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What is Motion Graphics?

The world of commercial animation comprises a number of fields and styles. The word “animation” itself is an umbrella term, inclusive of almost anything that has movement. 

One subset of animation is particularly confusing to some people, even though it’s all around us given the digital era. The genre in question? Motion graphics. This type of animation is so ubiquitous that it’s almost invisible. But motion graphics is a truly powerful tool when it comes to commercial branding and marketing animation.

In this article, we’ll explain what motion graphics is, its history, what differentiates it from other types of animation, its importance in the advertising and design industry today, and its healthtech applications.

From Static to Moving Designs

Motion graphics means graphics in movement. It’s the most straightforward definition possible. Oftentimes, motion graphics is also called motion design, making the relationship between movement and design elements easier to understand. Motion graphics is about bringing design knowledge to new mediums by adding the elements of time and space — thereby creating movement.  

But bringing design elements to life isn’t a simple task. Unlike other animation fields, you don’t have a pre-defined or “natural” way of animating things or objects. 

For example, in a traditional cel animation (think Disney movies), you can use endless references from nature to animate a human figure or animal. But in motion design, there’s no natural reference to how shapes, typography, and grids move. For this reason, motion designers study all types of movements, accelerations, and speeds. By putting all those variables together, they can bring life to design elements in a way that’s more humanized and capable of connecting with viewers.

The History of Motion Graphics

Before motion graphics existed, graphic design pieces only worked in a flat, unmoving format. Moving images were equal to the traditional Walt Disney cartoons. But with advances in the film industry — like the widespread use of opening titles — motion design emerged. 

Motion graphics was officially born in the 1940s, thanks to the experimental work of Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren. In the 1950s, equally amazing designers, such as Saul Bass, Maurice Binder, and Pablo Ferro, brought motion graphics more squarely into the public eye. 

The films these artists worked on are still major points of reference and inspiration to many motion graphics designers and cinema experts. Their work represented an unexpected and creative approach to setting the mood for spectators, creating excitement, and introducing technical information about the movie, such as the production company, film director, actors, and many others. This new way of playing with words and graphic elements that people had never seen before was the entrance point for motion graphics’ increasing popularity, reaching the movies and then mainstream television. 

Motion graphics is extremely connected with the advances in technology, so naturally, their evolution is intertwined. In more recent years, the advancement of design and animation software has allowed motion graphics to become a lot more accessible for those willing to learn or produce. At the same time, the ubiquity of screens has also created more opportunities to design and subsequently animate content. From cars to billboards, smart fridges to phones, everything nowadays uses motion graphics.

Applications of Motion Graphics Today

The development of technology and the presence of screens on multiple devices in our lives has expanded the full range of usage for motion graphics. What was once used simply to introduce technical information and set the mood for a story now serves a wide range of purposes.

On television, motion design is used in the opening of shows, as the video brand of the channel, and to introduce information with bumpers and lower-thirds. It’s also built into the forecast screen and in virtual backgrounds on the news. TV has been using motion since the early days, and it has become an integral part of its identity, helping make a channel or show memorable.

With the advances of websites and apps, motion has been playing a significant role in helping build better interface experiences through the niche area of UX motion design.

When it comes to advertising, especially social media, motion graphics really shine in everything from complex, story-driven ads, to simple animated Instagram posts. It’s a great tool for helping companies stand out from the crowd.

Other uses for motion graphics include everything from animated menus at fast-food chains to projected signs in airports and at events. Motion is used everywhere, and each situation explores its potential on a different level.

Motion Graphics in Action: Healthtech Edition   

The digital health industry provides a solid use case for what motion graphics look like in the modern world. Wellness is such a saturated space that motion can provide the differentiator brands need. Better yet, motion graphics work great marketing your brand whether you’re a global pharmaceutical company or a startup mental health app.  

Take this animation the MOWE team made for Mental Health Awareness Month. It manages to discuss a difficult topic — mental illness — in a lighthearted, relatable way. No wonder motion graphics are being leveraged in so many capacities as time marches on. 

How To Think Motion 


When thinking about a motion piece, it’s less about being literal and more about the expressiveness and abstractions you can create to convey an idea. By nature, motion design doesn’t rely on characters to perform well. The use of visual metaphors is a great ally for powerful motion videos.


When it comes to movement, the pace of actions and transitions of scenes is crucial for a good motion graphics video. It’s about mastering time and space. Rhythm comes from the difference of speed in the actions in various moments of animation. Smoother movements with a longer duration can bring a sense of peace, while fast actions and plenty of transitions speak to something more energetic. The combination of those in a single video helps to create the rhythm and generate climax. Movement is a language; it tells a story on its own and empowers the message. 

Reading Time

Motion is not just about elegant movements and an excellent rhythm. Another important aspect of motion is reading time. It means that every text and action on the screen should have the proper time to allow the viewer to read and understand what is happening. A lot of things happening in a short period of time can seem chaotic and result in misunderstanding.

The Boundless Potential of Motion Graphics for Marketing  

In the end, motion graphics is an incredible area of animation. Its popularity continues to grow over time. Understanding its distinctive usages and possibilities — including in the healthtech space — can lead to innovative ideas for your brand. Remember: Motion graphics means more than just nice movements. It combines design with communication and brings a piece to life.

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Felippe Silveira
Felippe Silveira
Co-founder & CEO at MOWE Studio