The 3 Essential Elements of Sophisticated, Subtle Animation

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Partner & Chief Creative Officer
Mar 9, 2018

Sophistication is a word many clients use when they come to our St. Louis web design agency describing what they want in a redesign of their website or application. "Sophistication" brings to mind brands like LincolnApple and Vogue; brands that capitalize on subtle elegance and refinement rather than flashy bells and whistles.

This highly desirable aesthetic appears deceptively simple to achieve, but in fact requires a fastidious design strategy. One element that can help you successfully execute this type of strategy is subtle, clean animations.

Brands can easily fall into the trap of overcomplicating animations. When trying to achieve a subtle animation, the components can be broken down into 3 main concepts:

Weight and Balance

Elegance comes in the form of light visuals with plenty of whitespace. It's all about a crisp, lightweight feel and giving your animations space to breath.

Patterns and Consistency

A well-designed animation is about relationships. How does one part of the animated object connect to any other part? For example, imagine an animation of a train on a railroad going from left to right on a loading screen. If the train is moving rapidly across the screen but also slowly bouncing on the track, it's going to look strange and inconsistent.

Principles and Timing

Clean, cohesive animations need to have the same activity level and timing. Activity level is the amount of movement an animation does from start to finish. The momentum has to be the same throughout the animation. If it does not seem the same, it can make the user feel anxious. As humans, we appreciate predictable patterns and consistency.

Timing is equally as important as the activity level. If the animations are timed properly and in sync, they will feel cohesive and impart a sense of connectivity.

If you take away one piece of advice from this article, take this: break each animation into parts. Have a beginning, middle and end to each animation. Add a story and give a purpose to each movement. If there is no purpose, DON'T do it. Subtle animations are not always necessary. Think of your brand, its mission and voice, then work from there. Step back and think of every project holistically. Consistency is key to a strong branding strategy!

Fine tuning animations to match everyone's taste is certainly subjective, but following these guidelines and avoiding over-complication will set you on the right path towards subtlety. Just don't expect to achieve your ideal result on the first try. Take it from a web design agency with years of experience - sophisticated animations and interactions take a long, iterative process.

It's not a race. It's a steady jog with many routes to the finish line.

Want to work with a St. Louis web design agency full of talented designers that can build your brand? Contact us today.

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