Visual representations are purely static. Movement can be perceived when static objects are manipulated to create the illusion of activity – using many of the same elements we’ve already explored. In real life, movement doesn’t have steps or a sequence to it like it does in design because things are actually capable of moving. In design, therefore, it’s necessary to see what elements can be combined to create this illusion.
The basic characteristics of movement are direction (which way an object moves) and path (the imagined line upon which an object moves). Movement isn’t strictly linear, and can include rotation of an entire object while moving along a path (subordinate movement), or rotation of part of an object (displacement).
While it’s important to recognize the characteristics of movement, more important is knowing how to imply that movement in design. Repetition is one of the easiest ways to imply movement, and can encompass repetition of color, size, texture, direction or form. The distance between these repeated objects, called frequency, is what really implies movement. When there are several even frequencies, the repetition has rhythm.
Other elements that imply movement include rotation, either around a central point outside of an object or around a point within the object. Upscaling and downscaling are other transformations that can suggest movement.
An excerpt found online* from Graphic Design: The New Basics by Eric Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips explores the practical applications of the illusion of movement and time in still and motion based design. This reading asserts that designers working with motion must approach their composition in the same way that they would if it wasn’t motion based, which means it’s critical to pay attention to simple elements like line, shape and color, among others.
Two examples of implied movement stood out to me in this reading. First was and exploratory set of logo designs for a media art conference called Loop. The designers who made these logos all took different approaches to implying the movement associated with the word loop. One overlapped multiple O’s that are slightly transparent, suggesting movement along the horizontal path of the type.
Another uses a continuous line to draw the letterforms, and then continues to loop that line around, making concentric outlines of the word loop.
A third implies movement contextually, rather than visually, by using letterforms akin to the numbers used on a digital clock. This suggests a cyclical movement through time because of what’s associated with a clock.
Another example in this excerpt compresses multiple silhouettes of a ballerina’s action into one frame. Each movement is a separate layer, and a separate color – transitioning from warm to cool from the back to the front. Though only the top frame shows the whole picture, the progression of the ballerina’s action is still very clear.
Right now, I really only have experience with static design – mainly print. Being able to implement implied motion in my work is not just important to create interesting and dynamic print design, but also for when I start studying motion and interactive design. Because if I can’t understand motion before it actually starts moving, I don’t think I’d be able to employ it as well as I could when I have a firm grasp on implied motion.
Content can be found here: http://gdbasics.com/files/Time_Motion.pdf