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Become a Motion Designer

Tips on how to land a job as a motion designer from professional motion designers

Illustration by Inga Ziemele

Motion graphic designers, or motion designers, bring graphic design to life through animation and visual effects. Adding dynamism to digital media, motion designers can connect with audiences through a variety of mediums, including film and TV, digital products, games and interactive experiences. Working motion designers will usually have a foundation in the fine arts or design, and also be technically skilled at using software like Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects and Cinema 4D. In the age of technology and new media, motion skills are a great addition to a designer’s repertoire, and the ideal career path for someone who wants to blend a love for design, animation, visual effects and UX. We spoke to five creatives who found their calling as motion designers about what it takes to create moving art as a career.

Get out of your comfort zone

Marti Romances, Co-founder and Creative Director at Territory Studio based in San Francisco, started his career in a post production house and then he worked with Activision and Nintendo. The experience taught him how motion design could impact different industries, and Romances says it’s important to get varied experience. “I would say to not be afraid of exposing yourself to other industries. To get out of your comfort zone, but to always maintain your focus,” he says, adding, “You need to ideate from as many different perspectives as possible, and the more exposed you become to working in parallel industries the better your creative ability to find answers and realize compelling designs. And, just like everything, the more you practice your craft in an uncomfortable zone, the better and more confident you become.”

Andrei Staruiala, an Edinburgh-based freelance motion designer also states how helpful his diverse experiences have been saying, “It took me a while to settle on motion design, I started by working on websites and branding, then I found an interest in filmmaking and directed a few TV commercials, music videos and short films. I've left all of these behind but I find that all these past experiences are constantly helping me as a motion designer even today.”

Experimentation is as important as having technical skills

Staruiala also mentions the importance of being an artist first and foremost before trying to perfect technical skills. “I think it's just as important to experiment and try things outside motion design as it is learning how to use After Effects or going through tutorials,” he says, adding, “There are designers who can spread wide but it is just as good to find your niche and craft that as much as possible. The software you're using is just a tool and I think it is more important to master composition and animation principles, colour theory and overall develop your eye as an artist.”

Collaborate with other types of designers

Collaborating with other designers with different skill sets is a great way to learn new skills and design concepts. Sander Sturing, a Creative Coder at Studio Dumbar (the designers behind the D&AD 2020 and 2021 annuals) says, “Find as much collaboration with other (types of) designers and creatives as you can. I feel like there are so many different kinds of designers with different skills at the moment – the possibilities and technologies to create something nowadays are almost unlimited.”

Sturig adds, “Some of the best projects in my career are all made in collaboration with others. One of my favourite projects being a typographic motion tool created together with a graphic and type designer in our studio, Bart, who created a custom variable font specifically for my code.”

Start with small goals

Lisa Ribbers who is a Brand Experience & Motion Designer at Landor & Fitch WPP, and was also on the Animation Jury at this year’s D&AD Awards recommends starting small, but starting. Ribbers says, “When starting a career as a motion designer, I’d say: Just go for it! Start somewhere and you’ll get into the flow. In my view it helps to start with tiny, achievable steps and then just keep growing.” 

Ribbers deepened her knowledge and skill-set working full-time as a motion design trainee, before finding her ideal role at Landor & Fitch, where she now blends her passion for brand and motion design in her everyday work. She says, “Always stay focused on your goals and push for them. Keep asking yourself: Where do I want to go? What do I want to achieve? And then believe in yourself and work for success.”

Use sketches to ideate

Sketching is an integral part of any type of design, and Elvin van Dalen, a Motion Designer at Studio Dumbar says his team usually starts sketching on motion and design simultaneously. This ensures that motion and design can really influence each other during the process from the start. van Dalen also uses the sketching process as a way to explore new ideas within motion. 

He says, “Once I actually became a motion designer, things really started to fall in place for me. I felt there was so much more for me to explore within motion. I think that's really important: find something where you want to keep exploring and keep sketching. This mentality of iterating and sketching is a big part of how we work at the studio. Especially in the beginning of projects we make a lot of sketches. In this part of the process there is no such thing as a bad sketch — that is incredibly liberating to find new ideas.”

Be organised to avoid mistakes

Our last tip for aspiring motion designers is a practical one. Since a lot of different elements and layers go into motion design, keeping your files organised and tidy is a good way to make sure things don’t go wrong further down the line. 

Ribbers says, “Be super organised, keep your files neat and tidy and keep your standards high especially regarding the quality of your own work.”

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