Motion Graphics vs. Graphic Design: What’s the Difference?

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In November 2013, parody musician “Weird Al” Yankovic reached out to visual artist Jarrett Heather to create a music video for an upcoming song. When Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun album dropped the following July, Heather’s 500 hours of design work went public, and his video for “Word Crimes,” featuring animated text, received more attention than the song itself.

Graphic designer at work on a project.

Heather’s work is one example of how visual design artists, such as those in the fields of motion graphics and graphic design, can make a product stand out. Motion graphics and graphic design artists use computers and technology to create purposeful visual art, which plays a major role in how companies advertise and market their products and services. Read on to learn more about these related career paths, what sets them apart, and how you can obtain one of these fun, versatile jobs.

Motion Graphics Overview

If you’ve ever watched the opening sequence to a movie, you’ve seen motion graphics in action. Motion graphics artists create self-contained animations that include the use of text to convey information or emotion. Video games, movies, television advertisements and shows, and other types of digital media utilize motion graphics.

This highly visual work combines a creative eye with computer skills to develop a standout product that captures the audience’s attention and remains memorable. Motion graphics professionals understand the nuanced principles of animation and apply them to their work every day. They create appealing, emotive animations that achieve a specific goal. Because the animations they create involve text, they also have a thorough understanding of typography and how different fonts, sizes, and styles impact viewer perception.

Motion Graphics Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes motion graphics professionals in the category of multimedia artists and animators, of which there were 71,600 in the U.S. as of May 2018, with a median annual pay of $72,520. The BLS projects the job market for multimedia artists and animators to grow 4% overall between 2018 and 2028.

Graphic Design Overview

Graphic designers create static visual art for branding, promotions, operations, and more. Graphic designers can create business logos, movie posters, website designs, promotional materials, and other catchy, meaningful visual elements. They work with clients to develop a deep understanding of their vision and goals for the brand. They then turn to their artistic skill and creativity to make that vision a reality. To find success as a graphic designer, it’s essential to develop skills in typography, design, and layout. In addition, graphic design professionals frequently use design-oriented computer programs, such as Adobe Suite, and programming skills, such as CSS and HTML, to create digital products that reflect the brand.

Graphic Design Job Outlook

The BLS indicates there were 290,100 graphic designers in the U.S. as of May 2018, earning a median annual salary of $50,370, with the highest 10% earning over $85,760. The field of graphic design will experience an anticipated 3% growth between 2018 and 2028, with a net gain of 8,800 new jobs during that span.

Similarities Between Motion Graphics and Graphic Design

Motion graphics and graphic design artists both use computers to create visual graphics that inform, persuade, or entertain. These careers involve working in many different industries and typically entail using advanced design software to create and manipulate graphics and effects. Those aspiring to be either type of artist can build their own businesses as freelancers or work in-house for production or design companies.

Both careers require ample creativity and visual design skills, as well as the ability to understand clients’ visions and design needs. A related degree such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media can provide aspiring motion graphics and graphic design artists with essential technology and design skills.

Differences Between Motion Graphics and Graphic Design

Though motion graphics and graphic designers have many similarities, there are some key differences that set them apart. Their use of animation and typical industry placement are the most notable, but there are others as well.

Animation

The biggest difference between these two fields is the use of animation. Motion graphics, as the name implies, feature a moving element, such as the familiar shooting star that soars across the top of the Walt Disney Studios logo or the three stars settling in over the Paramount mountain. For this reason, motion graphic work is often more time-intensive.

Graphic design does not involve animation. Graphic designers work with still images, either in a digital format or in print, such as posters, business cards, or stationery. Once there is movement, graphic design becomes motion graphics. Some graphic designers can finish a project in as little as an hour or two for a simple logo or flier.

Industry Placement

Many multimedia artists and animators work in the entertainment industry. The majority of them are self-employed, with nearly 60% identifying as freelancers. Another 12% work for motion picture companies, and it filters down from there. Due to the nature of their work, animators and motion graphic artists work on only a few projects at once, which can sometimes last months or years.

Only 22% of graphic designers are self-employed, with the rest working in-house in a variety of industries. For example, graphic designers may create clothing, design websites, or develop logos that will appear both in print and digital formats.

Motion Graphics vs. Graphic Design: Which Is Right for You?

Motion graphics and graphic design artists can benefit from an educational background that includes courses on typography, design theory, designing for meaning, and more. Through a program such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Media, you can gain typography, design, and technology skills that can help you succeed in these fields. Learn more and see how you can become a creative, engaging digital visual artist.

Recommended Readings
Digital Marketing Trends Marketers Need to Know

The Future of Media: Concepts and Trends for Communication Professionals

What Does the Future of Advertising Look Like?

Sources
99designs, “Motion Graphics vs. Animation: What’s the Difference?”

Bitable, “What Is Motion Graphics?”

Jarrett Heather Presents: Word Crimes

Triplet 3D, “The History of Motion Graphics”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Graphic Designers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Multimedia Artists and Animators