5 Tips to Write a Motion Graphic Script Designers Won’t Hate

A powerful script is the foundation of a great video. (See our guide to writing a video script if you’re a total noob.) But when you’re writing a motion graphic script, it’s about more than simple dialogue. A good motion graphic combines audio and visuals to tell a compelling story, yet many scriptwriters forget that they’re writing for this specific medium.

Too often scriptwriting and design are entirely divorced in the creation process. Writers churn out words, then kick their scripts to designers to execute. This happens for practical reasons, because you can’t move into design without a script. But what a script truly represents is the story you’re telling. That story is communicated through various elements, from voiceover to color palette, so every element should be considered from the start.

This is why applying some design thinking to your scriptwriting process is tremendously beneficial. When you consider how your words will translate to design, you craft a script that ensures they will.

Our team has collaborated on plenty of motion graphic projects, and in that time we’ve learned a thing or two about how to make the scriptwriting process easier and more productive for everyone, and we’re eager to share our knowledge with you.

5 Tips to Upgrade Your Motion Graphic Script

Collaborating with your design team during the scripting process doesn’t mean you need an art director looking over your shoulder as you write; it means considering design from the get-go. If you’re getting ready to take a first crack at a motion graphic script, here are a few tips that will set your team up for success.

1) Find the Story with Your Team

A common problem we see in motion graphic scripts is either a total lack of story or way too much, but this can be remedied with a little work up front.

Once you receive your creative brief, you know your goals for the motion graphic at hand. From there, you can call a creative meeting to talk high-level story. The goal here isn’t to outline a detailed script; it’s to identify the core story structure.

  • What’s the premise?
  • What are the plot points?
  • Do you have a conflict-solution, setup-payoff, or cliffhanger?

This conversation helps the team spot any gaps and start thinking about cool design opportunities that may be relevant to the script. For example, the story may lend itself well to a particular visual metaphor, which may be reinforced by word choice.

In short, this conversation gets the creative wheels turning for everyone. Then you can produce a script draft and iterate accordingly. (BTW, if you’re creatively stuck, here are 10 tips to help you push through.)

Example: This simple motion graphic from Intuit tells the story of their new Invoice with Google Calendar app, walking the viewer through what it is, why they need it, and how to use it.

2) Know Your Run Time

To effectively write and produce a script, you need to know what constraints you’re working within. The length of your motion graphic may be influenced by many factors, depending on your project, goal, or story.

Whether it’s a tutorial, explainer video, or long-form narrative, decide on the run time from the jump. If you’re not sure how long your motion graphic should be, here’s how to figure it out.

Example: This motion graphic for Stand Up to Cancer walks the viewer through their services in 2 minutes, 18 seconds.

3) Let Visuals Do the Heavy Lifting

The biggest advantage (and power) of motion graphics is that they leverage both audio and visual channels. This actually makes your job easier as a writer. In such limited space, you need to make the most of what you have, so look for opportunities to communicate parts of your story via design.

Any time you visualize information, you save space on the page. For example, say you have a compelling piece of data that supports your story. You can show a detailed data visualization that shows industry sales growth over 10 years on screen, but you don’t need to waste valuable word count by recapping those individual data points. You can simply provide context by saying, “Industry sales doubled in the last decade” and let the visuals do the work.

Always give your script a pass to spot opportunities to show, not tell.

Example: This motion graphic by NBC Universal sheds light on food waste, using design to dynamically visualize how much food we waste each year.

4) Watch Your Transitions

Sometimes writers like to add some of their own visual directions in a motion graphic script. This is understandable, as you may “see” an idea as you write it. However, writers often make a mistake when they do this.

Your motion graphic script may include voiceover, on-screen text, or a blend of the two. But the visuals will not necessarily track line by line. (There are more scene changes in a motion graphic than you might realize.) One line of V.O. does not equal a single frame. There may be several per line—especially for transitions between lines of dialogue.

You can certainly make some suggestions, especially for abstract ideas. But the designer is responsible for making sure the visuals communicate the story cohesively. Let them do their thing.

Example: This 45-second motion graphic for Ignition features 11 scene changes.

5) Cut Your Word Count

Similar to the line-per-scene misconception, script length and voiceover run time are often misjudged. Just because your video is 2 minutes long doesn’t mean you should stuff it with 2 minutes of V.O.

Keep the script lean to give breathing room that allows the on-screen visuals to provide more color and bring it to life. Again, account for visual transitions, music, and appropriate line reads.

If you have trouble cutting down, do a pass to look for alternate words. Reducing syllables or restructuring syntax can help you get the tightest script possible. While read time will vary, you can also use a script timer to help you guesstimate what your run time is.

Example: This powerful motion graphic for International Justice Mission packs an emotional punch in just 46 seconds.

How to Make Your Motion Graphic a Success

The more you see your scripts turned into storyboards, the more you’ll get a sense of how your work translates. As you move through the process, stay open to communication and collaboration with your creative team and work to make the process more efficient for everyone. A few ways to do that:

And if you need a little help with your motion graphic script, we’re always happy to chat.