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UniGroup Logo Animation Tests

Any object in your Adobe Illustrator drawing that needs to move on its own once you’re working on it in AfterEffects, put that object or element or group on its own illustrator layer. And name that layer. Simply grouping objects on the canvas isn’t enough.

I wanted to do some experimenting in animation with the UniGroup logo. First off, I needed to get the logo. Thankfully the UniGroup website displays the logo as embedded SVG vectors so I don’t have to recreate everything from scratch. Next I had to inspect the logo for peculiarities that might only show up after I’ve imported it into other software. The initial logo I grabbed actually had bitmap content in the SVG, but subsequent versions were all vector and it was all fairly clean for animating.

This first idea, I combined the U shapes and animated them from the front towards the front in a sequence like drawers pushing in. This and the other logos I really wanted to achieve a parallel motion. It looks more planned and in that way has visual interest.


The idea here was how I could deconstruct the logo and I need to play a bit and see what shakes out. This phase is often done through a combination of dragging elements around in the software and sketching on my notebook and frankly getting away from the screen for a time. In hindsight everything I write created here seems totally obvious and simple but it really did take some thinking and deciding to get to where I had a good plan. The major takeaway is you want your animation kept in the spirit of the brand. For example just because you could explode the logo into particles and it looks super cool and trendy, that doesn’t mean you do it. Start with what the logo might mean.

Without having been in the discussions about how the logo came to be, it was quite fun to try to understand it. One of the things I like about the logo and I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but the way the nested U shapes are folded, they create the dimension of a box. So while I don’t see a tractor trailer, there’s a hint of the same proportion there. Intentional? Happy Accident?

I see the series of inset U shapes as a representation of group of companies under one umbrella. It’s easy enough to make a logo come in from fade or fly in from an outside position to the center. But what about breaking it apart. In breaking apart the pieces of the logo, I saw a couple ways that it could be animated, so the Inset U mark would get some extra attention in say a stacking assembly.

This idea, the U shapes would fall in from the top in a stack. This is interesting in this initial sketch because it really shows a lot more volume to the logo mark. Tasteful I think they stack again in parallel using the outer edge as the guide.
This last one I wanted to give the logo mark two fast moves. The bottom part of the U mark would unmask in a semi-circle, then energy beams would draw the top part of the mark in a quick slashing motion. This is prototyped on white but the final ended up on a black background and I used a glowy light beams. It could still work on a white background with gray beams and motion blur.
It was only after I previsualized the essentials of each move did I start constructing the animations. Sometimes you can play around and come up with things in software, but sometimes you can get discouraged by too many options or be allured by what others are doing instead of giving your own brain a workout. Whatever works.

Something I wanted to point out is a quick way to help with tracking and direction. Really simple but you can add a few lines to help you align things. The reason why this is helpful is sometimes you’re aligning an object and keyframing while that object is actually invisible or things are happening off screen. in this case I needed to know some relative distances and direction so I drew a few red line shapes and just hid them for the final animation.

Here what I call the “drawer effect” I wanted to ensure I was shifting the shapes to the right position along a motion path that made sense. I was actually able to set keyframes for all those inset U layers at one time. Giving them all their start position and their end position at once. moving them as a group but I still needed an path guide here to help me with start and end points. The red slash I added as a guide to help me keep the Uni and Group text parallel as they meet each other along that angle. I could have probably used two lines and actually had screen snapping on but I didn’t think of it until after.

Seems like every project I design, at least 60% of it ends up on the cutting room floor. This is a good thing though as ideas will come and go. Some of them are abandoned due to being impractical for the time allotted. For example, I was actually interested to see what it would take to try to recreate the logo in 3D. And while it’s not hard to generate the pieces of it, the problem is matching the forced perspective of the 2D Unigroup logo and then deciding how to animate it. It turns out, that the logo shape isn’t as easy to create in 3D to match it’s 2D perspective at all, even with all sorts of manipulations to the virtual camera. The inset U shapes in 3D do not bend at a 90 degree angle. And I realized a challenge for a later time is to see if I can mimic the gradient color the way 3D light sources will bounce off the corners, whether I can achieve it with real lighting.

Some other ideas in 2D or 3D would be to hover the logo over a white surface on a white background but seeing how soft shadows look with the logo hovering in space and making the top part of the U start straight but animate the mesh folding in half as it appears. Nailing that start and end point with correct lighting is out of spec for now, though it could all be done in 2D of course too, more ideas are available once the 3D version is correct.

Playing with the logo folds in Blender. The U shapes are NOT a 90 degree bend. But you can’t tell can you? However it would be evident as soon as you start animating around the logo in 3D space. I began to think of an idea to separate the top half of the U with the bottom and in 3D space, the camera could circle around disconnected parallel lines but once it gets to the front the logo appears connected, kind of like MC Escher’s impossible drawings.

Never let a good screenshot go to waste

I’m just adding some extra technical information here in case somebody runs across this with interest in using AfterEffects. Because you need to import the content, wherever you created it into After Effects and there are sometimes multiple ways to import something to your best advantage.

For animations, any object in your Adobe Illustrator drawing that needs to move on its own once imported to AfterEffects, put that object or element or group on its own illustrator layer. And name that layer. Simply grouping objects on the canvas isn’t enough.
Once in After Effects you go to File > Import and select your .AI Illustrator file. Note the dropdown, “Import As” you want to choose “Composition – Retain Layer Size”. That dropdown changes depending on what type of file you select.
After a layered logo is imported as I’ve done here, it generates its own composition and also gives you access to all the layers as if they were separate documents. That’s really nice even if it’s additional project clutter.