Nicolas Titeux

Sound designer | Sound mixer

Sound design for motion design

by | Oct 18, 2020

Motion design is a discipline that applies graphic design principles to video production through use of animation and visual effects. It is used to create visual identities, animated logos, didactic tools, advertisements, text animation… Sound plays a very important role in the impact of motion design. Let’s see this in detail.


sound design for motion design

Make the image credible


In our daily life, most actions generate sound. Indeed it takes a lot of effort to stay perfectly silent for a while. Our brain is used to hearing. It is therefore unnatural not to associate sound with movement.

Movie directors know this. For this reason, we often hear non-existing sounds in movies which which perfectly match the picture, like the sounds in space.

Adding relevant and well-chosen sound adds truth to the image and greatly increases its impact. Its absence can generate a feeling of frustration and be perceived as a technical issue by the audience.

It is also important to adapt sound to the visual style it illustrates. In the following example, the sound accompanies both the graphic process thanks to a writing sound effect and gives life to the important picture elements (computer, lamp, plant).



Draw attention on specific points


When a shot contains a lot of moving visual elements, it is difficult to predict how the eye and the brain will interpret them. Sound design highlights important elements in an effective and subtle way. The soundtrack thus helps to understand the message correctly.

In the following example, the viewer had to pay attention to the names of the different grape varieties that appear on the map. However, the eye is rather attracted by the moving bus, because it is already present in the previous shot. I chose to add small percussions synchronized names on screen to put them in relief. These sound effects are in the same spirit as the music, to reinforce the coherence of the soundtrack.

Add meaning to an implicit image


In motion design, we sometimes use simple geometric shapes. Sound helps explain what we see. The viewer’s understanding is ensured by the use of an adequate sound effect.

Here is an example: a simple white moving disk. Observe how the different sound effects modify the perception of this visual sequence. You will first see a basketball bouncing, then a tennis ball and other things …

Ensure a professionnal rendering


Motion design and animation films sometimes adopt very particular visuals. It can be drawings, simple shapes, colors, plasticine, origami. Whatever graphic style you choose, the viewer will perceive it as an artistic bias, and in fact will immediately accept it.

But our brains are much less flexible when it comes to sound. A simplistic soundtrack, an approximate image-sound sync or a distant sound recording: none of this can be perceived as an artistic bias. On the contrary, it will be felt as a flaw.

Here are the main quality criterias for a soundtrack :


  • The quality of the sounds (timbre, absence of parasites and background noise, etc.)
  • The clarity of intentions in the choice of sounds, clear and understandable.
  • The relevance of the sounds.
  • The spectral richness.
  • The rhythm.
  • The mixing and in particular the voice / music balance (the voice must always be perfectly intelligible).
  • Image / sound synchronism.
  • Attention to detail (do not forget small sounds and atmospheres).
  • The dynamic.

Bring a sound identity

Like visual identity, sound identity is extremely important. It ensures that the film leaves a lasting memory for the viewer. It extends the impact of the image. Some films like Star Wars have such a strong sound identity that it has even changed the way sound is made in movies.

In advertising, we use the term musical identity. Who doesn’t have the advertising jingles of our childhood in mind? These short melodies, when well crafted, leave a print in our minds, sometimes for a lifetime.


Photo credit : freepik

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