Spring 2021 // Thursday 10:30–1:10 // Online

Motion Design



This is the syllabus for the Spring 2021 class of AVT 411: Motion Design (3 credits). The instructor is Michael McDermott, can be reached by email at mmcderm8 at gmu dot edu, and can be met with at his virtual office hours on Mondays from 12–2, Wednesdays from 10–12, and Fridays from 12–2.

Delivery and Timing

This is a synchronous online course. That means we will meet once a week on Thursdays from 10:30 to 1:10. These meetings are required and will also be recorded for later review. The class is currently scheduled to run for 14 weeks and you can expect to work for 6 hours outside of class each week.


AVT 217: Intro to Web Design and AVT 311: Graphic Design Principles and Methods

Course Description

Motion Design introduces the theories, techniques and practices of motion design and the integration of design, image, sound, video, and animation.


This is not a software training course. Although there will be occasional in-class software demos a majority of the software skills will need to be self taught. Through the exercises, in-class workshops, projects, and critiques the students will learn the fundamental principles of time-based design grounded in traditional design principles.

Participants should finish the course with a working knowledge of motion design principles and methods as well as a better understanding of the production side of the medium.



There is no textbook for this course.



You must have After Effects to participate in this course. We will also use Photoshop and Illustrator to produce assets and other files throughout the semester. See Technology Requirements for more information.


Zoom (holding class sessions), Slack (communication platform), Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or some other internet browser (accessing class website and uploading videos), and a Vimeo account.


This course consists of many shorter exercises, a few longer projects, quizzes, and discussion requirements. The exercises are to begin to familiarize students with specific concepts and ideas and the projects are a synthesis of the concepts and ideas we will cover. Quizzes will review information from the lessons and the discussion posts will be used for critiques and analysis of relevant topics.

project 1: a simple sequence

Concepts of time start to get fuzzy when dealing with individual frames. A 10 second video at 30 frames a second needs 300 frames to fill that time. This project will focus on the importance of designing for motion without actually animating anything. Students will create storyboards, reference boards, and concept boards for a short sequence. The sequence will not be animated. More information here.

project 2: obstructions

Obstructions in design can seem like a burden but being able to use them as a creative starting point is key. Students will create a short video and then create the same video three more times. Each new video will be created using a series of obstructions chosen in class. More information here.

project 3: [various]

Project three will give you the option of coming up with your own project or choosing from one of the projects I have listed. The project will be a culmination of the skills and concepts you have learned throughout this course. More information here.

Virtual Meeting Guide

A few points to guide our virtual meetings. These are not demands but a guide to help us have a more engaging and productive meeting.

  1. Be on time.
  2. Even better, be early.
  3. Have your video on.
  4. Mute yourself when you aren’t speaking.
  5. Use the chat.
  6. Pay attention, don’t multitask.
  7. Try and be in a calm, quiet space.
  8. Be engaged and prepared.

Weekly Schedule

Class is on Thursdays from 10:30–1:10. Most days we will meet for the entire time but some weeks we will have individual meetings or end early. All work is due the Wednesday before class by 11:59pm ET. This will allow me time to review before class and make sure you aren’t working at 3am. Time management is an important skill to master and, more importantly, you need to sleep.

Semester Schedule

The schedule on this site is an outline of what we will be covering this spring. It is subject to additions and subtractions.


This course has an engagement policy instead of an attendance policy. Your engagement will affect your final grade (and, by extension, the quality of your work) for this course. You are expected to actively and passionately take part in this course in the following ways.

Discussion of Work

You will need to take an active role in both the presentation and discussion of your work. We will review projects in a variety of ways and you are expected to be able to talk and type about your own work and give feedback to your peers about their work. The ability to discuss your work and other student’s work is a very important part of your education at Mason. Use this class to improve on those skills.


Grades will be based on your quizzes (10%), engagement (25%), exercises (25%), and projects (40%).

Quizzes (10%)

Each week will have a 5 question quiz based on the topics covered that week. You can use any resources available to you during the quizzes and take them as many times as you want until the quiz is due.

Engagement (25%)

This percentage will be based on your engagement in the class which is explained on previous pages but will include attendance, discussion assignments, critiques, and participation in our virtual channels (Slack and Zoom). Be engaged in this course and its content throughout the semester and this should be an easy 25%.

