How to become a motion designer
What does a motion designer actually do?
Sounds weird, but we’re willing to bet you’re really into the idea of being a motion designer, yet the role is a bit of a mystery to you at the same time.
Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s them. Not only is the field of motion design really broad, it’s also shifting beneath our feet. You have conceptual art and illustration at one end, 3D VFX on the other, while a bunch of other artists in the creative industry are redefining what motion design could be through the use of photography and even drone technology. (Mind officially blown!)
So what a motion designer actually does depends on where you are and what the brief on your table looks like. Can you see yourself working for a mega VFX company doing a title sequence and interface design? What about for a startup creating promo materials and animations; or for a big brand with an in-house design team? A games company where you’re collaborating with sound designers? A TV production studio where you work on type effects? You get the picture. And what a vast, exciting picture it is! With media being more digital and video-based than ever – motion design is an essential component of almost every part of the digital creative industries.
What might your job title be?
Further to our point about the diversity of motion design, your official title could be any of the following (and this list isn’t exhaustive by the way):
- Motion Designer
- Motion Graphics Designer
- Motion Graphic Artist
- Digital Animator
- Animator & Illustrator
A good place to start your job hunt, is to begin with a search for junior creative roles. These job descriptions sometimes will elaborate on what’s specifically required e.g. “We’re looking for a motion designer with proven experience in producing strong typographic work. Needs to be After Effects proficient”.
Don’t be overly put off by how many years of experience is required in the spec. That tends to be more of a guideline. It’ll come down to showing what you can do in the interview and instilling people with confidence that you can deliver.
Salaries tend to be between £19,000 and £36,000 depending on the role, company and location. This will rise to around £50-60,000 for management and leadership positions. So tell mum to quit her worrying.
How can you get a job in motion design?
There are multiple routes you could take. The creative industries are notoriously less linear than many other professions. You will be judged on your personal, professional, and craft skills, almost certainly through a portfolio.
We hate to be the bringer of bad news, but you can’t rely on a “good degree” or great reference to get you a job. Employers want tangible proof that you are a whole creative. Don’t know what we mean by that? This article is for you, my friend.
In the meantime, let’s look at some of the craft skills that could lead you into a motion design career…
Motion design is about making stuff move, right! So an understanding of animation principles, even if it’s foundational, will serve you well. Perhaps your experience comes from character animation? Excellent – you’ll undoubtedly have transferable skills. Many motion designers, started out as animators first.
Art & illustration
You don’t have to be a Fine Art graduate who still smells vaguely of turpentine (if you are, that’s cool, you do you). What is important, is honing a good eye. That means appreciating what makes a great composition, how to make the most of textures, lines, contrast and colour. Whether you’re an artist by formal training or just pure passion and natural talent, these skills will stand you in good stead for the world of motion design.
You know the rules of design and even when to break those rules to communicate a story. You’re able to solve problems through the use of illustration, photography and typography. Typography is a biggie. So we don’t ever want you to associate yourself with Comic Sans. It’s worth noting that many motion designers come via a formal graphic design route and learn the art of motion along the way.
Modelling, rigging, rendering. You can do the whole shebang. You know your simple polygons from your NURBS. Got these skills already? Amazing! But this shouldn’t be a barrier if you haven’t – this is an area you can specialise in as you progress your career.
Cinema 4D and After Effects are your bread and butter, but solid working knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite right through to Maya, Houdini and Nuke should all be on your radar. The more the merrier we say, especially since different places will have a preference on software. Learning new software and keeping up-to-date with how the landscape is changing will be up to you, regardless of the software you’ve been trained in.
From the breadth of skills required, it’s safe to say the industry tends to favour generalists over specialists. Having versatility is key, because it means you’ll be able to handle anything thrown at you and you’re saving the company on having to hire additional talent.
With that being said, it’s also beneficial to have a superpower. Aim to have a preference or be expert at something, in addition to being a jack of all trades. You can still be the one who can turn their hand to anything, but you also happen to be the best damn lighter in the building, don’t you know.
Keep it traditional
If the world of academia is your vibe, you can always consider (or reconsider) design courses at college or uni. Best kept for those who feel they resonate with an institutional setting. In other words, you like the idea of attending lectures, speaking to tutors and completing coursework that demonstrates particular competencies. Just do thorough research when choosing a potential college. How did previous students find it? How up to date is the curriculum? Are those teaching also working in industry? These are all very important questions to ask.
Do it yourself
There’s an endless sea of information out there to support you. It’s just a question of being able to navigate those seas, captain. Online tutorials, communities, subscriptions and events are at your disposal.
Be experimental. Set briefs for yourself. Animate that static character at the back of your sketchbook that you thought was kind of random, yet kind of awesome at the same time. DIY can feel like a long and lonely road, but works for those who are especially proactive and self-motivated.
Think more vocational
We’re advocates for applying for running roles because you’re able to garner invaluable experience by actually learning on the job. Running is especially relevant for the world of film and VFX and although not a guarantee, there might be a possibility of a full-time junior post after all is said and done. Don’t overlook internships either, or scouring LinkedIn or connecting with agencies that can help steer your portfolio in the right direction.
Created courses are designed to get you career-ready
Being “career-ready” means being unignorable to industry. It’s something the folks at Created talk about a lot and it’s shaped the way we’ve built our 9 month learning experiences.
Our flagship course in motion design starts in March 2019 and by acceptance only. For more information, Kim our Admissions Manager loves a good natter and would love to lend a hand. Drop her a wee message on [email protected].
Don’t give up on those dreams. It’s yours if you want it badly enough!
In episode 1 of our How I Got Here podcast series, we chat to 3D Motion Designer Michael Drayton about all things career and industry insights.
A selection of resources to help you get your work out there, focus on your life/work balance and future-proof your career.
Created Academy shares advice about motion design software by professional motion designers.