An editorial illustration depicting an abstracted motion design workflow. Various elements of the process, such as musical notes, a lightbulb, keyframes, and animation software icons, float around the composition, loosely connected by dotted lines. The overall design suggests the dynamic and fluid nature of motion design, with energetic motion trails.
Illustration by Steve Kovo / Runner

Motion design studios come in all shapes and sizes. Some operate as small, agile teams, functioning entirely remotely. Other studios are much larger with offices full of employees, operating within office parks and bustling city centers . When you look at a studio’s roster of clients, you may notice they cater to small, local businesses. Some of the more well-known studios will often list big name clients like Airbnb and Amazon. Many motion design companies proudly proclaim themselves as storytellers, showcasing portfolios brimming with explainer videos created for one of Google’s various ventures. Conversely, some of the less-known studios tend to specialize in crafting social media content and localized video advertisements for businesses situated in the cities they call home. But regardless of their size, clientele, or the content being produced, motion design studios generally follow a the same process for making video content.

Companies enlist motion design studios to effectively communicate the value of their products and services to customers. To do this, motion artists have to think different than traditional animators. Motion designers focus not on scenes but rather on frames.¬†Each storyboard is a series of visual metaphors. Each frame an idea transformed into an image. Narration takes the place of dialogue. Motion design isn’t simply an alternative to traditional animation; it’s its own artistic medium. And although every Motion design studio is different in its own way, each one follows more or less the same workflow.

The 8 Stages of Motion Design

When it comes to bringing brands to life through captivating visuals and dynamic storytelling, motion design studios follow a well-defined workflow. This carefully crafted process allows them to effectively communicate the value of products and services to customers while showcasing the unique artistic medium that motion design has become. From receiving the initial brief to delivering the final exports, each step in the motion design workflow contributes to the creation of compelling animated content. Let’s explore the eight stages that motion design studios typically follow.

Selection of six frames from a storyboard document labeled "Filene Data Stacks Storyboards Page 2/6" depicting a character mixing ingredients.
Motion Graphics Storyboards / Runner

1. The Brief

The motion design workflow typically begins with a brief from the client. This initial step is crucial as it sets the foundation for the entire project. The brief provides essential information about the client’s objectives, target audience, desired message, and any specific requirements or constraints. It serves as a guiding document for the motion design team to understand the project’s scope and align their creative vision with the client’s goals.

2. The Script

Once the brief is received and understood, the next step is to develop the script. The script acts as the backbone of the motion design project, shaping the narrative and conveying the key messages. It outlines the voice over (VO) narration and any important visual cues. The script needs to be concise, engaging, and tailored to the target audience. Collaboration between the motion design team and the client is essential during this stage to ensure that the script captures the essence of the brand or message accurately. Sometimes clients bring their own script to the table. In this case the motion design studio acts as a consultant and provides their expertise as to whether the script needs any changes before moving forward.

3. Storyboards

With the script in hand, the project moves on to the storyboarding stage. Storyboards are a series of rough sketches or illustrations that visually represent each scene or frame of the video. They serve as a visual blueprint, showcasing the composition, timing, and transitions of the motion design. Storyboards allow the team to pre-visualize the sequence of events, ensuring that the narrative flows smoothly and effectively communicates the desired message. Feedback and revisions from the client may be incorporated during this stage before progressing further.

Selection of four storyboards. From top left to bottom right there are illustrations of a credit union building, a kitchen, a character with baking tools and the words "Data Sourcing", and finally an ingredient being poured into a bowl with the words "Internal Data".
Motion Graphics Style Frames / Runner

4. Style Frames

Once the storyboards are approved, the motion design team develops style frames. Style frames are static images that showcase the visual aesthetic and design elements that will be used in the final animation. They help establish the overall look and feel, including color schemes, typography, graphical elements, and any specific branding guidelines. Style frames enable the client to visualize how the animation will appear and provide an opportunity for feedback and adjustments before the animation phase.

5. Animation

With the approved style frames as a reference, the motion design team begins the animation process. They bring the static visuals to life, adding movement, transitions, and effects to create engaging and dynamic motion graphics. During this stage, a scratch track or temporary voice over is often used to time the animation and synchronize it with the narration or dialogues. Iterative reviews and revisions are conducted to ensure that the animation aligns with the client’s vision and maintains consistency with the brand or message being conveyed.

6. Voice Over

Once the animation is near completion, the final voice over recording takes place. Professional voice talent is engaged to deliver the script with the appropriate tone, pacing, and emphasis. The voice over adds depth and personality to the motion design, enhancing the overall storytelling experience. Careful attention is paid to ensure that the voice over aligns seamlessly with the visual elements and timing of the animation. Multiple takes or variations may be recorded to provide options for the final edit.

7. Music and Sound

Music and sound effects play a significant role in enhancing the impact and emotional resonance of the motion design. Once the animation has been give a thumbs-up and the project has picture-lock, the studio can start working on adding music and sound effects. At this stage, suitable background music and sound effects are selected to complement the visuals and strengthen the desired message. The motion design team may collaborate with sound designers or composers to create custom audio elements tailored specifically for the project. The integration of music and sound effects is carefully balanced to create a cohesive audiovisual experience. Once the audio is approved, a final mix is performed by the sound engineer.

8. Final Exports

Once all the elements are in place, the project enters the final stage of exporting the video content in for a final delivery. This may include various aspect ratios and formats to accommodate different platforms, devices, and distribution channels. The video may need to be adapted for different languages, incorporate brand variations, or include specific calls-to-action. Quality control checks are performed to ensure that the final exports meet the technical specifications and adhere to the client’s requirements.

That’s All Folks

The motion design workflow encompasses 8 stages, from the initial brief to the final exports. It involves collaboration between the motion design studio and the client at various checkpoints to ensure that the project aligns with the desired objectives and effectively communicates the brand’s message. Through careful planning, creative execution, and attention to detail, motion design studios bring visual narratives to life, capturing the essence of brands and engaging audiences through the power of animation.

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As a full-service motion design studio, Runner has all the tools and know-how to help you tell your story. Contact us to learn more.

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Runner is a multidisciplinary creative studio based in Madison, Wisconsin. We help brands create informative and entertaining content and believe in the power of great design to inform, inspire, and drive action.

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We may specialize in animation, video, and web, but we partner with clients to build all kinds of things. Music videos, educational materials, social media content, logo animation, explainer videos, and so much more.

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