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Everything You Need to Know (and get Started) as a Beginner Motion Designer

July 29, 2021

A comprehensive overview of the motion design industry, how big the opportunity is, and what you need to know and do if you want to go from beginner motion designer to expert. 

So you’ve just started to look at motion design. You’ve probably seen some examples on the internet, but aren’t sure exactly what it is.

Here’s the clearest explanation of motion design you’ll ever get. Say you have this rectangle. You move this rectangle from left to right and you’ve just made your first motion design. Congratulations! 

There are hundreds of ways you can transfer the rectangle from point A to point B. Motion designers are the people who make this happen. You can slide it, you can roll it, you can stretch it and you can add a jump action to it. 

It can be divided into little pieces and then reconstructed. 

Each option can be split into separate options by adding additional values.
For example, Stretch Motion can be done depending on the material of the object.
It’s a gum

It’s a slime

Add additional action like smears and secondary action. 

And after that our rectangle can walk away like a human.

And that’s only the beginning. Imagine if we were talking about more than a single rectangle! That’s the power of motion design.

You can bring any object to life and give it personality. You can even give it humanity. Old Disney movies are where traditional animation started, and at that point, every frame had to be drawn by hand. I actually got into animation by making flipbooks. This is when you take some book from your house, draw a simple figure on each page, and then quickly flip through the pages. The result will be the flipbook with the animation. 

Each year, animation techniques improve on what started in Disney Studios.
Now, animation is nearly everywhere. 

Here are 8 key types of motion design you might already know of:

1. Explainer videos – Companies use these to quickly illustrate concepts to customers and leads. 

2. Instructional videos – Similar to explainer videos, these videos show how to use a product or perform a task. 

3. User interface (UI) animation – Making the user interface interactive tends to increase engagement from users. 

4. Logo Animation – Logos become more memorable when there’s an animation added in. 

5. Titles – Adding animations to titles and title sequences helps keep users on-page. 

6. Infographics – Bringing information to life helps ensure the viewers understand the implications of the information. 

7. Presentations – A well-animated presentation gets more attention from the audience

8. Broadcast graphics – Visual storytelling starts with animation, and by adding layers of motion design into the feature, more people are going to keep watching. 

The Hidden Industries Using Motion Design Everyday that You Probably Didn’t Know About

Motion Design is applied in all creative industries, including:

  • Graphic Design 
  • Photography
  • Illustration
  • 3D Art
  • UX/UI
  • Architecture
  • Product Design
  • Fashion
  • Games

Let’s review each industry better and see how we can apply motion design to each of them.

The first thing that comes to our minds when we hear about graphic design is a logo. And what can be better than a smart logo? Only an animated smart logo!


In that case, the most commonly used programs are After Effects for 2D animation and Blender for 3D animation.

Welcome to the
Logo Animation in After Effects course!

Photography

Thanks to compositing and standard After Effects tools, you can bring any photo to life.
And let’s not forget about DeepFake, where we have the opportunity to revive photos and bring them to a new level of perception, where any photo can repeat the movements of an actor. After Effects is most commonly used for this purpose.

Graphic Design

After Effects is a useful program, after all, thanks to compositing and its standard tools, we can bring any photo to life. The program that is also worth mentioning is DeepFake, which allows us to animate photos and take them to a new level of perception. Any photo you want can replicate the movements of an actor. Most times artists use After Effects and we recommend starting with it. If you want to know more about one of the most popular software in motion design, I recommend you reading What is Adobe After Effects article from our blog.

Illustration

This is probably one of the brightest examples of how we can apply motion design, as any illustration gains a completely new form through motion. The NFT trend has had a big influence on the study of motion design, and illustrators are actively studying it since it is more desirable for the crypto art industry. 

If we deal with digital animation, then we need to master After Effects, while traditional frame-by-frame animation requires Photoshop and Animate.

3D Art

That is probably the easiest way to surprise the viewer. We take an ordinary cube and rotate it along with one of its axes. Such a trick instantly gives us a stunning effect and a sense of realism. However, it is difficult to achieve such an effect in 2D animation, and also requires significant skills of the artist. As a result, if you work with the 3D industry, you will get quick wins for your visual.

For a fast start in 3D, you can start with Blender. This software is totally free and has a huge range of features that will help you with any task from VFX to editing.

User interface (UI) animation

Motion design in UI animation is a separate type of interaction. If you have created an app or digital platform, it is wise to show it in action using motion graphics. That way, you can show your audience what they’ll get if they choose your product. Therefore, if they start using your platform, they will already be familiar with it. Nowadays, it has gained popularity to use both 2D and 3D to create presentations.
After Effects can solve these tasks. If you want to make interactive presentations, then you should check out Spine and Rive.

Architecture

When it comes to architecture, motion design helps to present the concept on a completely new level. You can show the construction process, the layout of the interior, and make it interactive by using VR. These things are possible thanks to motion design and Unreal Engine.

