Motion Graphics Project

With this being my first time working on a motion graphics animation, I started by researching into it and finding out what makes good motion graphics. I came across a video that explains the basics of motion design. Here is what I learned:

  • Motion graphics is animated graphic design, it is advertisement rather than entertainment. An animator uses characters and narrative while a motion designer reduces that communication to colour, space and typography
  •  It is split into 3 areas: the idea, techniques and result
  • Sound is a key element in motion design. It helps the viewer to appreciate the visuals and convey different moods
  • Nothing should be still, keep everything moving. More activity will bring it alive
  • Moving text should be for a reason and an emotion rather than just for the sake of it
  • Give the right shape to a message, to make it understandable, interesting and appeal to the right audience
  • Timing is crucial

Initially I wasn’t sure if I should do a mix of 2D and 3D, but I decided to stick with 2D in the end because it is a bit of a weakness for me, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to focus on it and improve. I was most interested in making a title sequence, so I made a list of title sequences that  stand out to me and started to think about what it is that makes them memorable:

My favourites were Sherlock Holmes and the Thomas Beale Cipher, I really liked these strong stylised looks from a particular era and experimenting with textures and rotoscoping. I was chatting to our lecturer Bob about my ideas so far and he showed me a short film called Butterflies which has a look similar to the Sherlock Holmes title sequence, building up layers of effects.

However, after some further thought, I decided to move away from this idea as I felt it wouldn’t properly explore the use of shapes and animation to convey a message. I would probably end up making something that looks nice but doesn’t get to the root of what motion graphics is all about.

So I went back to the drawing board, but this time I started by choosing a film as a starting point. This way I could examine the overall tone and themes of the film and figure out the best way to show these visually; starting with the idea then picking the appropriate techniques.

Inside Out

After considering a few options, I picked Disney Pixar’s Inside Out (2015). I really like this film and the themes conveyed through it. It has an overall fun tone and would allow me to explore how I can show 5 different emotions through typography, shape, colour and movement.

I had the idea of an object that moves through the text and encounters the 5 emotions of the characters in the film: joy, disgust, sadness, anger and fear.

In terms of style, I was thinking about how I could use simplified shapes to represent these emotions. I thought of the ‘abstract thought’ scene in the movie and the ‘non-figurative stage’ when 3 of the characters enter a room and are reduced to their most simplified shapes (video referenced at the bottom).

Inside Out: abstract thought scene

Another reference that uses simple shapes is the opening title sequence of Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001). I love this clean look and how the animation and music complement each other.

Monsters, Inc. opening title sequence


I watched Inside Out as part of my preparation and made notes on themes, colours and shapes that I could incorporate into my title sequence:

  • Film opens with a black screen (gentle piano music plays). Joy asks, “Have you ever wondered what goes on inside someone’s head?” Then goes straight into a shot of Riley as a baby. We then see Joy walking into the empty headquarters, she is glowing
  • Headquarters are blue and purple. Spinning cogs on wall have nice shapes
  • The surface of the emotions’ skin is bubbly, kind of like bubbles in a fizzy drink
  • Second last stage of the abstract thought scene, textures on simplified 2D shapes
  • Film ends with all being well, Riley gets settled into her new home. Ends with Riley is 12 now, what could happen?
  • Current credits on the film is clips of inside other characters’ heads, plus coloured circles floating on navy background
  • During the end credits, each set of text stays on screen for about 4 seconds
Inside out existing credits
Inside Out end credits

Themes in the film:

  • Family
  • Embracing change, seeing things in a positive way
  • All emotions have their place and have importance
  • Growing up, cherishing childhood while growing up to move onto new things
  • Overall feeling: fun but with real life deeper meanings

I decided to do an opening title sequence so watching the film again definitely helped me get the overall feel for the movie again so I would be able to set the scene and mood appropriately. My opening titles would introduce the viewer to each of the five emotions and have a bright, fun, light hearted feel. I worked out that if each set of text needed 4 secs each to be read comfortably, then the whole sequence would work out about 40 seconds long.

I did some further research and found this video of ways to show emotions through text. It was really helpful and gave me ideas of how I could show these emotions in my own ways:

I also came across this animation made in After Effects. I really liked the style of the flat assets having a black outline, it reminds me of children’s story books:

Storyboard and Animatic

Storyboard, the ball bounces through and interacts with the different emotions

I made the first draft of the animatic and then in the second draft I added music and fixed some of the timing:

Creating the assets

Next, I collected some references together and worked on refining a visual style. I used them to make a ‘library’ of shapes and colours and then narrowed this down into a few bullet points to sum up the style.

Style references
Narrowing down the style

I made the background for Joy first as a test. I was pleased with how it turned out. It’s nice and vibrant and the outlines give it a nice hand-drawn, slightly childlike feel.

Joy test 

Photoshop isn’t a strong point for me, so it took me a while to make this first background.  However, making the rest of them really helped me feel a lot more comfortable with Photoshop. I learned more tools and was able to work quicker. This boosted my confidence that I could use Photoshop more often for projects, as I sometimes shy away from it.

For each background and textbook shape I used their respective character for inspiration, for shapes and for colour. For example, the Disgust background has pointy green edges, like Disgust’s long eyelashes.


Disgust background
Sadness background
Anger background
Fear background

After Effects

My workflow:

  • Animate background transitions
  • Blocking pass for text shapes, focusing on timing and positions
  • Blocking bass for the ball, also focusing on timing and key positions
  • Spline pass for text and ball, working on squash and stretch, small movements
  • Work on the graph editor, adjusting tangents, ease in and out
  • FX animation – Sadness tears, Anger explosions

Parts of the animating process took longer to do than I thought, but overall it went smoothly and I didn’t really run into any major problems. The animatic was a big help for getting the timings and positions right.

All of the tutorials I used to help me are referenced at the end of the post.

The music was sourced from:

Here is the final outcome:


Our Friday motion graphics classes were really helpful for this project. They helped me feel comfortable using a new software and recapping the 12 principles of animation was very relevant to my project, seeing as it is mainly animation based rather than a lot of effects. This project helped me improve my 2D animation and the FX were a lot easier to make than I has anticipated. I really enjoyed making the FX and would be interested in exploring 3D motion graphics and how this can be incorporated with After Effects.

Overall I am pleased with how the final sequence turned out, I think I conveyed my main  idea of setting a fun tone and introducing the character’s personalities. If I could do this again, I would add some more effects to explore more of After Effects, as mine was mostly straight up 2D animation. I would also fix some of the timing because some of the text doesn’t stay on the screen long enough for the viewer to read comfortably.


Avnish Parker. (2018) 2D Explosion in After Effects – After Effects Tutorial – No Third Party Plugin. Available from: [Accessed 08 May 2019].

Frozen Inside 6. (2016) Inside Out – Abstract Thought. Available from: [Accessed 08 May 2019].

Kriscoart. (2013) LEARN AFTER EFFECTS IN 20 MINUTES! – Tutorial for beginners. Available from: [Accessed 08 May 2019].

MOBOX Graphics. (2017) Liquid Drip & Splash Effect – After Effects Tutorial. Available from: [Accessed 08 May 2019].

Rogge & Pott. (2010) The Basics of Motion Design. Available from: [Accessed 08 May 2019].

Zimri Mayfield. (2017) Simple Animation Tutorial – After Effects. Available from: [Accessed 08 May 2019].

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