I work with a few design studios with mainly graphic design experience. Nowadays more and more they are asked for motion and non-static solutions.

I wonder. Is that out of their scope? Should they embrace other design disciplines? Does graphic design incorporate motion and or animation? - Not big ones, something simple like this logo animation.

  • It's more like the other way around Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 15:27
  • Relevant: All graphic design programs in my region have been updated recently and now feature a mandatory motion design course usually featuring AfterEffects. While we didn't have AfterEffects back in the day, we used to teach Flash which included notions of motion design.
    – curious
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 13:18

6 Answers 6


Traditionally, no. Animation has a long history and was not considered graphic design, much like say film or TV production. However, mediums are merging. There is no longer a huge technical and financial gap between the different mediums.

The web forces the graphic designer to think of even animation, since the medium allows it. So yes it has become one of the skills sought after. Only animation is still a quite specialized skill, what you instead have is called motion graphics. Motion graphics is a subset of animation thats well suited for graphic design as its nowhere nearly as laborious as animation of say characters.

Similarly, many of the static advertisement spots that traditionally were dominated by posters are being swapper out to screens. And again because they are screens you can consider animation in them.

  • "Traditionally" is an irrelevant term. The mediums are simply evolving. Caverns, rock, paintings, print, electronics... "Animation is a specialized skill", the same as a color separation for a silk print design, or branding, or packaging...
    – Rafael
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 10:01
  • @Rafael yes but animation still is a special skill. Motion graphics not so much. Also it will stop being graphic design at some point. And be just one brach of multimedia. So graphic design has no special protection in this.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 14:32

In my opinion, the specific realm of Motion Graphics, yes, it is a specialization of Graphic Design.

I would put it in the same category as

  • Print Design
  • Web Design
  • Motion Graphics

Because the main target is to put a Graphic Design solution to a specific Medium.

There are very specific specializations, like "Building labeling", "Movie Title design", "Museography Design" That, yes, has Graphic Design as a basis.

But does not mean everyone should know it, the same as some designers probably do not want to learn web design.

But in reality there are many, many facets of Graphic Design.

In my country there are diferent University titles that are "Graphic Design".

Visual Comunication Designer, Graphic Designer Professional, Art and Digital Medium Designer, etc.

I consider Graphic Design any discipline that uses a "visual massive medium to comunicate a message"

And thoose 3 points are important

  • Visual
  • Massive medium
  • Comunicate a message

At some extent could also include Ilustration, Photography.

I understand that cinematography also does this, but it does not rely on visual alone, but time (and does not try to deliver a message, but a story). In the case of motion graphics, the "time factor" is secondary, it is used to emphatize the visual.

Graphic Design I hope will keep evolving, I hope in a future we have some specializations like "Holographic Comunication Design", and "Message to Brain Visual Design"

  • Well you have a relatively new field of information design which put emphasis on well designed graphs and visualisations. which then needs the designer to understand statistics, subject matter as well as some data manipulation to execute well.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 9:57

To figure out if something fits under "graphic design", think "does X directly affect graphics/visuals?". If the answer is "yes", then it's related to graphic design. So yes, animation is within the scope of graphic design.

Whether or not a graphic designer should be familiar with creating animations depends on the needs and opinions of the people involved.

Designing animations requires knowledge of other design principles in addition to some motion design principles.

Whether or not a particular design should use animation depends on the needs and purposes of the design.

  • So architecture and lighting design is part of graphic design? As they affect visuals.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 23:49
  • 1
    Yes, in a general sense, they are related. The detail to which a graphic designer needs to know about those things is minimal, but if there will be poor lighting of a poster for example then that affects how the poster should be designed Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 4:45
  • Offcourse they are related, mostly everything is related. I mean graphic design is related to atleast storytelling, UI design, usability, ergonomics, animation, urban planning, factory layout, mechanical design, sign manufacturing, trafic planning, electronics design... Its all a big venn diagram that overlaps. But is all of that graphic design?
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 14:58
  • They play a part in certain cases, yes, depending on what is needed Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 15:11

Animation an motion are technique and medium. Whether that is a "part" of graphic design or not depends on how it is being used. It's like asking "is print a part of graphic design"... sure it is, and most would say a big part of graphic design; but that doesn't mean anything printed is graphic design. As such, not everything animated is graphic design.

