“Motion Graphics” or “Motion Design”?

Photo by David Cornejo

I’ve never felt that the term “motion graphics” has been adequately defined. I’ve argued that this is a good thing, that it encourages the term to be used inclusively, in an expansive way that changes as underlying technologies evolve and our media landscape broadens.

But some feel that “motion graphics” is an outdated term. For them, it’s a limited concept that conjures up images of wedding videos and glassy 3D logos heralding cable news channels. “Motion graphics” suggests, quite literally, graphic design put into motion. And while graphic design is an incredibly huge field that encompasses other disciplines like photography, illustration, typography and more, this definition de-emphasizes the temporal aspect of the craft, downplaying its relationship to animation and filmmaking.

As an alternative, I’ve heard more and more people using the term “motion design.” The term definitely seems more inclusive. But I’m not sure it’s actually much better…

So, for our first ever Motionographer Talk Cycle poll, I invite you to answer and comment:

[poll id=”2″]

About the author

Justin Cone

/ justincone.com
Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.


Albert Omoss

‘Motion Graphic Design’ makes the most sense to me.

just add sugar

Motion Graphics Desinger/Animator (its all in there)


I second Motion Graphic Design.




I use both terms depending on the context. Sometimes one or the other just fits better. Like:

“This video needs some motion graphics.”

“Let’s hire a motion designer.”

However, when people ask what I do, I say “Animator.” That’s probably not the most technically accurate term, but I’ve found it to be the only thing that doesn’t conjure up a conversation about web design, and it opens the persons mind a little to what I actually do. “Motion Graphics” and “Motion Design” usually elicit a response like “Oh, so you do flash?”


Well – I mean when I’m talking to the average Joe I say animator. When talking to producers and stuff, I still say motion designer…


Some time ago ‘animation’ could easily apply to what most of us were doing, but as the field matured and it branched it does not work that good IMO, unless one has an specific level of expertise in 3D/2D character animation. ‘Motion Design’ feels better as we’ve progressed from basic graphic element manipulation (yes, the flying logos) to integrating video and mixed media.


I think that Motion Design sounds better.

Marc B.

Motion Graphics are dead. Long live Graphics in motion.


when asked what i do i say
“im a designer animator. basically i do graphic design and then animate it for TV or film”
if they dont get it, i say:
“you know how at the end of a car commercial the logo comes in all schwoooshy? *insert waving arms here* well thats what i do”

motion designer sounds good. i could live with that.


I personally think the whole industry should be officially renamed “those guys that do that stuff that make things move and do stuff on screens”
There’s no way you can go wrong with a title like that!




So you never animate?


I would say above all, I am a Designer. And one of the things I do, aside from print and branding, is motion graphics.

I think the term Motion Designer looks better on paper, but “motion graphics” verbally sounds better to me. But, then again, the term “graphics” just seems less sophisticated than “design”.

But, for the sake of being conclusive, I would agree with joe and stick with the broad title of Designer and not paint myself into a corner.


Yeah I do agree that motion design makes more sense, especially in regards to all the disciplines motion graphics/design now covers.

But I think you really have to look at it in two ways… the “what do you do?” way and the “what industry do you work in?” way.

I’m a motion designer, (not a motion graphic-ser). But I work in motion graphics (not motion design)… think it rolls off better.


I think it would be considered a “motion graphic artist”.


errr… “motionographer” ;p


I always say Graphic Designer. 90% of what I do is design/direct/animate for “motion” but I don’t like getting backed into that corner because I enjoy doing a lot of other graphic design work (print, web, identity, product, etc) as well. I think being a “graphic designer” might get a bit more clout in terms of being a conceptual thinker.


motion design


motion architect?


motion designer slash model.?!


don’t say graphic designer. people loose interest in your conversation rapidly after tagging this as your profession in my experience.


Despite the poll, it’s clear we can’t agree on anything :-(

-“Graphic Designer” is too limited b/c it excludes Animation.

-“Motion Designer” is misleading b/c it doesn’t acknowledge Graphics/Imagery.

-“Motion Graphics” is too vague b/c it leaves my Mom and Dad, still, unclear as to what I do, and ultimately more confused the more I explain it.

-“Animator” is too lazy b/c it completely neglects the Designer in us.

-“Motion Graphics Designer” is so long winded, and who really wants to over-complicate this any further!?



graphics can move… a design can’t really move by itself, the motion comes in a part of the design. So Motion Graphics makes more sens to me.

in the other hand, i voted for Motion Design, ’cause it’s so 2009 to be a ‘Motion Designer’, it’s more Artist, more…. design.

So i think that a Motion Designer, which is someone who ‘design the motion’ (this is pretty cool) does Motion Graphics, which is a graphical work, moving. Cause the final design, like i said, includes the motion, so it’s not moving.

good night


don’t forget to vote in that other poll/election thing that’s happening soon.


yea, i think motion designer is more accurate to describe a professional that designs motion with graphics, i think animator is more related to character animation.


so we still think what we do is designing motion with graphics, what if we create some graphics rig them up and make them run like an athelete? In my opinion we didnt get right yet, our job involves to many things.


i see more and more 90 percent of graphics and 10 percent design.
Design is, like it or not , much more ruled and strict.. roughly speaking everything have to be a mean…I think motiongraphics is much more arty, and nowadays funky..


yeahhh, but the GOOD pieces are well designed. there are tons of crazy whacked out pieces out there with wild funky graphics all over the place, but they dont work to me because they forget about design, they forget about their friend negative space. they fill every inch of the screen with interesting shit. which is fine, sometimes that works… but the pieces that really jump out at me and make an impression, the ones that reallllly inspire me to create, are the ones that have impressive design. i saw a piece the other day, i cant remember who did it now… but they kind of did these freeze frames of old album covers, nicely designed with the type, subtle dirt, great edit, it was awesome. really made an impression on me. (if anyone knows what piece im talking about please link it for me!)


i like “designamator”


LOL greg . i might just put that on my card xD


sometimes i feel more like an “animiner”

loaded 16 gigs and what do you get?


