How to design a brand with motion

Patrick Staunton

The role of motion in modern brands is obvious. Understanding the basics of briefing and managing the process will bring a new dimension to your work.

Motion design is becoming an ever-more crucial mode of expression for contemporary brands.

With communications increasingly taking place in time-based, digital environments, it’s important to strategically consider why, how and when this evolving discipline is deployed.

Expressing a brand identity through motion is an exciting prospect. But, without prior experience, engaging with the process can be tricky for designers and clients alike. Here we offer some insight into how we purposefully integrate motion into the brands we create.

Moving from start to finish?

There’s a tendency in some to see motion design as a ‘finishing’ process. We deliberately include motion studies and sketches early in the creative exploration phase to challenge this idea, and encourage clients to consider motion as a fundamental aspect of their brand.

Motion exploration of CALM’s ‘irreverent’ character trait

Creating the time and space to explore different ways motion might activate a strategic intent is critical for us. Much like our approach to verbal and visual languages, we investigate a range of different kinetic languages and question how they might influence perceptions in a given audience.

Motion studies into CoinShares’ ‘bionic’ trait

In the first instance these ideas are quite loose, either pulled together by the Output team or one of our motion partners. As the brand gets defined in higher fidelity, they grow into a set of motion principles that can inform a range of moments — from expressive advertising campaigns to functional micro-interactions.

Get familiar with the process

Without prior experience, defining a motion language, or providing useful feedback along the way, can feel like a bit of a challenge. If you find yourself struggling to engage with the process, it can be helpful to remember that the goal of motion at a brand level is often to convey a conceptual idea, or elicit an emotional response in the audience. The more familiar you get with the process, the easier it will be to articulate your feelings on whether a particular approach resonates with the strategic intent or not.

The motion languages for Dave and Cuckoo use different principles to affect tone

Comparing the different motion languages for Dave and Cuckoo, we can see how the principles of easing and duration affect the tone of a communication. In Dave’s world, mistakes can happen and frailty is on show. The kinetic expression of the brand mimics this with quick, almost amateur, movements that celebrate the messiness of everyday life. On the other hand, to help Cuckoo position themselves as a ‘broadband provider you can feel good about’, easing and duration are tweaked to feel smooth and effortless, evoking a sense of joyful simplicity.

In both examples, motion is embedded deep into the process, informing more traditional design considerations like layout, colour and scale

Open your network

There’s a fair amount of motion experience between the brand and digital design teams at Output, but we also invest time in building relationships with a network of collaborators. Some are generalists, able to turn their hand to several styles, while others are specialists who focus on a specific aspect of motion design, like character animation or 3D modelling.

Involving motion collaborators early in the process can uncover unexpected avenues to take into the broader brand system. A key visual expression of Freyr’s brand was informed by collaborative exploration between brand, digital and motion designers of what new, decarbonated energy could look like. The development of ‘stills’ from early motion studies went on to form a distinct suite of imagery for the brand.

Wherever possible, we create space for ideas to cross-pollinate like this, between designers from a range of backgrounds. We try not ro be too prescriptive during this process, leaving room for everyone to bring their own creativity to the challenge.

Looking forward

The future of motion in branding is likely to be influenced, at least in part, by technological advancements and the development of disciplines like creative coding, AI and VR. Kinetic languages that seamlessly integrate with the real world, or immerse users in virtual environments, will play a significant role in how brands express themselves.

Increasingly, designers are exploring the role custom tools can play in the development and day-to-day communications of brands. It’s not far-fetched to imagine a future where brand agencies aren’t designing the final visuals, but rather the tools and software for brands to create moving content themselves.

Patrick Staunton

With a broad background in strategic creativity, Patrick (he/him) has delivered brand identities, campaigns and digital platforms for socially conscious clients in Australia and the UK. As a brand-focused Senior Designer at Output, his approach increasingly explores the point where traditional design principles meet emerging creative technologies, and he shares those learnings here.