“Costs of War” is exactly the kind of thing that makes me believe in motion graphics. For the moment, put the subject matter aside. Maybe you agree with its message, maybe you don’t. Regardless, the method of communication is undeniably powerful. Let’s try to break down why this—and other visual essays like it—are such powerful creations.
- Unity. The visuals, soundtrack and writing are united as one. Each is not there to bolster or decorate the other; they are interdependent and inextricably linked. The iconic graphics are instantly recognizable, allowing us to divvy up our remaining perceptual resources between the text and the animation.
- Brevity. Two minutes or less. Our world is full of distractions and obligations. Motion designers are among the most attention deficit disordered people on the planet, so they understand this reality all too well. Motion design, in turn, should be short and sweet—or sour, in the case of this particular project.
- Intensity. Despite what Michael Bay might think, intensity has nothing to do with NPM (Number of Explosions per Minute). Nor does it have anything to do with the number of elements in a scene or the gusto with which they enter/exit. Intensity increases as complexity decreases. Like any good essay, “Costs of War” focuses on one central argument and then pummels viewers with data to support that argument.
The project was created by Bran Dougherty-Johnson, who has a personal connection to the United States’ ongoing overseas conflicts. There are several startling statistics relating the costs of war available here and here.
But without the all important element of time, statistics alone feel disposable, ineffectual. By bringing them into the fourth dimension, Bran made them undeniable and real. You can feel the money draining away as the video marches purposely forward. The playhead becomes a slow-motion guillotine, along with all its attendant anxieties and urgencies to do something. Now.