Behind the design: how we created the motion theory for Pluto TV.

‘Portal’ is the design system that underpins the Pluto TV brand. It transports, connects and unifies the Pluto TV experience across 250+ channels, brands, and every device. At its most reductive the Portal appears as part of the UI and at its most striking across promos on-air, advertising, third-party apps, platforms, and every touchpoint.

The power of Motion Theory.
We’ve always believed motion to be an essential part of creating a brand and what we call ‘Motion Theory’ has been central to our approach. For us, it is all about motion with intention, not movement for the sake of it. In our content-first and screen-based world, it’s become even more critical for brands to be able to communicate their character through distinct motion behaviour as much as all of the other elements that unite the brand – all in service of creating a better audience experience.

From the flow-of-the-game inspired ‘Field of Play’ motion language for our TV experience for Premier League to the sleek, UI inspired approach of the ‘Playbar’ for All 4 – it’s about finding a unique approach rooted in the story of the brand.

Bringing the Portal to life.
From its origins, Pluto TV has always seen itself as out of this world. As the name implies, it is an outlier and in its own way is here to play bigger, but on its own terms in the streaming wars.

For the Motion Theory, we took inspiration from the planetary origins of the brand. We began with open-ended explorations to discover ways of moving the Portal – from analogue and staccato to sleek and smooth and everything in between.

Inter-planetary travel.
We asked ourselves, what does a hyperjump look like? What does space travel feel like? How do we express warp speed? This began to form a base on which to build our motion narrative. Using the four planetary circles within the Pluto TV logo, we looked at the way they stretch, their velocity and elasticity, how they expand and collapse, creating a comet-like trail with a leading colour to trailblaze ahead.

Too much, too little, just right.
We found that too much character started to become distracting and felt too playful, taking away from the confidence we want the brand to have. Equally, we needed to balance restraint with wanting to keep the weird, quirky feel that makes Pluto TV unique. It led to many more explorations in which we tested the outer edges to then refine the motion to what felt just right.

Keeping it pure while scaling.
Once we had refined the foundational principles of the Motion Theory, we have to know how to scale them. This is essential in terms of taking those pure characteristics and being able to translate them across hundreds of different elements, from the intro to the Pluto TV app to the big screen experience across over 250 channels and into the reductive aspects of the UI. The challenge is to make it feel coherent and contextual without losing the spontaneity and life within the motion.  

Entertaining the world.
Ultimately, with a direction built from experimentation and exploration, we were able to create a distinct Motion Theory that will flex and adapt as Pluto TV grows to be a global brand.