An animation major in college, Laura Porat was working in Hollywood as a motion graphic designer when she reached out to Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign about volunteering. Turns out, the campaign needed her full time. The Southern California native spent 2020 initially as the first and only motion graphic designer on Warren before later joining Biden-Harris as a senior motion designer.
C&E: What do the motion graphics you design look like?
Porat: What I do is mostly for social media: YouTube, Instagram stories, advertisements that you might see as Twitter posts. I did a video on the Warren campaign showing just how much of a wealth gap there is between billionaires and the average person. When I say someone has a billion dollars, it can be hard to visualize because it’s such an abstract number. But through animation, I could make that abstract into a visual reality for people to see.
It was definitely a creative challenge coming up with different ways to visualize the information. One of the cool ones we did on the Biden campaign was a video with Julian Castro’s voiceover, and we had a Latino artist do these lotería cards. In the video, he flipped through the cards as the voiceover was going. It was a different way to present the information in a cultural context.
C&E: What messaging lends itself to motion graphics?
Porat: If you’re interviewing a nurse who’s been affected by the pandemic, I think a live-action video would be much better than just animating it. But if you have a video that would be hard to tell through footage or through a static graphic, then I think that’s when it should be animated. That was a large, ongoing conversation I had with the campaigns. On the Biden campaign, I definitely had a lot of leeway to come up with my own animated ideas because their strategy on the campaign was to get as many videos as possible about different types of topics.
C&E: The role of motion graphic designer is still new within the political industry. What would you say to managers considering hiring for or creating that position?
Porat: During the pandemic, motion design became even more important than ever because we could still showcase the same information as filming stuff, but we could create all the assets ourselves so it was cheaper than filming and we got to control every single visual element in the video. We could also tweak the designs super easily. After this cycle, I think people are starting to realize just how important animation is.
If you want to win, hire a motion designer. It’s the best bang for your buck because we do graphic design, we do animation and we do video design. Our job combines all three into one. If you have a motion designer that knows what they’re doing, you could theoretically save money on the graphic designer and the video editor and the animator just by hiring one person who does all three.
C&E: What advice would you give to graphic designers starting out on campaigns?
Porat: You definitely have to know the program inside out, because things are moving so fast in politics you never really have time to, like, sit down and take a ten-hour course to learn how to do something. And the result doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t feel like you have to make every single pixel perfect as long as it conveys a message.
C&E: What are the biggest creative differences between the entertainment and campaign industries?
Porat: The entertainment industry is a lot more open to experimentation. As long as it looks cool and grabs people’s attention, and fits with the genre of the movie or TV show, they’re not very picky about the type, or the colors that you use. But in a political campaign, you definitely have to pay a lot of consideration to the colors that you use because they usually have very strict brand guidelines and it has to be accessible to a large majority of the people.
In the entertainment industry, I was often working with a team of people — I had art directors, I had graphic designers, video editors I would work very closely with. Usually, I would be given the assets by a graphic designer. There’s a lot more time to build everything together because they want a polished, stylized look.
In politics, things are fast-paced. Often what I would be doing would be tied to what the trending news or issue of the day was. So even though I worked with a team of graphic designers and video editors, often times I would have to create all the assets myself. But if you spend too long working on the video, the information could be obsolete so you just have to let go of any imperfections that you see and just deliver media that’s good enough.