 

They both use the same software to achieve the result they want, such as After Effects, Maya, 3D Max, Cinema 4D, etc. The twelve principles of animation are used in both motion graphics and animation. These are a set of visual rules followed by artists to give their drawings or designs movement in a natural way. 

Important Characteristics That Set Them Apart 

Along with similarities, there are many differences that distinguish the two from each other. The key difference between the two is content and its application. Let’s find out more about it:

  1. Meaning: Motion graphics is the animation of graphic designs, it gives energy to static objects such as words, logos, and graphic designs with movements and with or without sound. On the other hand, animation is a technique that uses successive drawings or 3D models to create the illusion of movement and tell a story through the characters and take the audience through an emotional journey. However, in many instances, a piece of content might use both motion graphics design and animation, especially in advertisements.
  2. Application: The easiest way to differentiate between animation and motion graphics is to see them through the stories each one aims to tell. Animation is generally where there are characters and a storyline where the action leads to a climax and then reaches a conclusion. It could be a short story, a presentation with characters telling an informational story, or a full-length animated Disney movie. 
  3. Presentation: Motion graphics is more about giving motion and life to something that would not normally have any. Such as shapes and logos inside a presentation, the background design of an explainer video, or digital marketing. Another use of motion graphics is to show a process of something, for example, how a product is made and shipped to customers.

Another way to differentiate motion graphics and animations is that motion graphics relate to the work of graphics designs while on the other hand animation is more similar to illustration.

Graphic designers explain a concept through visuals, and motion graphics designers do the same but with movement. 

In the creative business, these two roles are usually very distinct. The animation department will have illustrators sketching the art while the animators will use the software to give those illustrations life. Illustrators create a pictorial story. Meanwhile, animators breathe life into stories. In either case, the motion graphics designer works directly with a graphic designer or can even be one, or an animator can also either be an illustrator or could work closely with one.

Generally, a client or an advertising agency decides if they need an animator or a motion graphics designer, for that they need to analyze exactly what it is they want to convey with the finished work. If they want an emotional animated story of how their products change peoples’ lives, then an animator will be more suitable. If the client needs a visually appealing presentation about their sales efforts of the past year, then a motion graphics designer is exactly what they need.


In conclusion, both motion graphics and animation are commonly misunderstood as the same medium, however, they are vastly different, other than a few factors. The most distinctive differences of them are that the motion graphics are used in TVC’s, short intros, and visualizations along with the assistance of graphic designers. While animation is used in long or short movies, simulations, scientific documentaries, and anything that represents a story with the help of an illustrator.

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