Exercises (25%)

The exercises are graded using a basic rubric available on Blackboard or the PDF syllabus. The rubric includes your ability to follow the instructions of the exercise, your ability to submit it on time, and the motion and design of the exercise. The exercises are meant to be quicker, skill building tasks that improve your projects and knowledge of motion design.

Projects (40%)

Each project will generate two different grades. One grade will be based on your ability to submit the required, weekly checkpoints for the project. These weekly checkpoints use a simple rubric based on your effort, timeliness, improvement, and completion. The second grade will be based on the final project you submit and has a more extensive rubric. At the end of the semester you will have 6 total project grades that are all weighted equally for this 40%. The rubrics used for grading the checkpoints and projects are available on Blackboard or the PDF syllabus.


Exercises and projects use rubrics for grading. Review the rubrics to get an idea of how each exercise and project is graded and what is expected of you. The rubrics are on the are viewable for each assignment on Blackboard or in the PDF syllabus.

Visual Voices Lecture Series

Visual Voices is a year-long series of lectures by artists, art historians and others about contemporary art and art practice. Visual Voices lectures are held on four Thursday evenings from 7:20–9:00 pm.

For Fall 2021, this lecture series will be held online.

Town Hall: Listening Sessions on BIOPOC & Diversity

The School of Art invites the students, faculty, and staff to a town hall/listening session on issues of diversity and black, indigenous, and people of color community.

Space Talk: Anti-racist Student Engagement Initiative

Please join the School of Art for a virtual, forum style student panel facilitated by Will Wheeler where students will lead discussions about topics relating to inclusion, equity, and responsibility in the classroom, on campus, and anywhere else where people share space.

All discussions will take place at 7:30pm.

Resilience Exhibition with Northern Virginia Community College

Resilience Exhibition: Resilience comes in many forms and this past year has certainly tested our ability to adapt and persevere. This on-line exhibition seeks to celebrate the creative spirit in turbulent times. Artists are encouraged to share their personal narratives or social observations as they depict resilience through any medium. Any NOVA or Mason student is eligible to participate. Winners of 3 categories (People’s choice, Overall, Foundations) will receive a $100 prize. Entry Form


Due to Covid, Fall 2020 dates for Artsbus have been cancelled.

Attendance Policies

Students are expected to attend the class periods of the courses for which they register. In-class (including sections that meet online) participation is important not only to the individual student, but also to the class as a whole. Because class participation may be a factor in grading, instructors may use absence, tardiness, or early departure as de facto evidence of nonparticipation. Students who miss an exam with an acceptable excuse may be penalized according to the individual instructor’s grading policy, as stated in the course syllabus.

Honor Code

To promote a stronger sense of mutual responsibility, respect, trust, and fairness among all members of the George Mason University Community and with the desire for greater academic and personal achievement, we, the student members of the university community, have set forth this Honor Code: Student Members of the George Mason University community pledge not to cheat, plagiarize, steal, or lie in matters related to academic work. Honor Code

Writing Center and Library Resources

Students who are in need of intensive help with grammar, structure or mechanics in their writing should make use of the services of Writing Center. For Spring 2021, the Writing Center is holding all sessions online, with writers choosing between meeting their tutor in real time on Zoom or uploading a draft for their tutor’s written feedback. Please send your questions to wcenter@gmu.edu

Provisions Research Center for Art & Social Change is located in Room L001 of the Art & Design Building. This student resource assists students in exploring and engaging new models for artmaking that lead to a more inclusive, equitable, and connected society. Provisions is also a hub for developing art projects through Mason Exhibitions, the Mural Brigade, and art partners throughout the metropolitan area, and beyond. Contact Don Russell for more information: drusse10@gmu.edu

University Art Librarian, Stephanie Grimm, will have regular virtual office hours on Mondays and Tuesdays from 1:30pm to 2:30pm.

