Getting into motion design is a tough but rewarding choice. More digital designers understand that motion goes hand-in-hand with modern interface work.
There’s a lot of great stuff online that can help you get started. But this isn’t always enough because free information doesn’t fill in all the gaps.
I organized this list of motion graphics books to help designers find the best resources to advance their knowledge. This collection is by far the most comprehensive without getting into unrelated territory, although not all of these books will prove useful.
Figure out which type of animation you wanna do and focus in that area. Whether it’s typographic animation, logos with motion, UI/UX animations or anything else, there’s a book here to suit your needs.
Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer is an excellent resource on general animation. This book talks about the basics of motion graphics and how animation works from the viewer’s perspective.
Sometimes as designers it can be tough understanding the final product. But that should always be the goal from the very beginning so that you have an end result to work towards.
This isn’t easy, and no there isn’t any single clear path to reach the final product.
But with this book you’ll understand a lot more about motion graphics and how this applies to modern design work.
Just note this book comes at the subject from a filmmaker’s perspective. It does touch upon many ideas used in branding/digital design work, but it’s primarily a resource for VFX designers.
Still the lessons are fantastic and you’ll walk away with a newfound respect for motion graphics work.
Design For Motion
This book is a lot closer to digital design work and it’s probably my favorite in this list.
Design for Motion: Fundamentals and Techniques of Motion Design delivers exactly what the title suggests. This book is truly about the fundamentals of motion in digital design.
Anyone serious about motion graphics absolutely needs a copy of this book on their desk.
Over 356 pages you’ll find tips and specific advice on how to work in a number of different motion-based mediums:
- Digital design
A great deal of motion graphics come from clients in the film, TV, or advertising industry. Working on a commercial ad for Facebook is no different than designing a YouTube explainer video.
Both require similar skillsets and you’ll need to understand how motion design works at a fundamental level.
Few designers realize how much animation knowledge goes into motion design work. Thankfully this book merges both topics and shows that they’re really one and the same.
The Moving Image Workshop
If you want something practical and hands-on check out The Moving Image Workshop by Heather Freeman.
This book is packed with exquisite exercises totaling almost 50 different projects you can do. These each aim to teach a different type of skillset with the goal of bringing designers more into the realm of digital motion work.
It’s great for current students in college or even high school who want to understand motion graphics from a practical point.
However this is also excellent for working designers who want to branch into motion design.
You’ll learn through example and work with raw materials provided in the book. All digital, all informative, and pretty fun to boot.
Highly recommend this book for anyone trying to understand motion design with real-world examples.
Adobe After Effects CC Classroom in a Book
There’s no denying that Adobe After Effects is the best program for motion graphics.
It works for all types of video clips but also lets designers work from Illustrator and Photoshop files. This means you can import a PSD of an interface and turn that into an animated UI/UX mockup for clients.
Adobe After Effects CC Classroom in a Book is the newest and best resource on this software. This book is aimed primarily at beginners who have never used After Effects in their life so it’s a great intro.
What’s nice about the “classroom in a book” series is how it teaches a wide array of disciplines.
This book does not assume you’re using AE to just edit videos, or just create YouTube explainer animations, or just move typography around. It covers all these areas with tips and techniques for each one.
So regardless of why you’re learning motion graphics this book has a little something for you. Not to mention if you want to get into this as a career(or part of it) then you really need to learn the After Effects interface.
And who better to teach it than the folks at Adobe Press?
After Effects Apprentice
Here’s an alternative resource to learning AE if you don’t like the Adobe series. After Effects Apprentice is a bit older with the most recent edition being published in 2012.
But it’s still an incredible guide to the software because even though new features do get added over time, the fundamental techniques remain the same. This book spans 350+ pages with a ton of great tips and exercises for beginners.
You’ll work with After Effects CS6 which isn’t all that old by now. The writing style is extremely professional and it presents motion graphics as a career-oriented concept.
Every chapter aims to increase your knowledge of the software with the goal of adding this skill to your resume. This isn’t a book you’d read for fun(although it can be fun!)
From basic animations to video compositing, masks, shape layers, text animations and so much more, this book has it all. If you’re OK working with the CS6 version of AE then you’ll absolutely adore this resource.
Creative Motion Graphic Titling for Film, Video, and the Web
Guaranteed you’ve seen titling effects before in many different videos. But the beauty of text effects is that they’re designed so they blend right into the video. Most people won’t even think that someone created a title’s animation sequence.
Creative Motion Graphic Titling for Film, Video, and the Web is by far the best starter pack for learning type animation.
With this massive 400+ page resource you’ll learn absolutely everything there is to know about motion graphic design for titling. This is really a fancy way of saying “typography for the screen” so all these effects apply to any text styles.
Each chapter includes unique lessons along with interviews from professional motion graphics designers. These interviews share bits of wisdom for beginners and help newbies realize how significant this process can be.
Each tutorial has its own genre style including horror, comedy, fantasy, drama, and even cloned title sequences from popular movies like The Matrix.
You can take this skill to any type of video and that definitely includes online advertising. With Facebook video ads increasing over time there’s no denying that great motion graphics artists are in high demand.
