Understanding how audio serves to further amplify your motion design

I am a motion designer, not a sound engineer so why do I need to understand sound design?

This is a fair point.

Having at least a surface-level knowledge of sound design will help you

  • Gain a deeper appreciation for sound design
  • Have a better idea how long to allocate for sound design in a motion design project
  • Collaborate more effectively with sound designers and engineers
  • Have fun experimenting with adding sound to your motion designs

The latter the main reason why I am exploring this area.

I have never thought of myself as an audio expert yet have always been drawn to the power of aural stimuli and how it can enhance the visual.

Here are three steps to get started.

When starting something new I like to remind myself of a quote by Arthur Ashe

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

There will always be an obstacles in your way when trying to do something.

Yet there will also be a path around the obstacle.

You can choose to focus on the obstacle or focus your energy on find the path.

The choice is yours.

Ok, there are four basic items we need to get started.

(i) Laptop

First up is, of course, a laptop.

It doesn’t need to be a laptop specifically but can be a desktop or some kind of workstation where you can access audio files and your motion design files.

(ii) Sound card

Ok, I will admit that when I first heard this one that I had no clue what it was.

So I had t consult Mr. Google for further clarification.

Without getting too technical, a sound card is an expansion card or IC for producing sound on a computer so that the audio can be heard through speakers or headphones.

Most often they are included on every machine in one form or the other, either in an expansion slot or built into the motherboard.

If you can hear sound through your headphones or speakers when they are connected to your computer then you don’t need to worry.

You have everything you need to begin.

(iii) Headphones

When it comes to headphones you can go high end and splurge for a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre or go budget and use the same earphones you use with your phone.

As long as you can hear the audio clearly enough to mix and balance the sound you are good to go.

(iii) Recorder

Similar to headphones, you can go high end and acquire an Akai Professional MPC X, or you can take Arthur Ashe’s advice and simply

Use what you have.

Generally, most smartphones have a recording function or there are free apps you can download and use such as the following

And also ones you can buy such as

Please note that I am in no way affiliated with any of the above links. I am just sharing the knowledge and mainly use my phone to record audio from my surroundings.

Having a recorder in your pocket can make life more interesting.

As a creative, you may be used to capturing the world around you through sketches or photography.

Capturing the sounds that surround us each day, creates an additional dimension to add a richness to the everyday. Yet documenting the sounds that fill our world can add another dimension to your daily life and make it an interesting adventure.

In my previous article about the five basic elements of sound design, I recommended Adobe Audition CC as a starting point. Most motion designers will probably use Adobe After Effects and therefore also have a Creative Cloud subscription.

This is a good place to start especially if you have a small scale project or are just beginning to dabble in sound design.

However, if you are a bit more advanced and will be working on largescale projects or ina studio setting something like Cubase may be more suitable.

Again it depends on your budget, what kind of project you are working on and what kind of investment you wish to make into sound design. But Cubase can be used as a free trial but as with most software does have potential restrictions compared with the full version.

There are many sound libraries to choose from such as

These are just a few, but there are many others.

The right choice for you depends on what kind of set up you have — Mac or PC or what kind of sound you are trying to create.

Alternatively, you could acquire a synthesizer and just go nuts, like this guy.

Awesome synthesizer GIF courtesy of GIPHY

Ok, I am going to out it out in the universe.

I have always had a not so secret obsession with synths.

If anyone can recommend a good go-to place to source one I shall make it my mission to create one of kind music to a piece of motion design.

As always thank you for taking the time to read.


With SMX East right around the corner, it’s a great time to start the conversation that will shape my talk in November – How to Structure Your Facebook Campaigns for Success. This can surely seem a daunting undertaking. There are so many levers to potentially pull, and so much information available on the topic that it can at times be overwhelming for even the most seasoned digital marketer. However, if you’re able to keep these two things in mind, you’ll be well on your way to establishing a sound foundation to scale your social program.

The first step is to simplify your account structure where possible. We all remember not too long ago when the typical Facebook account looked like this: 

Multiple campaigns, dozens of ad sets, with you, the advertiser, struggling to identify the little pockets of performance to scale efficiency. Today, most publishers are recommending a more simplified approach, with Facebook (and Google) taking the lead for that recommendation. At my company, we’ve tested extensively into this simplified structure and found that for most of our clients it performs with better conversion rates and lower costs. This is because when using that simplified structure, you’re reducing the likelihood that you’ll have ad sets with significant overlap (which could cause increased costs if multiple ad sets are bidding for the same user in auction). Simplifying and reducing the number of ad sets per campaign also increases the data density for each ad set, which allows the algorithm to optimize more efficiently. When shifting to this more simplified structure, you’ll essentially be paring down all potential for campaign/ad set overlap, so that you go from a structure that looks like the above, to one that more closely resembles this:

The second item is something that I’m sure you’ve heard before but bears repeating – always be testing. With the numerous levers available in-platform, it’s imperative that you know the strategies that will enable stable performance for your evergreen campaigns. I’ve found that developing a roadmap to outline your test ideas, and (most importantly) to record the results, is the most straightforward way to approach this, and can be as simple as creating a G-Sheet. Some of the things to ask yourself as you’re thinking about testing can be:

  • Do I know the bidding methodology that provides the best results for my business goals?
  • Do I know the creative that is most engaging and encourages conversion for new customers? Potential customers who have visited my site but haven’t converted? Existing customers?
  • How is customer lead quality (or AOV for e-commerce) impacted by serving impressions outside of Facebook and Instagram’s Newsfeed?
  • Do I know the value of recent website visitors compared to older website visitors? Which are the segments of users I should bid up (or down) on?

