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Three Tips for Elevating Your Motion Graphics Video

If we know one thing to be true about freelance and small-business life, it’s sharing is caring. Propping up your creative community with tips and tricks is one way we support each other and keep ideas fresh. We recently broadcasted our two cents by hosting our own Ctrl Shift VFX motion graphics workshop: Good, Better, Best. Because we get you. And we wanted to show you, step by step, how you can elevate your motion graphics even on a shoestring.

Remember when your eccentric old aunt said that your cousin had “champagne taste on a beer budget”? She just described most of your clients. And we don’t mean that as an insult! Far from it. In fact, our goal as creatives should be to bring our expertise and vision to anyone who’s asking for it, whether they can pay your dream rate or just enough to keep you both going. The point—and we’re getting there, we promise—is that beautiful, effective work doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

1. Keep motion graphics simple

It all starts with the architecture. Fundamentally, as motion designers, we are breathing life and movement into a story as it quite literally takes shape. So our first tip?

Don’t overthink it.

When budgets are tight, you still need to invest in a solid concept. We’d argue that the more time you spend here, the better the outcome. You don’t need to push yourself to break new creative ground or become the next maximalist, but you need to know where you start and where you end. What’s the story? Why is it important? What action do you want to audience to take? Then, you can develop it visually.

2. Know your standards for good, better, and best

A good/better/best framework can be helpful in determining the appropriate level of complexity in line with your client’s budget. Everything you do doesn’t have to set the world on fire (as long as some of it does!), but it does need to tell a story well. When you’re working with a low budget, start with a simple layout. If you jump into more complex ideas, you’ll spend more time executing them and before you know it, your hourly rate will barely get you a drive-thru meal. As creatives, it’s tough to know when to stop sometimes, but trust us—having a tiered architecture for your projects makes it easier to know which bucket a particular project fits into. It also helps ensure that you’re getting fair compensation for your time, which is critical to building a business.

3. Create connection

Once you’ve weighed the speed and complexity of a project against your client’s budget, it’s time to decide how far you want to take it. Remember, the purpose of motion graphics fundamentally is not just to attract interest, but also to simplify user experience. It turns out that a picture may be worth quite a bit more than a thousand words—a recent study from MIT found that the human brain can process images the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds. Let that sink in a minute. Or at least for several milliseconds. Data visualization and visual storytelling are crucial to brands at a time when the noise we consume every day is greater than ever. The need for emotional connection is essential to connect businesses and consumers to products and services, and that is the center of our wheelhouse as designers.

On a practical level, motion graphics can accomplish a lot of this work with just a few key scenarios. By knowing your good/better/best framework and budget, you can tell more stories effectively and with fair compensation. Not everything that comes out of your workshop needs to have top Hollywood-style visual effects, but it does need to reflect quality. A simple story that’s effective can go miles beyond one that’s convoluted and flashy—it just needs two things: purpose and polish.

To get more of our tips on elevating your motion graphics and video, check us out on LinkedIn for more tutorials and shared inspiration.

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