Responsible Employee Disclosure

As a faculty member, I am designated as a “Responsible Employee,” and must report all disclosures of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking to Mason’s Title IX Coordinator per University Policy 1202. If you wish to speak with someone confidentially, please contact one of Mason’s confidential resources, such as Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) at 703-380-1434 or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 703-993-2380. You may also seek assistance from Mason’s Title IX Coordinator by calling 703-993-8730, or emailing titleix@gmu.edu

Commitment to Diversity

This class will be conducted as an intentionally inclusive community that celebrates diversity and welcomes the participation in the life of the university of faculty, staff and students who reflect the diversity of our plural society. All may feel free to speak and to be heard without fear that the content of the opinions they express will bias the evaluation of their academic performance or hinder their opportunities for participation in class activities. In turn, all are expected to be respectful of each other without regard to race, class, linguistic background, religion, political beliefs, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, veteran’s status, or physical ability.

Statement on Ethics in Teaching and Practicing Art and Design

As professionals responsible for the education of undergraduate and graduate art and design students, the faculty of the School of Art adheres to the ethical standards and practices incorporated in the professional Code of Ethics of our national accreditation organization, The National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Anti-racism Statement

I explicitly reject white supremacy and racism and am committed to equity, justice, and democracy in society, on campus, and within my classrooms. No matter the name or label, anti-Black and anti-Semitic, and racist thought and action are antithetical to my mission and values as an educator. I condemn the divisive and intimidating tactics of white supremacist views.

I recognize that systemic racism is pervasive within our society and institutions, and pledge to combat it through receiving critical feedback on how I can be more inclusive and being more self-aware of my privileged identities. Including the use of collective teaching, programming, scholarship, and service. I want you, Mason’s students, to know that I am committed to fostering a classroom where everyone can learn without the chilling effects of bigoted views.

I am determined to uphold the University’s mission, which states that, “We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards as educators, scholars, and professionals,” and thus am committed to creating a culture of excellence, inclusion, and accessibility.

I welcome all members of our extended community regardless of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, religion, sexual identity, gender identity, socioeconomic status, political or institutional affiliation, and ability, and am fully dedicated to promoting a diversity of voices and views as an academic department.

I recognize that there is still much self- and systemic-work to be done to make the spaces of the University safe and hospitable to all and am committed to continuing to do that work. My door is open to any students seeking support or guidance.

Land Acknowledgment

We acknowledge the Monacan Nation, including the Manahoac people, the traditional owners of the land and waters upon which our University stands.

Students with Disabilities and Learning Differences

Students with disabilities who seek accommodations in a course must be registered with the George Mason University Office of Disability Services (ODS) and inform their instructor, in writing, at the beginning of the semester.

Official Communications via Mason e-mail

Students are responsible for the content of university communications sent to their George Mason University e-mail account and are required to activate their account and check it regularly. All communication from the university, college, school, and program will be sent to students solely through their Mason e-mail account.

Important Deadlines:

Once the add and drop deadlines have passed, instructors do not have the authority to approve requests from students to add or drop/withdraw late. Requests for late adds (up until the last day of classes) must be made by the student in the School of Art office (or the office of the department offering the course), and generally are only approved in the case of a documented university error (such as a problem with financial aid being processed), LATE ADD fee will apply. Requests for non-selective withdrawals and retroactive adds (adds after the last day of classes) must be approved by the academic dean of the college in which the student’s major is located. For AVT majors, that is the CVPA Office of Academic Affairs in College Hall.

Technology Requirements

Note that this course requires/strongly recommends the use of Adobe Creative Cloud applications. With the suspension of in-person classes, CVPA computer labs will not be available to fulfill this requirement. If you do not already have an Adobe license and are interested in purchasing one or have an Adobe license and need to renew it, please visit Adobe. If you cannot afford an Adobe license, you may submit a request for funding to the Student Emergency Assistance Fund. Please visit Student Emergency Assistance Fund to apply. Please note that the Adobe license agreement is on an annual basis.

The Collaborative Learning Hub Located in Johnson Center 311 (703-993-3141), the lab offers in-person one-on-one support for the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, Blackboard, and a variety of other software. Dual monitor PCs make the lab ideal for collaborating on group projects, Macs are also available; as well as a digital recording space, collaborative tables, and a SMART Board. Reservations are strongly encouraged due to COVID-19 precautions and limited amounts of resources, but walk-ins will still be accepted so long as the occupancy of the lab does not exceed the maximum of 16 people.