Anyone who wants a piece of this pie should definitely have a copy of this book.
Motion Graphics: Principles and Practices from the Ground Up
Here is one of the newest books I found on this topic and it’s a gorgeous learning resource.
Motion Graphics: Principles and Practices from the Ground Up really does teach the absolute core principles. You can pick up this book with little-to-no understanding of digital design software and still learn a lot through these lessons.
Authors Ian Crook and Peter Beare have a fantastic way of writing that just makes sense.
This book is an excellent place to start if you don’t’ have a background in the principles of motion graphics. It explains many different project types and how certain skillsets overlap regardless of what you’re creating.
But there is one thing to note here: this book is not fully pragmatic or action-based.
It’s mostly a theory book that covers what motion graphics is about and how you can use these for film, advertising, and web videos. Great resource to get started but you’ll want to pair this with a practical book like the After Effects titles mentioned earlier.
Transforming Type: New Directions in Kinetic Typography
Text motion is the biggest area for growth in digital motion graphics. Creating title sequences, intro credits, and explainer videos with text all fall into this category.
One of the best books on this topic is Transforming Type: New Directions in Kinetic Typography.
It’s a fairly short guide with only 130 pages but it is also pretty recent too. It was published in late 2015 and it’s one of the more interesting guides on typographic animation.
Just note that, once gain, this guide is very theoretical and it doesn’t have many practice exercises. Instead this discusses more about how kinetic typography works and how it should be applied to motion graphics.
You’ll walk away more with an understanding of this industry and how to apply your knowledge to project work. But this will not make you an expert and it certainly won’t pump a novice’s brain full of the info they need.
I still think it’s worth grabbing if you have an interest in kinetic type. Just be sure you also make time to practice with another exercise-oriented book or video course.
Motion Graphics in Branding
There’s so much to be said about modern branding. Many different fields come together in this space with marketing, advertising, product design and general naming conventions that requires a cohesive “theme” to the brand.
The book Motion Graphics in Branding aims to cover a lot of detail on this subject in only 200 pages.
Thankfully this book is very much a practical guide to branding with an attached disc full of exercises. You work through these projects on your own by following the book’s advice and using the sample files.
But you also get over 100 videos that also showcase what you can do with branding and motion. It is by far one of the most detailed guides mixing the written word and video lessons.
If you’re willing to drop the dough on this one it’ll prove invaluable to your learning process.
Anyone serious about getting into motion graphics needs to understand logo design and identity work. Of course it does help if you have some motion graphics & AE experience first, but either way I think this is a solid place to get started learning.
The Animator’s Survival Kit
I’ll admit this book is not technically a motion graphics book. It’s geared towards animators(2D and 3D) who want to understand more about the process of frame-by-frame animation.
So why did I add this into a motion graphics list?
Well The Animator’s Survival Kit is basically a primer on animation. Granted it has a bunch of technical instructions that are meant for people who can draw/sketch.
But you’ll also learn about the principles of animation and how these apply to all types of motion. These pull from “real life” because all great animation is meant to be lifelike in some way.
By studying this book you’ll really learn how to study life and pull animation ideas from that. It’ll teach you about the basics of timing and controlling your animations to create the effects you want. From bouncy text to shattering glass, each animation has its own behaviors and this book is a great primer for understanding that.
I do not think all motion graphics designers should get this book. It can be real technical and it’s mostly for animators anyway.
Those who have a dual-love for design & animation will get the most from this title.
Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects
I’ll be the first to admit this book is fairly outdated with the most recent publication being in mid-2010. However I’ll add that this is one of the more complete books on motion graphics featuring dozens of hands-on exercises.
Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects totals over 750 pages and comes packaged with a DVD of Adobe AE files. These all come from CS5 so they are a bit out of date for modern software.
Still you can open all the files in any version of AE and the lessons are still doable in AE CC.
The authors start by teaching the basic After Effects GUI along with layer controls and keyframes. Then you’ll move into more advanced topics creating real motion graphics that could be used in sample projects or even a portfolio.
Yes this book is long and arduous to work through. And yes it it kinda outdated compared to more recent books.
However I’ve yet to find one this detailed that covers both beginner and intermediate topics all in one volume. That’s why it made the list and that’s why I still recommend it as a learning resource.
Motion Graphic Design: Applied History and Aesthetics
Last in my list is Motion Graphic Design: Applied History and Aesthetics.
This is really fun to look into but won’t take you from zero to hero. It’s more of a historical look over motion graphics and how they’ve grown over each decade.
You’ll study live examples from DVD menus to websites and television commercials, all of which provide different instances of motion graphic design.
By really dissecting these examples you’ll learn how to clone these effects and get them working for you in modern projects. Mostly this is just a guide to the history of motion graphics with a ton of examples along the way.
If you’re already doing semi-professional work then skip this book. However if you’re just getting started and want some project ideas you can learn a lot inbetween these pages.
Check it out if you want to study more about the history and cultural trends of motion graphics. Just be sure to pair it up with a good practice-oriented resources like the Classroom in a Book series.