Defining world-class ‘invisible’ art


Invisible art, on the face of it, may seem to be an intangible subject. In terms of motion graphics design, invisible art can be found in the title sequences, animated logos and art which appears on commercials, television and the Internet. It’s invisible because it is largely unnoticed by the viewer.

The rise of this art form owes much to the leap in technology over the past decade. This conglomeration of 2D and 3D animation and motion graphics is for the most part achieved with programmes such as Adobe After Effects.

It’s a complex procedure that requires a specialised team versed in art, design, conceptualisation and animation. Motion graphics does its job best when it goes unnoticed as a seamless part of the television show, a subtle animated logo in a corporate documentary or the enhancement of a commercial advert. Viewer recall is paramount because motion graphics design that’s world-class comes across as “invisible’ yet packs a mean subliminal punch.

World-class motion graphics begins, like most great artworks, with an idea or concept where the look, feel, complexity and message will be decided. The design studio typically receives a brief from a client saying they’d like a certain type of character, image or animation to portray a particular message or emotion. It’s important for the studio to capture the genuine brand ethos in the design. A quirky and colourful character animation would be wrong for a funeral plan company, for example.

A standout motion designer is a person trained in traditional graphic design who knows how to integrate the elements of time, sound and space into his or her existing skill-set of design knowledge.

An understanding of filmmaking and animation is an integral part of creating exceptional work. If the motion graphics designer is aware of emotional engagement and narrative progression, this insight into the design and animation mixes with a more potent message and elicits increased engagement from the viewer.

It is this deeper understanding of what engages people that makes the difference between an average and a world-class designer. An exceptional design has originality, meaning and relativity to the viewer. If the designer knows how to portray a message in an appropriate way and also understands the limits and bonuses of choosing a certain style, it can make or break the design.

For example, if a client desires a science fiction-themed clip aimed at a younger, male audience, the designer must know what elements must be included on a technical, design, narrative and emotional level. If there is a robot, it must be a composite of every robot the youngster has ever seen, but with something that sets it apart. It has to look cool, act cool, and be cool. The child will see the design and feel it speak directly to him.

A designer with a stylistic understanding of the brand and how it may be unpacked knows in what ways the character should be animated, coloured and stylised. There is nothing worse than being subjected to a faux-cute animated critter that is simply annoying and pretentious. Television and movie audiences are merciless in their judgment and criticism.

But, it’s not only about visuals. Sound, if applicable, plays a major role in the design equation. Incoherent and ill-fitting sound can destroy any piece regardless of how good it might look.

Invisible art is distinguished by originality, engagement, understanding, knowledge and appeal. Let the (moving) picture speak a thousand words, and let the words be well “spoken’.

* Paul Meyer is MD of Luma Design Agency

By Paul Meyer

Screen Africa magazine – July 2012


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