Should I start a career in motion graphics?

Motion design is an odd career. In many ways it is what you make it. When you first start, prepare for a couple hard years making a name for yourself and building a career. Then — put your head down and pull yourself through a couple more. If you can stick with it, motion design will then become an incredibly fun and profitable career.

First hand — I’ll say it can be discouraging when you start… Well, really the first couple years are discouraging — there is a hell of a lot to learn.

Off the top of my head — as motion designers, we deal with color theory, composition, typography, 2d animation, 3d animation, timing, rhythm, modeling, rigging, sculpting, simulations, scheduling, client interaction, dynamics, lighting, coding, keying, tracking, editing, illustrating, storyboards, cinematography and more. Four to six years of hard work isn’t even close enough to master all these skills. So mentally psych yourself up for the long haul, late nights and a truly enjoyable job.

This small article isn’t supposed to discourage you from pursing motion design. I’m 9 years in and still scratching the surface of the above categories. The beauty of motion design is everyone can be truly unique and play with each different category.

I’ve always had trouble staying focused on one thing. Which oddly enough, has been a great trait for being a motion designer. With so many categories, paths and skills to choose from, I can jump around and not get “behind.” For every skill, dive as deep as you’d like into it! You can become a specialist, generalist or land somewhere in between. Being unique and specialized is truly what will get you work. Especially if you become a freelancer.

On top of the skills, every year, new software, tools and methods or best practices become available. It’s literally impossible to know everything or even keep up. Motion design is for people who love learning and want to put in the time. Those are the people who become successful.

The single most important piece of advice I could give is, “realize you have to put in the time to ‘get there’.” Saying “I”m a motion designer” is easy, but keeping constant work coming is not. I can promise many late nights, waiting on renders, cussing at your computer, angrily searching the internet, frantic emails and stress. At the same time all the ‘bad’ is cushioned by moments of pride, happiness and immense satisfaction when you see others enjoy your work.

Don’t try to make yourself into someone else. Every designer is different and you need to be you. If your work is “in the style of,” who is going to get the job? The original or the knockoff. It’s something I try to think about for any project. Whether that means writing new expressions (code) or testing a new technique, I like to push myself and the software.

You can’t define what a motion designer is, there are too many skills and no one will ever have the same set. Unlike most traditional jobs, motion design never limits you. The application, method, tools and design are entirely yours. If you still want to pursue a career in motion design, make it your goal to become the best “motion designer” you can define.