If you're using motion—be that animation or whatever else—to visually communicate[1] through the use of graphic, visual content; then it is probably graphic design. Graphic design has grown to a point where "print" work is only a subset of design, and I'd argue that most non-print design work has at least some degree of motion.

[1]You can get in to the discussion about what constitutes "communication" in the context of design, but I'd argue that has little to do with whether something is static or not.

  • Why don't you consider all things printed to be graphic design?
    – Ryan
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 13:08
  • @Ryan because they're not? My 6 year old just printed off some of his school work... that's not graphic design. I mean you could argue that everything is designed, but that's not a very helpful definition.
    – Cai
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 13:21
  • @Ryan Cai is right otherwise we might just call each and every word user a graphic designer.
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 14:38

As someone who does graphic design work for architectural, engineering and construction companies, I would argue the overarching definition for all of the different modalities and skills that have been listed above is not "graphic design" but simply "design."

With that said, many of the concepts flow across all of the different types of design. For example, the architects that I work with frequently have a better intuition about good graphic design than do the construction people--because their training included understanding where to use solid walls vs windows, which can give them a quick understanding of the value of white space in a graphic design piece.

But in answer to the original question, any particular graphic designer can choose whether they believe motion or animation is or should be part of their skillset as a graphic designer. But, they also need to understand their own role in the world. If they are able to earn a living by focusing totally on static design, then motion or animation definitely don't need to be part of their personal definition of graphic design. However, if they begin losing work to other designers who have these skills, then they may, of necessity, have to extend their definition to incorporate these new skills.

I will turn back to the architectural field as an example. Before computer-aided design & drafting (CADD) began to overtake the field in the mid- to late-Eighties, architects would use pencils, pens, rulers and calculators to create architectural drawings. They would manually do all the calculations to make sure the structural elements of the building would be able to hold up the weight of the roof, etc.

I am old enough to have worked for some architects who had been trained in these techniques, and were having trouble making the change over to CADD. They were still effective architects, but everything they did took longer, and was more prone to human error than their CADD-using counterparts. It was incumbent upon them to learn this new skill in order to remain relevant within their industry.

There are a number of "new" skills, techniques, modalities, etc., that are being implemented throughout society everyday. And they frequently impact the work I do as a graphic designer, even though they weren't even on the radar screen when I was studying design even 7 or 8 years ago. I am currently working on learning basic coding, because I don't think a graphic designer can be truly effective at helping to redesign a company website if s/he has no understanding of how coding works.

So, whether or not one specific person believes that a specific skill set is something that they need to know is really going to depend on how much that particular skill set is something that threatens their own ability to continue practicing the work that they do know how to do.

  • +1 So you think the labels denoting what your background is irrelevant? Or is that too strongly interpreted? I mean is a graphic designer and a engineer interchangeable if they are both designers? (well in my case that's true but i would say its true for everybody, but many of my new media students would easily qualify as bachelor level engineers, or well at least the ones that have had linear algebra)
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 20:33
  • No, I don't think labels denoting your background are irrelevant, but their meaning can change over time. If I was alive in 1877 and stated that I was a driver, people would assume that I knew how to manage horses pulling a carriage. They would also probably assume I knew how to harness the horses, and attach them to the carriage. If I called myself a driver 100 years later, the assumptions a listener would make about my skill set and knowledgebase would be completely different. So, I am suggesting that definitions are somewhat alive and can morph over time.
    – magerber
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 0:12
  • And by no means would I ever suggest that as a graphic designer I was an engineer--heck I sometimes still use my fingers to do math. But I do think that there are design concepts that are consistent across different fields of focus, and if you have learned them in one area, you may well be able to use that knowledge to your benefit in a completely different arena.
    – magerber
    Commented Apr 12, 2017 at 0:21

You have it backwards.

enter image description here

Graphic design is just a part of motion graphics.

The way you say it you're putting the cart before the horse.

By that I mean you need to know how to prep your artwork for motion graphics before you can even do anything with them.

The graphic design part is just the first step of many when it comes to motion graphics.

This is my attempt to answer a complicated question in a simple way. I noticed all the other answers were too detailed and maybe a little off topic at points.

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