The same story can be told in infinite ways. When technology enables such a wide array of possibilities, it’s hard to know where to start. From the low-tech days of flipbooks and black and white celluloid animation, right up to the invention of Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D, we’ve come a long way. Despite all the changes, there are a few techniques that still work their magic on us. So, between the oldies (but goodies) and the freshest technological wonders, here’s a sum up of the top motion graphics trends right now:
1. Seamless transitions
Seamless transitions are one of those trends that will always stay close to our hearts. They may not be new, but are still going strong and we can see many contemporary takes on this sleek technique. By removing the cut between scenes, designers create flowing videos that transform subtly from scene to scene. In Le Cube’s The Confidante, the transitions themselves become a central motif, creating a flowing sensation and a complete lack of separate scenes. The trick? One part of the video acts as an eye-catcher and while viewers are mesmerized by that image, the other elements change in the background, morphing from undefined blobs and shapes into characters and objects.
In this video for Mountain Dew by Buck, the character itself is the eye-catcher, but even he discreetly transforms while the surroundings evolve constantly.
2. Thin lines
Lines – a simple, yet powerful tool in design. They hint at directions, help define shapes, separate between elements and more. When given the opportunity to move and dance around, the possibilities of the humble line become endless. Motion design has recently begun taking the theme of lines to the next level, integrating them in different ways to create certain effects.
They play a prominent role in The Canadian Experiment, where remarkably thin lines are used as the outlines of shapes, as well as forming patterns and decorations on the characters’ clothes. At one point, the lines themselves become the focal point – only the outlines of the shapes remain, without their fill color, creating a vector iconic feel.
In the following video, Build Connections, lines are used in a more freestyle way. It almost looks as if they’re being drawn on the spot, animated to appear as if a real hand is sketching a diagram, arrows or other elements that create a sense of being inside someone’s notebook. A playful atmosphere is created by lines flying around the screen, growing, shrinking and subtly transforming into text or other visual elements.
We may all love a clean minimal design. There’s nothing like a crisp white office space or the exquisite simplicity of Japanese aesthetics. But sometimes, we want to rough it up a bit. That’s where “grain” comes in – a tool used in motion graphics to add a sense of noise to visuals that could otherwise appear flat and lifeless. The integration of grain can transform vector imagery into something more relatable, giving the feeling that a human hand created it. It’s a prominent trend in the motion design world and has also made guest appearances on grainy Instagram feeds near you.
In this delightful video created for YouTube channel Space Valley, grain is used to transform simple 2D shapes into ones with texture and a sense of depth. It also gives it a retro vibe that really compliments the nostalgic animation style.
This video for Coke Japan by Buck also takes us on a journey back in time, with its hand-drawn pixelated feel. You also really get a sense of bubbly fizz with all the small dots flying around.
4. Liquid motion
As so many wise people have said in the past, “life is all about balance”. The same goes here. As much as we love computers and know they can do incredible things, the question is: how can we use them efficiently to create results that are precise, but also maintain a handcrafted sense? Similar to adding noise to loosen up the sterility of vector images, liquid motion adds an organic feel, with shapes flowing like liquid and morphing into new ones, creating some real visual delights. Keep your eyes peeled to enjoy glimpses of abstract splashes of color, shapes stretching and dancing across the screen, surreal imagery and more.
The visuals in this video come hand-in-hand with the message. The intimate subject (sexually transmitted infections and HIV) requires an appropriate style that will suit the tone and invite people to watch. By using liquid motion, a mesmerizing handcrafted feel is created, making the subject and video feel more approachable.
In Upwork’s video, liquid motion is used to convey a sense of movement and drama; one scene soars into another and this motion results in a rocket taking off, as the abstract shapes morph into its trail.
5. Mixing 2D and 3D
Nostalgia is, as mentioned earlier, a powerful tool in design. We all remember those classic 2D animations we watched and loved as kids (Woody Woodpecker, Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones spring to mind). But now that technology enables us to do so much more, designers are starting to integrate this retro 2D style with contemporary 3D motion graphic techniques. These kinds of animations may first appear flat, even paper-like, but the integration of camera movements from different angles give the elements volume and depth.
This trailer for animated film Away has a familiar, nostalgic 2D quality to it, but gradually you’ll notice the camera appearing to zoom in and turn, bringing the scenes to life.
This animation by Motion Corpse seems like a collage at first glance, but also holds a surprising 3D twist.
6. Big, bold typography
In case you hadn’t noticed, big bold typography is in. Big time. It’s taking over many fields of design, notably web and graphic design, and is now making its way into motion graphics too. It’s a great way of making sure your message is conveyed loudly and clearly and can help present what your brand stands for.
This video uses big bold typography to make big bold statements. The lyrics of the song play a vital role in the overall message and are given the platform they deserve, as they take over the screen and make up the main visuals of the video.
The text in Netflix’s branding video is not only large, filling the screen, but has been made even more noticeable, thanks to the strong contrasts between background and text. The clean, minimalistic titles stand out from the other visuals in the video that are filled with people, colors and action.
7. Broken text
Another prominent theme in typography is broken text. It’s by no means a new trend, but is starting to reach new peaks in current designs. Words are played around with in different ways; they can appear gradually, one by one, be placed at different levels, or the letters can be deconstructed and spread out across the screen. This technique can be used to create drama or tension, as words and sentences are slowly revealed.
Broken text is used in this video about growing up, to illustrate a quote by chef Francis Mallmann. The poignant words expose themselves on screen along with the narrator’s voice. They’re animated in a delicate, poetic way, constantly reflecting and visually describing the meanings of the words. The word “choices” is split up, each letter appearing in a different spot on the screen, and the words “growing up” elevate, physically getting taller.
The text in the following video is used in a less legible format than the one above, but the hints of words and letters that appear on the screen help create a sense of information overload, adding to the concept behind the video.
8. Isometric design
Translating three-dimensional spaces and objects onto two-dimensional screens has proved to be the center of much interest, discussion and turmoil in the last years. Skeuomorphism had its moment of glory, but is now long dead, having been replaced by flat design. Isometric design has squeezed its way in there with the other styles, attempting to find a way of representing 3D elements on screen.
The various features of Pikotea’s app are visualized in an isometric world in the following video, creating a digital and playful vibe that suits the app’s function.
A highly digitalized virtual world is also conveyed in Roll, with its isometric style and hi-res visuals.
Continuing in designers’ explorations into how to portray real, three-dimensional life on flat screens, a new trend is starting to pop up: digital-surrealism. This style depicts a surreal virtual world, made up of highly crisp visuals and materials that appear simultaneously familiar and imaginary. Materials behave in ways that would be impossible in real life, from bubbles that never pop to objects evaporating into thin air and liquids magically transforming into solids.
This promo video for Samsung’s new camera launch by digital artist Daniel Aristizábal stretches the limits of materials, creating captivating imagery of familiar objects that behave in ways that are alien to us.