As any designer knows, planning can (and often does) make up the bulk of creative work. This might sound obvious, but the better you plan, the better your work will often turn out. I’ve spoken in the past about the importance of developing your own planning process (see this page) in design. The same rings true for motion graphics and animated work.

Storyboarding is a particularly popular method for planning any sort of visual media project, whether it’s a live-action TV episode or shorter app content. This is because storyboarding allows designers and animators to combine scripts with their own creative vision. It also gives you something to appease your clients whilst your work is on-going, allowing them to return any feedback to you prior to the actual animation work beginning. I’m going to talk today about a few ways in which you can start thinking about ‘process’ when it comes to working with motion graphics, and in particular how you can make storyboarding techniques work for you.

Starting a new project

Just like with icon design, motion graphics projects usually involve some level of consultation and a design ‘brief’ between the designer and the client. The key difference, though, is that motion graphics often involves a pre-written script from which to work from. So the main things you should be asking a client in the consultation stages should be about any tone, character and style specifications they are looking for in the animated piece. This is the key thing you should be taking away for your final designs.

Types of storyboard

One of the most common types of storyboards best-suited to motion graphics work is called a ‘treatment’. Sketches are obviously the foundation of any storyboard, as you try to visualise on paper how you are going to translate the script into a final project. A treatment combines sketches and script side by side, tying the visual elements you’re going to create together with the script’s contents and concepts.

The main advantage of a conventional storyboard such as a treatment is that it allows clients to see your line of thought and give feedback before the real work begins, rather than you spending days on a sequence that they then don’t like. Another advantage is that it acts as an artefact for you and any other collaborators to work around and communicate through.

Developing storyboards

Particularly if you’re pitching a new idea to a client, or they’re particularly picky, it helps to fully develop your storyboard and concept art. One way you can do this is through style frames.

“Style frames are meant to indicate what would be the visual style of the animation.” MCKIBILLO

These are images of single ‘frames’ to demonstrate the overall style of what the final animation might look like. As you can see in the picture below, they look like screenshots from a full animation. They are a big step up from storyboard sketches and can perfectly complement your storyboards and your creative dialogue with a client, as they give the viewer a much greater feel for where a motion graphics work is going.

UPS graphic

(Quote and image source: Kristian Mercado: Pitch Junkie)

Kristian Mercado sums up the aim of style frames best:

“I like to try to weave narrative into a single image, I give the audience a small piece, but I make sure that glimpse allows them to visualize the rest of the world, so most of the work ideally happens in the imagination.”

By combining traditional storyboard techniques with style frames and other methods, motion graphics work becomes easier in almost every way.

Adam Parrish

Owner and creative director at Creative Freedom Ltd. Unbelievably cool icon design expert, husband, and father of two awesome girls. A proper decent chappy and thoroughly fab to work with. Ok, so I wrote my own bio…

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