Communicating design principles through motion design


Motion Design
Design Communication


Oct-Nov 2021


After Effects

Full documentation in progress!


Examining the nuances and connotations of visual form, create a video explaining a chosen design principle, using time and motion to convey information. The only defined requirements were to use Adobe After Effects, address a general audience, and to limit the video to a target duration of 45-60 seconds, with a 2 minute maximum.

Goal and Objectives

To situate audiences within a wider design canon, using analogous concepts to tangentially introduce topics from a larger systems context.

  • Touch on concepts that bridge the man-made and natural worlds; biomimicry in design, evolution of trends and conventions over time
  • Incorporate systems analogies, placing examples of mimicry in the context of larger convergent trends; tie in with evolutionary theory
  • Situate within a systems perspective; emergent strategies and trends are dictated by the optimal strategy for a particular environment


Exploration and Study of Principles

Beginning with exploration and research, I identified principles of personal interest and intrigue. After an initial review of design principles from various references, I carried out a selection process with the following considerations:

  • Relevance to personal interests and practice
  • Opportunities in narrative
  • Ease of demonstration/execution with visual elements
  • Personal background/unique contributions
  • Presence of existing ideas
Initial principle sourcing and concepts

These principles were whittled down to six contenders, four for their ease of execution/possibility for direct visual portrayals (closure, uniform connectedness, three-dimensional projection, and good continuation), and two for their depth of opportunity and connection to my interests and background (mimicry, convergence).


I decided to pursue the design principle of convergence, a direction that would be more challenging to communicate, but that I found more interesting and rich in possibility. The process in which similar characteristics evolve independently in multiple systems, convergence is a concept inspired and derived from ecology and evolutionary biology– one that I was interested in and familiar with from my work in biology. Exploring the relevance and implications in design revolved around a few central ideas.

Script and Narrative

Based on initial content points, I outlined various topics and examples, whiteboarding to get ideas out and visualize a narrative. From there, I cobbled together crucial ideas to draft a script.


After four rounds of editing, the script was finalized and translated into distinct scenes. Initial sketches were made to plan rough compositions, subject matter, and transitions. The alignment of specific frames corresponding to points in the narrative was refined, with particular consideration to the connotations of visual form.

Script Outline

Five distinct scenes/messages emerged throughout the storyboarding process:

  1. Definition and Intro
  2. Form and function are dependent on specific context/environment
  3. High convergence in design (stable, equilibrium)
  4. Identifying areas of opportunity and innovation in different systems (4b. Convergent analogues inform different design approaches)
  5. Takeaway to practice: consider stability and convergence of an environment—> adoption and resilience of design

Art Direction

Visual design mockups were created to help define the art direction. I initially grappled with two different styles, of distinct tone and connotation. Feedback for each was solicited before I eventually decided on the illustrative direction. It was largely regarded as more "personable" and "unique", and many noted that it felt less "corporate", "sterile", and "generic". It also more effectively showcases my personal illustrative style.

Geometric | Illustrative | Gradated styles between the two

Though this approach would be more time and labor intensive, I felt that it was an appropriate and necessary balance between practicality and vision. In deference to a more intricate art style, I decided to utilize a stop-motion approach in the animation, to allow the illustrative style shine through and carry the narrative.


Asset Creation

Top 3 rows of illustrations were drawn by hand in Adobe Fresco. Bottom row was created in Adobe Illustrator.

Vector base drawings and corresponding components

Sound and Animation

To emphasize and match the feeling conveyed by the visuals, I sourced soundtracks that felt melodic and whimsical–but not exuberant or energetic–with inflection points that would mirror the arc of the video. Sound research concluded in Bittered Sling, graciously provided by Bromeliad Music.

The script was self-narrated to ensure precise control over pacing, timing cues, and stress of emphasized words. Certain scenes were deemed extraneous and cut from the video, to ensure that what movement and voice-over remained would align cohesively to the music.

Moving watercolor backgrounds were drawn by hand and time-lapse recorded in Adobe Fresco, to create a continuous transition and sense of cohesive movement throughout. The goal was to create a "single-take" effect with no obvious cuts from scene to scene, to juxtapose the otherwise analog and incremental character movements.

Post-Production and Review

With these three elements–music, narration, and background–complete, final animation and timing refinements were made to ensure alignment of visual, auditory, and informational cues. Details (moving clouds, action lines) were added to reinforce a sense of movement and direction, and animation physics were reviewed to ensure a sense of realism. Scene transitions and audio equalizing were also refined.

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Ann Li 2022