Udacity Motion Graphics
I love solving problems. Big problems. So during my six month contract at Udacity, I lead the process of solving one of Udacity’s biggest problems in their video production process. Udacity’s dozen video producers create hours of video content every week with each video requiring a plethora of motion graphic elements that a team of contract animators create. It is a massive part of the post production process and fraught with issues.
The catalyst of this project was completely self-initiated. After only a month with Udacity, I did some research and approached the head of production with a potential solution to the problem I saw producers struggling with. Once approved, I shepherded the project through the logistics of sourcing, bidding and negotiations, and then through art direction and implementation. In the end, Udacity had a functional system that would end up cutting post production time in half, save the company almost $100k annually, and fundamentally change the experience for students.
The Problem to Solve
The motion graphics being used in all of Udacity’s classes were individually created by a rotating team of animators. Each animator is given instructions by a dozen different video producers with varying degrees of design experience. It’s a time-consuming process that results in a muddled, inconsistent visuals. Fonts, sizing, colors, positioning, backgrounds were all different across all of Udacity’s classes.
Udacity needed a system that would define a certain visual aesthetic for all classes. The system would need to be so easy to use that it would force producers to adopt it.
After a lengthy sourcing process involving bids from a dozen animation studios and designers, I settled on working with Daniel Luna and Yaniv Fridman, a talented remote-based design and animation duo with experience creating motion graphics for companies like Shopify and Facebook.
We started right away on defining a new look for Udacity’s videos that were aligned with the rest of Udacity’s brand while also remaining flexible enough that each school and class would be slightly different from one another. Consistent yet individual? It’s a challenging problem to solve.
What we created would give each school and curriculum a defined look while remaining consistent with all of Udacity’s videos. Each school would have a unique animated background, while each curriculum within that school would be given its own individual color. It was defined and still infinitely expandable.
The design of each school would take visual cues from what was being taught. The School of Marketing referenced a network of people. School of Autonomous Systems would evoke images of radar. School of AI would replicate circuitry while the School of Data would play with the idea of connecting data points.
The designs were then animated by Yaniv and Daniel. These new animations were more visually complex and engaging without being distracting.
Over two dozen animated elements were created each with their own variations to be used by video producers. Things from titles to stingers, lists and split-screens; anything a producer could possibly need to use in their videos was there.
Templatized Post Production
Again, implementing these design changes had to be extremely easy for Udacity’s video producers. We took advantage of a new feature in Adobe’s Suite called Essential Graphics that would allow Yaniv and Daniel to create complex animations in After Effects that could be dropped into video editing software and dynamically changed with almost no effort.
This feature would shrink the animating process to just changing a few text boxes and sliders. Now, video producers could create their own animated elements on the fly without having to work with and communicate to an external team of animators. No added turnaround. No more complexity.
What’s the point of creating an awesome new system if no one knows how or why to use it? The last step of the project was to create a guide that could be utilized by all the current video producers and be given to future employees so everyone was informed and confident in this process.
This 30+ page guide would outline this revised visual identity, the basic principles of Essential Graphics and the plethora of new tools now at their disposal.