Don’t do anything because it’s cool.
Do it because it helps the story.
Then make it cool.
This is some of the best advice I’ve received from Alex Mapar in Mograph Mentor. Seriously, every weekly meeting, he brings up some mind bending truth.
Why does this particular advice stick out?
It’s both really simple and really difficult.
The coolness-factor is important
Making cool work is what drew you into motion design in the first place. "Cool" is a weird word, but it’s pretty universally understood.
“I just wanna make cool shit.” - every motion designer
Shout out to Andrew Embury for actually putting this on his business card!
As motion designers, we’re drawn in by the wow factor of the animation. That’s why we’re in the game.
Story is more important than cool
This was a hard pill for me to swallow. I want to jump into animating. But before you animate, there is a lot of thinking that should lay the way to telling the most compelling story.
Story is how we connect. It’s how we communicate. It’s how we make sense of the world.
If you let the story sacrifice because you wanted to make a cool animation, you’re doing your client a disservice.
I didn’t get into motion design to tell stories. But, I have evolved my thinking. I want to be an amazing motion designer. And I don’t think I can do that without becoming an amazing story teller.
Cool is still really important
The most successful motion design films aren’t made of just story. Once you have the foundation of story in your film and everything in the film supports the theme, then you have the liberty (and duty) to make it look as cool as you can.
Great story telling + how-did-they-do-that animation = work that gets people’s attention (both your client’s audience and fellow motion designers).
How do you know if your cool is interfering with your story?
I don't think there's a clear cut answer to this. It takes a lot of thinking through the eyes of the viewer. What is your animation telling them? Where is it making them look? How does it make them feel? If any of your answers are not inline with the story, then you know you may need to rethink the animation.
Be intentional about getting the right story across and support it with cool animation.
- Tell the story of your film before making it look cool.
- Telling a great story with great animation is way better than making killer animation, but losing the story.
- By putting effort into story telling, you will increase the value to your clients/agencies AND grab the attention of your peers.
Quick Note: I wrote about Christine Steele’s Adobe MAX talk on the importance Universal Themes in story over here (scroll down to Story Telling). Her advice shaped the way I think about story telling in a major way.