Adopting an always-on mindset for testing is even more important considering a major change coming to Facebook in early 2020 – the removal of ad set budget control and the shift to Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO). At my company, we’ve tested into this new feature to better prepare our clients for the change, with relatively positive results. For most clients, testing into CBO and enabling real-time budget distribution based on performance results in increased conversion volume, with similar or more efficient costs.

However, because every business is different, there’s no guarantee that CBO will generate more efficiency or increase conversion volume for your account. If you haven’t already, it’s time to put it as a priority on your testing roadmap – that way you’ll be able to go into the New Year confident that you’ve figured out how to make this new feature work for your account.

I hope these insights give you confidence as you’re reviewing your existing Facebook structure, or considering a structure for a brand new account. If you’d like more information or just want to chat, please check out my session at SMX East this upcoming November!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Zenia is an account lead for 3Q Digital, where she develops strategy and manages paid media for clients in a wide range of verticals. While she is knowledgeable in all aspects of digital marketing, her passion is in paid social marketing. She has contributed to Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and Marin, and has spoken at Janes of Digital, SMX Advanced and SMX East.


Once in a while, every professional comes across a challenge so great, so ridiculous, that they just can’t help themselves. They just have to go for it. It’s like the story of David and Goliath… if David was just bored and Goliath wasn’t threatening his entire nation. As for me, I’m about to argue for putting sounds on a website, and discuss how to do it right.

Yeah, I know… I’m one of the “Never Ever Autoplay Sounds on Your Site” people. Even so, here we are. And I’m not going to cheat by talking about embedded video, podcasts, or Soundcloud wrappers. I’m also not going to talk about background music or even just ambient background sounds, because all of those are still evil, in my opinion.

Even looking for examples about sites with sound done right is nigh-impossible, because all of the search results are either music-focused examples, or articles about how you should never, ever use sound.

But as much as it rankles me to admit it, there are cases for adding sound to your websites and apps…on occasion…in very specific cases…look, I will not be held responsible for any customers you might lose, okay? This is an intellectual exercise, and it should go without saying that whatever you do, there should be a way to turn it off forever.

The Case for Adding Sound

Notifications and Alerts

Few things let you know that you should be paying attention like a fairly high-pitched noise. Teachers have their fingernails on the chalkboard, phones have their ringtones, and cats and babies use very similarly pitched sounds specifically to drive us mad/get what they need from you. Interface and product designers made use of this principle long before personal computers were even a thing. It’s effective.

I think these are only acceptable for chat conversations, or for notifications that users specifically request. When you’re waiting for information, and you need to pay attention the moment it arrives, an alert sound might well be appreciated.

Examples include everything from Facebook Messenger and Slack, to news aggregators, to dating apps of all kinds.


Success Alerts

One pattern we might use a little more in our web and app design is actually a little bit of sound to tell people things went right. Those of us gamers, at least, often have fond memories of victory music that played every time you won a battle, or completed a level. If you can find a short “success” sound that evokes nostalgia and a dopamine hit instead of just annoying people, you may have a winner.

Accessibility Enhancement

Alert sounds are all well and good, but what about using the power of audio to help people with, say, sight problems? Sure, there are screen readers and such, but if you know that a large portion of your user base have vision problems, you might consider giving them optional audio cues to make things easier.

Think of “clicking” sounds on buttons, a tone that changes pitch when you use click and drag on a slider, a general sense of haptic feedback that might usually be represented by animation. To people with poor vision, sound is a very useful form of skeuomorphism.

Artistic Experiments

And then, of course, we have the sort of thing that might be in the “experimental” section of your portfolio, or on your CodePen profile. Here’s a site full of them: Chrome Music Lab.


General Tips for Implementing Sound

Actually Playing the Sounds

JavaScript is sort of the only way to do it. Sure, you can just embed a sound with HTML5, but that will only provide you with an audio player. If you’re trying to integrate sound into your UI in a more functional way, JS is the only way to do it. I mean, sure, technically we still have Silverlight, but who’s going to go back to using plugins?

If you’ve never intentionally added sound to your own page before, or just aren’t that familiar with JS, here’s how to play a sound on click. Now, that’s all well and good, but what if your users are having trouble finding the buttons to click on them in the first place? You might want to look at this tutorial from CSS-Tricks about how to play sound when someone hovers over an element.

You Still Have to Try Not to Annoy People

Always, always, always give people a way to shut sounds off, for good. The next question is, of course, whether you should have sound on by default. My vote? No… well, in most cases. Again, if you expect to have a lot of visually impaired people on your site, you might consider making sounds play by default, and putting in a big “You can turn these sounds off off, please don’t run away!” notice front and center.

And Lastly…

Sound files can, depending on their quality, hit people real hard, right in the bandwidth. Use a CDN for your bandwidth, and cache the heck out of any sound files for the sake of your users’ bandwidth. Next, have a look at at Aural style sheets, and think real hard about how your site is presented to screen readers.

And would you look at that? I’ve just about convinced myself that sound on the Internet is a good idea. I should probably stop, now.