If you’ve ever seen a film, TV show, or YouTube video, you’ve seen motion graphics. Motion graphics are simply graphics that are moving.

As an industry, motion graphics is relatively new. The term itself wasn’t used until John Whitney’s company Motion Graphics Incorporated was founded in 1960. Photographs and moving images are not new, however.

The first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826, and the first commercial film was screened in December 1895—more than 100 years ago! Television came around in the 1920s, and color TV became available for the first time in 1954. Since then, technology and digitization have come a long way.

These days we have wireless internet, an abundance of streaming services, and plenty of ways to watch motion graphics on demand.

What is the Motion Graphics Industry?

It might seem tempting to say that the motion graphics industry is primarily the film industry, or “Hollywood”; however, this assumption is actually incorrect.

According to Toptal, motion graphics includes:

  • Graphic design
  • Animation
  • Illustration
  • Filmmaking
  • 3D technology
  • Digital product design

These fields are focused on telling stories, some in recognizable traditional ways, and some in exciting new ways.

4 Ways Motion Graphics Professionals are Using Illustrator

Whether short videos or full-length feature films, motion graphics are created using similar processes and software behind the scenes. Animators and illustrators used to draw everything by hand, but with the creative technologies available today, most of these tasks are now done digitally.

There are several programs used specifically for creating animations and adding the motions within motion graphics, such as Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro. But before motion is added, the illustrations and artwork must be completed. This is where Illustrator comes in.

Common motion graphics tasks completed in Illustrator include style frames, artwork creation, chart, graph, and infographic animations, as well as character design.

Style Frames

Style frames show how a particular moment will appear in the longer animation sequence. They’re essentially a snapshot of a particular point in the motion graphic.

Common elements of style frames include photography, mediums, colors, textures, and any other assets you’ll use as part of your video. They’re often used for client presentations and feedback sessions for everyone to give input before the animation is added.

Illustrator is a useful tool for creating style frames because of the large number of separate artboards you can use (up to 1,000), illustration capabilities, and high level of color management.

Artwork for After Effects & Premiere Pro

Adobe After Effects specializes in motion graphics creation, in particular, it excels at adding special effects and animation to graphics. Premiere Pro is the industry standard for video editing and allows you to take all of the elements of motion graphics (such as video, sound, and graphics) and put them on a timeline to create a polished finished video.

Illustrator fits in with these programs because it’s excellent for creating the artwork—especially characters. Motion graphics professionals can sketch directly into Illustrator and the lines will become crisp and clean because of the vector design quality. There are also more than 90 illustration tools to create beautiful graphics for any artwork a video might need.

Character Design

Most stories need a main character, which means character designs are of the utmost importance. These designs, usually flat 2D drawings, are often created in Illustrator because of the unique features such as image trace.

Image trace allows you to import a sketch or even draw on the artboard and trace over it with vector lines, which will turn even shaky lines into clean, crisp lines. There are also a number of specially designed tools, like Live Paint, that allow motion graphics professionals to customize each character to exactly what they envision.

Charts, Graphs, & Infographics

Charts and graphs are important in many industries because they can visually represent data in a meaningful way. In terms of the motion graphics industry, animated charts and graphs can be an interesting way to tell a story with data and capture attention in a way that plain text documents may not.

While Illustrator doesn't do animation, it’s a good place to create appealing graphics and illustrations to use in charts, graphs, and infographics. It can also create the documents themselves.

Illustrator has pre-built templates, particularly for infographics, that are helpful to be able to design an effective document with your data. You can easily change the data without redesigning, and you can customize colors, fonts, and icons. It’s a powerful tool for motion graphics professionals who need to present data in a palatable way.

Where to Learn Illustrator for Motion Graphics Skills

If you’re hoping to become a motion graphics professional, learning Illustrator might be a great skill to add to your resume.

Noble Desktop offers options for in-person, live online, and certificate learning options. Popular Illustrator courses include Illustrator in a Day and Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp. If you’re looking to gain a deep, foundational knowledge of the program, the 18-hour Adobe Illustrator Bootcamp is a good course to take. If you’re looking for more of a quick basic understanding, Illustrator in a Day will give you a good amount of information in a single six-hour day of learning.

Not into going to a classroom to learn? No problem. Classes are offered live online and in-person so you have the flexibility to choose what works best for you.