10 questions to ask your client at the start of a motion design project

At the start of any new motion design project it’s vital to establish both what the client wants to get across in the animation, and the overall scope of the work you’ll be doing.

The following 10 questions will help you and your client determine what will be involved in the project, the measures of success, and the key deliverables that you’ll produce. You should then be able to produce a proposal, or motion design project plan to move forward with.

The initial project questions can also help you determine project costs, and bring to light aspects of the process the client may not have thought about - bringing more value to them before you’ve even animated a single frame.

Taking the time to discuss these questions with your client will also help create a strong foundation for the working relationship. It shows you have a clear process in place, that you’ve done this before, and you know what to expect. All of which is pretty calming for a client.

The 10 questions have been split into two main sections. The main goal with these first five questions is to learn a little more about the client, what they do, and the information they want to get across in their animation.

Note: You’ll need to tailor these questions to your client depending on whether they’re looking to create an animation for a product, a service, or perhaps a general topic/idea.

First five questions to ask your client:

  • What is the main goal of your company/product/service?
  • What problems do your customers usually face elsewhere? (Or what problems does your company solve?)
  • In 3 points or less, how does your product/service/company solve these problems?
  • Who is the target audience for the video, and how should they feel after watching the animation?
  • What is the main point you want people to remember after they’ve watched the animation?

You could package these questions up into an online questionnaire the client can fill out, but what usually works best is actually having a conversation with the client over the phone, in person, or via a video call. Just having a conversation with your client can help build a good relationship and can help you to understand what they’re after. Remember, to build a good motion design project plan you need to know what the client is looking to create.

These initial questions serve two main purposes. The first is to establish what key information the client wants to put into the animation. Clients have a tendency to embellish and use a lot of industry speak, so by asking for “3 points or less” for example, you can really help find out what they want to say in a clear and concise manner.

The second purpose of the initial questions is to create some measures of success for the entire project. Take the last question for example; by establishing a main point people should remember after watching the animation, you can use this as a yardstick to determine if the script is successful. If you remember the main point after reading the script, then it’s a success! If the main point gets lost, the script may need a re-write.

To read more about how these initial 5 questions can help shape your motion design script, you may be interested in our guide on: how to write an explainer video script.

The second set of questions to ask your client at the start of a project:

Once you have an idea of what the client needs content-wise from their animation, the next five questions will help you plan for additional time and costs for aspects the client may not have thought about initially:

  • Where will the video be shown?
  • Does the video require translation?
  • Will the video need subtitles?
  • Do you require a voiceover?
  • What dimensions do you require? (e.g: Full HD 1920x1080, Instagram 1080x1080)

The first question helps you establish the scale of the project and if you need to take into account any additional rights. An animation that will be shown on TV may need additional usage rights for things like the music track and voiceover for example. If an animation is to be shown on a gigantic advertising board then the render times may be quite lengthy and require more time to complete.

Translations are a usual sticking point in motion design projects, I’ve had plenty of clients who, right at the end of a project, have turned round and asked for all the text in the video to be translated.

Translations almost always require more work than you realise, the different length of words and phrasing can really take some reworking - all of which requires extra time and budget. If a project needs translations, it’s best to know right from the start so you can account for the extra time, it can also influence how you structure a project (only using text animators and ensuring there’s enough space for longer words and phrases).

Finding out if the animation needs subtitles is another useful thing to know from the outset. Subtitles can come in a few different forms, closed captions for example can be added relatively easily in Premiere after you’ve created your animation. Some clients prefer something more unique though, which inevitably comes with additional time and costs.

Establishing whether the animation requires a voiceover is another key question to ask right at the start of a project. If they don’t require a voiceover then you’ll need to plan for on-screen text for example.

If your client does require a voiceover, it allows you to have an upfront conversation about the type of voice that’s needed, who will be in charge of sourcing the talent, and usage rights. It might be that you let your client deal with sourcing the voiceover, or perhaps it’s something you can take care of and include within your price.

Whichever route you take for the voiceover, having this discussion before any work begins means you can plan to have the voiceover completed and ready to go before the animation stage. It’s often easier to animate to a voiceover than re-timing an animation to fit.

The dimensions question is one I wish I’d added to my initial project questions years ago, I’d have saved so much time! You may have come across the problem yourself: you’ve done an animation in 16:9 format, only for the client to turn round at the end and ask for square social media versions for Instagram!

Establishing the formats needed right from the start helps create key deliverables for the client and can save a lot of issues further down the line.

So there we are, five initial project questions to find out what the client wants to say, and five questions to help establish the scope and deliverables for the project. Once you’ve discussed these questions with your client, and have the answers you need, you can then move on to creating a motion design proposal, or a solid motion design project plan.

Any key questions missing? What questions do you ask at the start of your motion design projects? Let us know via Twitter

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