Micro content has become more and more valuable over the last several years, as the efficiency of social media platforms increases, and advanced ecommerce technology becomes more engrained in the devices we use everyday. Not to mention the growing mass of information we’re met with constantly. The ease in which we’re able to deliver multimedia content through outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn sets the stage for innovation in the way companies are able to extend their brand narrative to very focused demographics.
A seamless brand experience from the point a user first engages with a piece of content to the point of action, is comprised of many different elements that drive the message of a campaign. These elements are used to add nuance to the digital experience that a company provides, and animation is a very valuable tool among this set.
Having worked on several campaigns creating information-based, looping GIF animations for social marketing teams, I’ve found that committing to specific stylistic choices in movement can help create familiarity for your audience, across the whole of your content. Adobe After Effects offers a lot of options to manipulate the details of your project. I’d like to focus on speed, specifically, which can be used to match the pacing and fluidity of your brand, ultimately reinforcing the story that you’re trying to tell.
When I’m developing an animation, I break down any attributes of the company and the project that speaks to the messaging of the entity as a whole, as well as the specific campaign subject matter. The product or service being offered, the current brand voice in advertisements and on social media, the audience, the call-to-action or takeaway, and even the work environment and dress code of the employees could be items to study. A list of keywords, compiled from this research can be used to help inform your objects’ movements on a foundational basis, and support the emotional themes of a particular project.
The image below showcases two different ways of handling speed. The top option shows a dot moving back and forth at one constant speed. When reaching its end points, it stops abruptly, because it’s moving from full speed to stopping completely in one frame. This creates a stark and tense feeling in the movement, as well as that of rudimentary animation capabilities.
On the bottom option, I’ve toggled the speed of the dot to decrease gradually as it approaches an end point, and increase gradually when leaving one. In making the movement much smoother, the experience becomes more calm and human-like. In this instance, I’m using a very basic expression, called Easy Ease. This is an automated function that can be achieved by selecting a keyframe, and applying the option; however, After Effects users can dive deeper into the Speed Graph and define their own percentages that dictate these movements. Adobe offers more specific information about these capabilities on their website.
Manipulating the speed levels at which your objects move from keyframe to keyframe in a unique way, will make your animated content more impactful, when addressed across all of the different aspects of your animation. This includes elements such as scale, opacity, and many other effects.
For more context regarding the ways in which this tool can be manipulated, take into account these examples of animation style for two different entities. Content developed for a corporation that’s selling macaroni and cheese, shaped into the form of different prehistoric creatures, should be friendly and fun. The pacing of the objects will most likely be upbeat and bouncy, to excite children. This feeling could be achieved through simple and exaggerated movement.
On the other hand, if you’re creating information-based content for a company dealing with the management of risks, a much higher level of formality needs to be taken into account. The nature of the material is more serious and timely. When you’re dealing with subject matter that can impact the wellbeing of a society, the movements should be sharper and to-the-point. A feeling of professionalism and trust must be developed to aid the copy and reinforce brand qualities to protect an entity’s reputation for delivering honest, and high-quality information. A fluctuating sense of urgency is something to think about in this situation, as well.
Micro content is most often a gateway to a larger message, project, or initiative. These choices are important to seamlessly bridging that gap and keeping users engaged. A piece of animated content shared on social media, or on a professional networking platform, is a ground zero entry point to any story that a company is attempting to tell. We’re bombarded with different content and information on a daily basis, which makes it very important for us to utilize every opportunity possible to create unique nuance, from the moment of introduction to new users.
The transition from user engagement on a timeline to a company page or website is super important. It’s easy to lose your audience if the transfer is not handled with care. As users, we vet creditably in this moment, and those who are most active have become sharper than ever when it comes to gauging authenticity. When the story feels seamless visually, with every other aspect, it fuels the user in the same way that efficiency does. It’s pleasing when an app or website works intuitively. The process is graceful and engaging, beyond the subject matter of the content. Expressive animation is another layer to this experience.
These tools are not ground breaking innovations for the animation world. We’ve had access to expressions for years, but it’s my intent to shed light on their value when coupled with a well-researched point of perspective. In the same way that the letterforms of a font, the angles of a logo mark, or the color palette of a brand are held in high regard when making content decisions, animation style should be as well. Even the smallest pieces of content are an opportunity to make an audience feel a specific emotion, one that can establish a connection through consistency and repetition.