38—Consider time

This is the first tip I’ve posted in a while. My fulltime job is as Marketing Manager for a nonprofit that puts on a giant festival each April. It’s called the Tom Tom Founders Festival, and you should definitely check it out.

Now, normally this job doesn’t get in the way of Type365, but two days before the Festival started, we found out that we’d have to do all our screen animations (you know, the things that play when people walk on stage at the start of each event) in-house. We don’t employ an animator. Yikes.

So basically, I had to learn After Effects and create more than 200 screen animations in 5 days. The first ones I made were pretty bad, but I steadily got better and better as the little nuances of designing with time became clear.

See, that’s one thing about graphic design or type design: time isn’t really an issue. Sure, you plan for the viewers’ gaze scanning across your work. Where do you want them to end up? What draws their attention first? And so on.

With videos and apps and websites, though, it helps to consider how the design itself changes over time.

I’ve done some video work before, and I’ve done plenty of app work, but I’ve never truly considered time until I was forced to. The real turning point was in trying to engineer subtlety into the animations.

In graphic design, something can be subtle if it’s only a bit different in color or value; over time though, even something graphically subtle can seem loud if it’s jerking all over the place. You need it to be slow, smooth, and comfortable.

This is as important with large screen animations as it is with the animations in an app. Have you ever clicked on something in an app an not known whether the app registered your tap? So you sit there wondering… is something going to happen? Then maybe it flashes to the next screen. Oh! It was just slow.

The engineer or designer probably didn’t think about loading times. Wouldn’t it be better if when you tapped, the button text changed to a rotating loading icon? Or if the screen blurred? Those are just two examples, but they acknowledge time in a way that shows something is happening, don’t worry.

This process gave me a new appreciation for time in my flat designs. For the next few tips, we’ll look at how time plays a role in your designs.

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