“designer”, “animator”, “graphics artist”, “desinamator”, “grasigner”, it’s all one in the same if you enjoy creating. Titles don’t define your talents.


“Design” connotes too much commercialism and too little art for me…though depending on the project, it might be the most accurate description. Honestly, both “design” and “graphics” have that cheesy, leering, button-pushing, marketing department feel about them. How about the slightly less odious (if more pretentious) “motion arts?”


I tend to use the term, “Broadcast Designer,” when I’m talking to people who don’t know the biz. If I’m talking to someone in the biz, I usually say, “Designer/Animator.”

When I talk to my parents, I tell them I make logos appear on TV. They actually understand that.


As an ex-engineer, Motion Design sounds too much like a sub-field of mechanical engineering. As someone mentioned earlier, Motion Graphic Design sounds more accurate and descriptive to me.


i belive that we should not exclude the auditive aspect – which is part of the design process as well. i call it audiovisual design.


When you create a motion, with visuals that you think they have the aesthetic and it corresponds with the brief you have, it is a design…
and the chosen forms, visuals, graphics comes out out of the designer’s head…

so, what you do is motion design, if you feel the aesthetic concern…
and motion graphics is what makes the motion design

it is like calling a poster “are they some graphics, or is it a poster ?”

Paul Ducco





Using the term motion graphics would only infer to the work done per se. While when you say motion design, it would infer motion styling and that a dose of creativity and artistic prowess was used. So I’d go with Motion Design.


I would argue that it’s all Animation. That would be the definition of temporal/moving design in any form. I mean it takes design to do these things on most levels. I think as an industry our wanna be “rock star” attitudes have gotten us a little carried away. I mean using most of the logic for these arguments then a film maker is not a film maker he/she’s a Motion picture designer, or would that be the Cinematographer? But that’s just the guy who defines the look and feel right? See my point. To make up a name in order to define the already defined is foolish and unbecoming of what we all are when we start out… Artists.


Exactly, we’re artists. The lack of concise definition is what sets this profession apart. Keep it vague, and keep the parents guessing…


Most of us begin as art students right? Learning things like form, line, color theory, typography, and maybe how to draw. I never said keep it vague… I think you might have missed my point. There is no need for weak sarcasm. I think it’s important to understand the terms we throw around as labels for what we do. Look up the word “design” as it is loosely applicable to our profession. It no more defines it than any other term we’ve mentioned here. Its more “vague” than you think.




My employees gave me the title “Motion & Graphics Designer”, apparently, they couldn’t choose either, but I think it summarizes what I do quite well… :)


Just “Motion” , simple


I believe that motion graphics today includes people that works in CG graphics, and also animates it. Motion designer, the way I see it, sounds to me like the one who plans a whole production. In a way, the producer of the motion graphics part of the production. I’ve also seen the difference made from “motion graphics designer” and a “motion graphics artist” being that the designer can work with typography, elements that, sometimes you just write and such, and the artist, who also draws, paints, illustrates in a more artistic way. None being less than the other, some have some artistic skills, some have some designing skills, which, i can see, is a whole subject for a discussion.


Motion Constructor


I like Motion Design over Motion Graphics, but I still chose “neither one” as my answer. When I think of how to define what it is that we do these days, I wonder who my audience should be when I define “motion design/graphics”. In the Community, motion graphics seems ambiguous for our own benefit. The loose definition and or lack of definition, at least how I see it, allows me to easily move in and out of other art forms for inspiration. Like graphic design, motion design draws from other disciplines, like photography, typography etc.. But what about design elements of film? Certainly the aesthetics of film has to have a large influence in the conversation? Since the element of time is what pulls it out of traditional static design I think that animation seems the easiest/broadest way to describe things. But in such a specialized world I still feel that “animation” is not enough.


‘I make things come in all schwoooshy’

I think that’s the best description. Thanks.


you forgot the *arms waving* part


I say: computers

That usually has the desired result for me.


Motion Design is best because the field is sooo varied. Since design isn’t just glossy and for looks, but also emphasizes usability etc. etc. it suits way better.


This kind of debate just underlines my belief that titles are completely subjective and essentially meaningless.

If I had to vote for a term I would take my cue from this site and use the term “motionographer” as one who does “motionography.” Has a technical and scientific ring to it.

The truth is, I change my “title” depending on who I’m talking to and what I would do for them.


What about…I don’t know…maybe…ummm…calling it “Motionography”?


I find that when I say “graphics”, ever, in my title people think I do fliers and business cards. No matter what else is in my title, people hear that. sigh.


“hype men”
thats what we truly are. we make weak ass products look good.


You mean no one uses TrapDecoder or 3D Stroker anymore?



^ official title.


I personally think that the word “graphics” has always cheapened the industry. Likewise, I loathe when people pluralize graphic designer into graphicS designer… design is the root of all of this, and if you’re not designing, you’re an animator, and if you’re not animating, you’re doing visual effects.. and..

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