Six Tips For Jump-Starting A Career In Motion Design

Posted inDesign Resources

If you pay attention to the content you consume throughout the day, a lot of it is moving. Think type that moves across your browser, variable fonts that magically respond to the movement of your device, and in-motion typography that looks as though it could jump through your phone. 

While static design isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, designers have had to learn to grasp viewers’ attention through movement, whether through GIFs, animations, or longer videos. 

Motion design is the future, and we had the pleasure of speaking to Victoria Nece, the product manager for Adobe After Effects, to learn more about how graphic designers, illustrators, and creatives can develop and work towards adding this necessary skill to their toolbelt.  

The significance of learning these talents can bump you from an average designer to one that’s utterly unique. We live in an age, mostly thanks to social media, where motion design takes precedence over motionless design, so it’s time to hone in on these skills and set yourself and your work apart. 

Below, Victoria has shared her six top tips towards making your dream of becoming a motion designer a reality through in-depth and personal examples. 

Start Simple

“Working in professional programs like After Effects can seem like they require a steep learning curve,” says Victora. “Still, each individual coming from design or video backgrounds will already have a unique and valuable set of applicable skills to build from, and, if you’re already using Photoshop, Premiere, or Illustrator, you’re already halfway there with After Effects.”

Designed by: Vucko

If you’re about to begin the first steps to tackling a career in motion design, it’s essential to focus on more simple projects in the beginning. These projects will allow you to master skills that will create more opportunities for success and confidence in the future. These first few projects can be anything from a moving poster to type in motion, but setting a good foundation for yourself is critical. 

“When I was first learning, I found it helpful to draw parallels between tools and techniques I was familiar with from other contexts. There’s so much overlap with graphic design, animation, and video editing workflows that a lot of knowledge translates almost directly to motion design.”

Fortify Your Artistic Foundation

It’s been said that the principles of animation inform motion design. However, to be more creative and modernize the industry, these foundational elements and principles can guide new unexplored motion design applications. Plus, even though motion design is relatively new, endless resources are available from places like the School of Motion that are priceless to our industry.

Designed by: Mat Voyce

Thanks to the internet and social media, there’s genuinely never been a better time to jump into the world of motion design. “At Adobe, on the product side, we’ve put a lot of work into interactive in-app tutorials to teach not just the basics of using After Effects but animation principles and ways of thinking about motion,” says Victoria. “And at Adobe MAX, the company’s annual creativity conference, workshops are high-quality sessions from top trainers and free to watch on an ongoing basis.”

Not only is the School of Motion a great resource, but other platforms make learning more straightforward and accessible. Motion Design School, Skillshare, and LinkedIn Learning are great places to start.  

Center Creativity And Inspiration

One of the best places to find inspiration is through natural motion. That could come from the way people move, how the leaves on trees shake in the wind, or how your cat leaps from one piece of furniture to the next. Simply looking out your window could provide all the inspiration you might need. 

Designed by: Alina Ivanova 

“Successful motion designers strike a balance between technical mastery and creative ingenuity,” says Victoria. “Don’t downplay the need to take time and seek out inspiration. So much motion design work begins as a blank canvas, and clients may not have a clear vision, and you will need to establish the creative viewpoint.” 

Misuse Your Tools

If you’re too focused on what your tools are “supposed” to be used for, you might never discover their endless potential. Instead, the constant curiosity to test the limits and experiment will help further your skills and help you uncover the endless possibilities of motion design. 

“One of my favorite ways to ‘misuse my tools’ is to use type animation tools for abstract graphical animation,” says Victoria. “When you look at them another way, text animators are basically a procedural 2D/3D vector animation system, and fonts are a great source of graphical elements. For example, I recently built a dynamically-animated parliament chart that was just a bunch of periods.”

Designed by: Josep Prat Sorolla

There’s a lot of power in experimenting, and it might be intimidating to know where to start. But, once you can tackle the basics, testing and playing around with the tools will help take your skills to the next level. 

“For me, After Effects is a vast toolbox, and how you combine those tools is up to you,” she adds. “I like to say we don’t give you a lightsaber effect; we give you a motion tracker, a line, and a glow effect. It’s up to you to put the pieces together, and you don’t have to assemble them in the same order as everyone else.”

Expect Fluidity

Like many creative careers, one in motion design isn’t a linear path. Often, motion designers start their careers in illustration, editing, UX design, and many more. These paths can lead to working in agencies, in-house, as a freelancer, or even starting your own studio.  

Designed by: Jesper Lindborg

“I have a non-traditional career path, but I don’t think there is a traditional path in motion design,” Victoria says. “It’s still a relatively young industry, and what it means to be a motion designer is forever evolving. “

“That’s when I got into coding, starting to build my own scripts and tools for both efficiency and creative possibility,” she adds. “The After Effects scripting community was incredibly welcoming and helpful, and getting to know them soon connected me to Adobe’s beta programs. It turns out that being opinionated on the beta forums is an excellent way to get to know the After Effects product team!” 

Grow Your Network

Connecting with artists in all disciplines is essential for making connections and expanding your creative perspectives. It’s fundamental to learn how other artists work and get inspired, and you never know who you might work with in the future.  

Designed by: Jesper Lindborg

“This industry tends to attract introverts,” Victoria jokes. “We sit in front of our computers all day long. I’ve seen big names in our field nervous about meeting one another. So while my favorite networking tip is a little less useful in these all-remote times, the idea behind it still stands: bring a buddy to conferences and networking events. If you’re shy like I am, it’s infinitely easier to say ‘Hi, I’d like you to meet my friend, they’re great!’ than it is to say ‘Hi, I’d like to introduce myself.’ You can help each other keep the conversation going. Amplifying and celebrating your friends’ successes is a way of doing this online.”

While some people hold their techniques and practices close, people often make a name for themselves when they share. Collaborating and being open is the easiest way to help others and, in turn, be perceived as an expert. There’s no point in being competitive in the motion design industry; the only thing it does is back you into an uninspired corner.

Above video designed by Pentagram