3 Steps to Create an Ironclad Creative Brief and an Excellent Animation
Take a guess at one of the biggest issues that negatively impacts animation production. Hint: It has nothing to do with actually producing an animation and everything to do with getting ready for production.
The issue in question? A lack of preparation. Animation is a complex medium. If you don’t set a proper animation plan at the outset, you risk serious setbacks during production. Not to mention a less-than-stellar final product.
But there’s no instruction manual on how to create an effective animation for your brand. That’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s the first or fortieth time you’ve embarked on a motion project. Knowing exactly where to start is just plain challenging.
Don’t get discouraged. There are three surefire steps you can take to get your animation project off on the right foot. At the end of these three steps, you’ll have a top-notch creative brief to guide the production of a best-in-class animated video.
Step 1: Establish Your Animation Project’s Constraints
Animation is limitless. Creativity is inexhaustible. But, much to everyone’s dismay, time and budget are not. You have to designate constraints for your project upfront or risk it going way off the rails — both in terms of scope and budget.
But don’t think of constraints as a bad thing. They’re actually helpful to all parties involved, including the animation studio you’re working with. Constraints are boundaries that keep everyone on-task and on the same page about the project’s direction. They provide healthy limits on how much time you can and should spend in the strategy and production stages (you don’t want weeks of production to take months). Constraints also keep the resources available for the video in check. And they make it easier for any external partners to evaluate and price your animation project appropriately.
Need another reason to feel good about setting project boundaries? They help the creative professionals involved in your project avoid the dreaded blank canvas syndrome — a sort of paralysis or mental block that impedes artists from creating. Giving your animation partner a clear jumping off point as well as a general direction to follow keeps them from getting stuck.
With all that in mind, below are some of the constraints you should document when planning an animation campaign:
- Budget: What financial resources are available?
- Timeline: Is this an average turnaround time or a rush job?
- Target audience: Who are you trying to reach?
- Video duration: How long should the animation be?
- Aspect ratios: Where will the audience consume this video?
- Language: Should the animation be translated into multiple languages?
- Colors: What are the predominant campaign and/or brand colors the animators should stick to?
- Characters: Are the animators free to use characters?
- Specific styles: Is there an animation or visual style the team should follow?
Fill your creative brief with as many details about each of the constraints above as possible. When the goalpost is in view, it’s easier to score. And when your team is armed with well- thought-out information, it’s easier for them to create an effective final product.
Step 2: Be Sure You Understand the Process of Animation Development
Most motion graphics or 2D animation projects are developed in a waterfall format. Every step has to be approved and locked down before moving on to the next. Some of these steps are internal; your animation partner can move through them without your input. But others require your review on behalf of your brand or approval from your end client. It looks like this:
Keeping this structure in mind matters. It’ll help you evaluate the time needed to complete each step, ensuring each step is given its proper due.
Speaking of time needed for each step, expect to spend more time in pre-production than production. Strategizing, writing the script, storyboarding — these activities are time consuming because they require a lot of back and forth between your animation team, brand, and, if applicable, end client. Be sure to account for review and rounds of revisions when you’re planning your animation project, not just the time needed to actually prepare each asset.
Step 3: Put Pen to Paper on Your Animation Strategy and Creative Brief
Up until now, we’ve been (mostly) discussing animation project and campaign strategy. But you also need a strategy for the actual video. After all, a successful animation is about more than making cool characters move around on screen (although we love that part). Like everything else, it requires early planning.
Start by thinking about your animation strategy as a part of your larger campaign strategy. Account for specifics like the video’s target audience and core message as well as where your campaign will run. Combine those logistics with details on the video’s proposed visual experience.
A high-quality animation strategy allows your campaign to:
- Create an emotional connection with the audience. “At the end of the day, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote by the poet Maya Angelou represents why fostering emotional connections with your audience through your animation is crucial. Put significant effort into planning animation pieces that build feelings in your viewers.
- Send a powerful message. You want viewers to grasp your video’s intended message the very first time they watch it. Make your campaign message crystal clear and plan how you’ll develop visuals and a story to support it.
- Develop a strong brand association. You also need to make sure your brand or your client’s brand is recognizable and expressed in every moment of your animation. Carefully plan the use of colors, typography, and other visual elements the target audience associates with the brand at-hand.
Align your visual concept, script, and storyboard (defined during the pre-production stage) with your video strategy — inclusive of information about the three points above. Remember, you’ll compile everything into your creative brief. At this point, be sure to translate these details into visual references that can guide production. Your animation partner should be able to assist you in these final stages of creating your brief.
An Exceptional Final Animation Is in View
With these three steps completed, you can jump into any animation project confident you’re headed in the right direction.
A well-defined process and scope make it easier to align deadlines with budgets and help you set expectations for your clients (if applicable) and the creative team developing the video. Moreover, your animation strategy ensures everyone working on the project understands what you want to achieve and how they can make that happen alongside you.
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