Beyond Animation: Toward a Rhetoric of Motion Design for Technical and Professional Writing

Daniel Joseph Liddle, Purdue University


This dissertation grounds the relationship between visual rhetoric in professional and technical communication and motion design, a sub-discipline of graphic design that focuses on the movement of typography, color, and abstract shapes. Although scholars in professional and technical communication readily discuss the problematic use of animation in web design and presentation graphics (PowerPoint, Prezi, etc), there has been little recognition of the growing use of animated motion in contemporary multimedia design. I argue that these connections are necessary given the increasingly standard role of motion as a design element in common genres in professional communication, including user interfaces, explainer videos, and data visualizations. In order to build connections between motion design and visual rhetoric, I trace the historical trajectory of design principles in animation and motion design, from the canonical 12 principles developed by Disney animators to the contemporary guidelines for interface animation published by Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Highlighting the relationship between these different principles and the field of visual rhetoric, I argue that an emphasis on guiding principles of “realism” and “distraction” promote an arhetorical understanding of motion design, leading to obstacles for the research and teaching of multimodality in technical and professional communication. In response, this dissertation offers four topics for grounding motion design in visual rhetoric: personality/affect, choreography, presence, and accessibility. The dissertation concludes with strategies for teaching motion design in the context of professional writing drawn from my experience teaching a class in Multimedia Writing that emphasizes motion graphics over the course of two years.




Sullivan, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Multimedia Communications|Technical Communication|Rhetoric

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server