Designing for Animation | Part III

By 2017-05-17 Blog

We’re adding yet another part to our Designing for Animation series: animation software, principles, and tips. If you’re a designer and have ever wanted to try animation, or maybe you’ve animated a few times and want to take your skills to the next level, then this post is for you! Be sure to also catch up on Part I and Part II where we go over some examples of designing for animation as well as some tips for designers working with animators.


You’re interested in animating, but where do you start? When it comes to software, there are a couple main programs to check out.

After Effects:  One of Adobe’s animation programs is After Effects. This is definitely the most used program here at The Duke & the Duck. It has a wide range of capabilities when it comes to animation. It can be used for motion graphics, character animation, visual effects and more. Designs created in Photoshop or Illustrator can also easily be integrated into After Effects. Check out some of our tips on setting up your design files so they translate smoothly into After Effects in Part II.

Animate: Another Adobe software for animation is Adobe Animate. Previously known as Adobe Flash, Adobe Animate is another option. Animate is used more for character and hand drawn animation.

Photoshop: You can draw in Photoshop, design in Photoshop, AND animate in Photoshop. Animating in Photoshop is mostly used for hand drawn animation. Check out this great tutorial that walks you through how to use the animation features.

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Cinema 4D: This software may seem intimidating at first, but it can create some pretty magical work. Primarily Cinema 4D is used for 3D animation and other visual effects. This software is another staple in The Duke & the Duck workflow. It can easily be integrated into After Effect as well.

Toonboom: This software is not part of the Adobe family, but is a really great animation tool. Primarily used for animation on tv and film, Toonboom can also be a great resource for character animation and hand drawn animation.


When creating design there are certain principles to follow that really make a design stand out. In animation, there are also principles to follow that help make an animation appealing. There are 12 main principles in animation. A quick “mini” history lesson – these principles were put together by two of Disney’s original animators, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in their book “The Illusion of Life”.



Frank and Ollie were part of a group of Disney animators referred to as “the nine old men”. This group of animators was really the first to refine these principles through their years at Disney.

In this video, Cento Lodigiani does a wonderful job breaking down each principle through simple cube animations.

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We’ve made quite a few animations here at The Duke and the Duck, so we’ve used these principles a lot. Let’s break down a few we use in our animations.  


Squash & Stretch

Just as described, squash and stretch is when an object changes volume by squashing and stretching. This principle really adds life to an animation, it gives a sense of the weight of the object being animated. You can see the squash and stretch principle used in our animated logo on the duck and its hat. When the hat animates in it starts on a very squashed pose. As it moves up it stretches in length. The same squash and stretch is used on the duck, but a bit more subtle.




Think about a baseball being thrown. Before the ball is thrown, there is build up as the arm holds the ball before release. This type of movement is anticipation. In this animated video we did for the YMCA, around the 0:23 mark you can see this in action. Before the boy gets up, he moves down a bit then stands up.


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Follow Through & Overlapping

When an object stops moving, not all parts stop. This sums up to follow through and overlapping. Think of a person running who has long flowing hair. When that person stops, their hair keeps moving. An example from our collection can be found in the motion branding we did for the National Retail Federation around the 0:03 mark. The hand has stopped moving, but the bag continues to move back and forth.


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Slow In Slow Out

After something speeds up, it slows down. That is how the slow in slow out principle works. This movement is used a lot in motion graphic type animation. It can also be known as “easy ease”. We used this principle a lot in the “History of the School Lunch Program” video. When the camera moves up around 0:06 mark, all of the parts move quickly then settle into place. This same movement is seen in the chef when he rotates his head.


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Most natural motion moves on an arc. If you throw a ball that ball is going to move in an arc path, gradually moving down the further it goes due to gravity. This same motion can be found in body movement as well. When an arm swings, a foot moves, and a head turns, it forms an arc. Awhile back we made a fun video that highlighted our capabilities. In just the first couple seconds, the pink rectangle turns in a circle and moves around the screen. You can see the smooth arc path that it makes by adding in the follow through principle as well, we give it the illusion that it’s a line.


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The last principle that we’re going to cover can be a bit tricky. The appeal principle, at least when relating to traditional animation (think Disney movies), focuses on the appeal of the character. Overall appeal means that the animation has charisma, and is captivating to the audience. This can also include colors, font choice, and captivating compositions. We asked around the office for what we thought was our most appealing video was and got a couple different results.

The first is a video we did for the Inter-American Investments Corporation’s Invest Americas platform


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Our co-founder and animator Dave’s thoughts on it-

“I think the characters are simple, but probably the most adorable characters that we’ve used in animation. They were flexible to use and the worked well with the branding. The performance that we got out of them, the process was quick and effective. There is just something about that simplicity and the performance that we got out that I enjoy.”

Another video that we found appealing is the mission statement video we did for What Works Cities.


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Hannah, one of our animators found this one the most appealing-

“There is such a great combo of vibrant colors, good design and fluid animation in this video. What I found most appealing about it was how each scene seamlessly transitioned into the next. There was some really clever motion of going on, particularly the scene where the colored blocks turn into one large city (0:58). It just felt like it was this fluid dance with motion that was happening and I just wanted to watch more.”

That’s the end of this series! If you have additional questions about animation and what the process fully entails, feel free to send us a message. We would love to hear from you.


Author Hannah

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