Motion Graphics vs. Animation: What’s the Difference?

Both types of artistic work produce visual content with moving objects. For an outsider, the distinction is vague. In fact, rather than being separate, the categories are interrelated. 

Motion graphics may be described as a subtype of animation. The latter is, in essence, an umbrella term. Everything from anime to claymation belongs there. For instance, a popular motion design course at teaches animation in After Effects. Why does this qualify as motion graphics? Let’s find out.

Narrative or No Narrative?

Motion graphics focuses on making static graphic elements move. Imagine that you want to make bars on your graph animated, so they grow or change color. Tasks like this involve zero narratives and thus fall into the motion design category. Basically, the artist takes a static object, such as shape, object, or text, and animates it.

The same applies to logos. Motion graphics is what makes those shapes and letters spin. Here, storylines are also notably absent. This is why bringing fictional characters to life is beyond the scope of motion graphic designers. Animation, on the other hand, may be defined as an art form built around:

  • narrative techniques and 
  • cinematic effects. 

It is, in essence, a storytelling medium. Characters not only move — they are provided with emotional expressions. This also explains why animation is more expensive to produce. It is more labor-intensive. Businesses that plan to advertise through realistic CGI, painted artwork, or stop-motion, are bound to spend more.

Where Still Images Fail

Why not use infographics, which are still but also cheaper? Indeed, this may suffice for simple concepts. What infographics fail to communicate well is complex or abstract ideas. Sometimes, a few seconds of illustrative movement are worth a thousand words. 

This visual dimension appeals to many people. While cartoons are overly childish for a business, motion graphics does the job for more mature subjects. Whatever the message, it looks more engaging with moving objects. 

In terms of costs, motion graphics is between animation and infographics. For businesses with fairly limited budgets, this offers optimal value for money. Moving objects are more engaging than still images, but do not cost as much as animated stories.

In Conclusion

Hence, there are two main approaches to the comparison between motion graphics and animation. On the one hand, the latter is a generic term for all kinds of works with moving graphic objects. In this regard, it includes things like:

  • hand-drawn cartoons, 
  • CGI, 
  • anime, 
  • claymation, and 
  • motion graphics. 

The lines between these categories are often blurred — for instance, CGI may be applied to motion graphics. Even hand-drawn motion graphics is theoretically possible.

Motion Graphics vs. Animation

At the same time, the animation is a realm of narratives, while motion graphics only makes graphic objects move. This view implies a deeper, more complex nature of animated videos. Characters are more than lines on a graph that light up. This kind of artistic work has the power to convey emotions and full stories.