What is the Difference Between Motion Graphics and Animation, Anyway?

When looking to produce animated content for your brand, it’s important to know what you’re looking for and how various forms of animation can best serve your needs. Let’s examine the difference between motion graphics and the animation medium as a whole to understand the function, range and flexibility of this highly engaging area of marketing.

What is Animation?

Animation is a broad net that extends across mediums, styles and platforms. From a simple animated flip of a logo to fancy Pixar animation, simply looking for an “animator” to fill your needs will net you a wide variety of results. A traditional hand-drawn animator can do some incredible work, but will have a very different scope than say, a 3-D modeler and animator. And of course, if you’re looking to pair animation with pre-existing brand content, you’ll need expertise on both the animation and design side of things.

What are Motion Graphics?

Motion graphics are supplementary design elements that serve as visual aids alongside static design. Animated infographics for example, take the same information within your typical chart or graph, but utilize animation to further push the visual narrative. An animated logo can expand on the personality of the original design. In the same way that graphic designers use shape, type, and color to convey your message, motion graphics utilize the principles of animation to reinforce those core designs.

In terms of style and complexity, while motion graphics typically remain on-brand with a project’s style guide they are often able to step into a more experimental area of animation due to their more condensed formats. These sorts of motion graphics projects fit perfectly into mediums such as social media or newsletters, where the objective is to capture a viewer’s attention within a matter of seconds.

Compared to other avenues of animation, motion graphics tend to have a stronger focus on production efficiency and flexibility for two reasons:

  1. The faster-paced nature of the commercial field (as opposed to the monthly or yearly cycles of television or movie production.
  2. The platforms in which motion graphics are viewed (designed to be viewed in minutes or seconds, not in hour-long sittings)


All this isn’t to say that the motion graphics field is of either an inferior or superior quality, but rather that it stands to showcase the differing environments in which each medium is created. It’s a unique subsection of animation that has adapted to the fast-paced nature of digital media. 

In essence, motion graphics are animation’s way of keeping up with a world that never stops moving.