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What are the different styles of animation?

Animation is a powerful marketing tool unbridled by the limiting constraints of reality. It empowers brands with the creative freedom needed to spark imaginations, engage audiences, and communicate whatever messages they want to send.

Sounds great, right? To be honest, it is. However, the creative freedom afforded by animation can also prove challenging, especially when it comes to choosing which style of animation to use.

With a wide variety of different types of animation and new technologies being released every day, knowing which one is right for your product, message, and brand is no easy feat. This guide aims to tackle this challenge. 

Since the best decisions are well-informed decisions, we’ve put together a list of today’s most widely used animation styles to give you the information you need to capture your audience, convey your message, and grow your brand with the help of animation in 2022 and beyond.

1. 2D Animation

As one of the oldest and most common styles of animation, 2D animation can be seen everywhere from cartoons to promotional videos and everything in between.

With traditional 2D animation, characters and objects appear flat as each frame is hand drawn. Today, the process is significantly streamlined thanks to modern digital tools and techniques.

Images are created using computer software and vectors to easily create and animate images, resulting in crisp, dynamic 2D characters and environments.

In addition to its flexibility, a major benefit of 2D animation is its cost-effectiveness. The process is much more streamlined than with 3D animations, providing a fast and simple way to bring marketing concepts to life.

Used by everyone from MailChimp and Hive to McDonald’s and Airbnb, 2D animation is a versatile, time-tested style of animation that when done right, delivers results. 

2. 3D Animation

Also known as CGI, 3D animation was once revolutionary but has become a go-to style for companies looking to up the animation ante by creating more realistic and immersive animated experiences.

3D animation is similar to 2D, except instead of a flat image, 3D objects and characters are used. While it has been frequently used in movies, 3D is also great at showcasing products or designs and has been used for commercials and interactive advertisements by companies like Samsung, Audi, Hankook, Audible, and more.

That said, 3D is more labour-intensive and costly than 2D and other animation styles, so it’s not the best option for every project or brand. 

3. Rotoscope Animation

Have you ever watched Disney’s original Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? How about the Star Wars trilogy or A Scanner Darkly? If so, whether you knew it or not, you were seeing the use of rotoscope animation.

With rotoscoping, animators trace frame-by-frame over live action to create natural looking animations. Despite originating nearly a century ago, it’s a technique that still manages to pack a visual punch and capture realistic movements that would otherwise take weeks or months to create.

Today, digital tools speed up the process even more and make 2D images pop right off the screen as if they are 3D. However, rotoscoping is usually cheaper to execute than traditional 3D animation, making it a popular option for everything from commercials to feature films. 

4. Stop Motion Animation

Stop motion animation is one of the oldest forms of animation, yet it’s still widely used in films and marketing to this day. To create stop motion animations, animators string sequences of images together to produce an illusion of movement.

While digital processes can now animate objects faster than traditional stop motion animation, it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to animate objects, helping it survive to this day. 

Stop motion also produces a homespun feel that is difficult to recreate digitally, making it a perfect animation solution for certain brands and marketing campaigns. IKEA, Nordstrom, Annie’s, Earth’s Own, and several other modern brands have captured audiences using this time-tested animation technique. 

5. Motion Graphics

Motion graphics is a much more modern animation style involving the use of dynamic graphic design to convey a message or tell a story.

Thanks to digital tools and its flowing mix of dynamic text, graphs, and charts, motion graphics has become a popular technique for turning dry, boring data into engaging and entertaining content.

It’s also a fairly effective yet low-cost animation technique, making it a popular option for brands large and small looking to get noticed and stand out from the crowd. 

6. Screencast Animation

As its name suggests, screencast animation utilises screen capture and voice narration to walk viewers through a service or product. It’s an animation approach that focuses on showing rather than telling and turning screen captures into fun yet informative videos.

This makes screencast animation perfect for demonstrating digital services, and seeing first-hand how something works can significantly impact conversion rates; just ask the folks at CardCruncher, The Lemonade App, and almost every other successful digital brand using screencast animation today. 

7. Typography Animation

Typography animation brings text to life. Sometimes referred to as kinetic animation, it’s a cost-effective technique that combines visual effects with animated text to engagingly convey survey findings, statistical data, and basically any written words into something visually stunning. 

While this style of animation is often used on the big screen for title and credit segments, its simplicity and effectiveness have made it a popular animation style for brands like McDonald’s, Apple, Honda, Shopify, and others looking to create interesting presentations, explainer videos, training materials, and more.

8. Augmented Reality Animation

This last popular animation style is still relatively new, but it has already become a go-to format for brands looking to get in on the VR and Metaverse explosion. By blending live real-world footage with digital images, products can be brought to life in ways that were unheard of just a few short years ago.

With augmented reality now becoming a very “real” thing, everyone from Amazon and Gucci to Tim Horton’s and The New York Times are jumping on the augmented reality bandwagon. Depending on the size and scope of your business, perhaps you should too. 

Bring Your Brand to Life With Professional Animation

Well, there you have it. There are several other styles of animation (we didn’t forget about your whiteboard or pinscreen), but the styles above best represent both the past and future of animation and are popularly used for marketing by brands large and small.

If you’re still not sure about which animation style to use for your next project, an experienced animation professional will go over your options with you to achieve the perfect look and feel.

Geoff Founder | Director
Before forming Groundbreak in 2012, Geoff spawned from a background in multinational prime time broadcast television. Over the years he has produced, directed and

written for various TV formats including current affairs, light entertainment and sport (including programming for the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games). In addition to this, in between directing commercials, Geoff’s other passion lies in documentary making, from which he is a multi award-winning writer and director. Whether it’s a short form TVC or long form documentary, Geoff’s a true creative who loves nothing more than making powerful content and utilising his expertise in the art of storytelling. Geoff eats semi-volcanic chilli-riddled dishes for breakfast almost every morning, believing that it’s the best way to kick start the day. Mental.