Product Design, Fashion, Games

Everyone will agree that there is nothing better than presenting your product with a captivating commercial. We can watch millions of videos for famous brands and get a lot of inspiration.

It is particularly obvious now, especially with the advent of Web 3.0 which core element is Metaverse. All companies will move to the 3D digitalization era, and this process will open millions of vacancies all over the world. Motion design is gathering pace and getting more demand, we are confident that you should pay close attention to it today.

The trick is to choose your industry based on a passion or hobby, because you’re much more likely to be good at that. Having your learning follow your skills will make it much easier to pick up more skills and do better. 

Step #1 of Becoming a Motion Designer

There are many ways to go from beginner motion designer to expert, but we recommend you practice first, and then add in education. 

This means getting the appropriate software programs and starting to play around with them as soon as possible. If you are not sure which programmes to start learning frist, I recommend you reading  Begining your motion design journey – where to start article from our blog.

It’s our belief that experimentation is how you get good, but education will supercharge that by giving you more ideas to consider and methods to use. 

People are always wondering whether they should pursue higher education, do a course, or focus on self-study. 

The goal is to get proficient in After Effects as soon as possible, so you can start work and build out the beginnings of a portfolio. Professional skills like UI Animation, Logo Animation, and Character Animation will get you to the generalist level, and your goal is to get there as fast as possible based on your personal situation. 


Going the degree route can be good, but it requires a high investment, with many programs taking 4 years to complete

There are 3 considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Choose the path that suits your particular situation the best. You already know what you plan to do with your motion design skills, and that will determine what level of credentials you require. 
  2. Sustainable growth of your skills will only occur if your studying fits into the rest of your life. This is a good time to assess your lifestyle, and compare self-study, courses, and a degree for how they would affect your working situation. If you are overflowing with free time, then a degree may be the fastest way to go. Alternatively, anyone working a full-time job would probably prefer to go through free tutorials at their own pace. 
  3. How much knowledge do you already have? An intermediate graphic designer looking to upskill in a few areas would find a degree to be a waste of time, whereas if you were starting fresh, it could be the perfect situation. 

As with everything, experience is key and you’ll want to start getting client work as soon as possible. Your focus with any of these routes is to learn the most popular motion design programs as soon as possible.

Freelance Vs. Employment:
Who Gets Paid More? 

There are endless opportunities available to motion graphics designers. Entertainment and IT seem like the obvious industries, but nearly every company needs a good motion graphics artist. 

That’s because there is immense value in adding to a brand image and bringing in a whole new level of recognition to a company. Because of this, pay for motions designers continues to go up. 

There’s no way to know what a certain job will pay for graphic design, but there are industry guidelines that seem to be standard across the board and will tell you if you’re being under or overpaid.

Right now, the average salary of a motion graphics designer in the United States is approximately $65k per year. Total pay ends up being closer to $90k per year, with cash bonuses, commission, tips, and profit-sharing making up the difference. 

And bear in mind… these are just the numbers for beginner motion designers who got jobs as Junior After Effects Motion Designers! If we start to look at compensation for Senior Motion Designers, the numbers can be much higher.

If you decide to go freelance, freelancers tend to have a higher hourly rate, but without employment benefits or a stable income. The good part is that freelancers can select the gigs they work on, protecting them from working with bad “bosses”. 

The estimated average salary of a freelance Motion Graphics Designer in the US is around $70K, according to ZipRecruiter

Bear in mind that the biggest challenge of flying solo is needing to get good at business *and* motion design. Finding clients is an art in itself, and if you aren’t great at pitching yourself or selling, this may be a huge problem. 

There are tons of financial opportunities for motion designers who want to go outside of the job/freelance paradigm. An enterprising designer could negotiate for higher commission or take on more risk in a project, with the ability to see greater upside on that as well. 

And designers can evolve into marketing professionals or even investors, after they get a touch for business and where their work fits in. 

Of course, many of you are here because you’re passionate, and that can get rewarded as well. The future of motion design is full of exciting innovations that allow you to be better at your job without having to be in a boardroom. NFTs, VR, the metaverse, and AI can all be forces for good, saving you time and helping you make more money. 

The final point to consider is that you don’t actually have to choose. You can work a job, do some freelance work on the side, and then have your personal artwork to promote. Anything’s possible!

The 3 Types of Investments Beginner Motion Designers
Should Make In Their Careers

You’re very lucky to be learning this stuff now, since costs and time investments for beginner motion designers have come down significantly in the last few decades. You’ll be able to create high-quality animations on your own computer, which is much simpler than needing a job at a creative lab to get computer access. 

There are 3 things you’ll need to invest in in order to get started: 

1) Education: Anything that helps you understand motion design better will improve your skills and your work. 

2) Computer: Your equipment will help you get work done faster, and save you a lot of stress. 

3) Software: Paying for program subscriptions will help you hone your skills faster.

We recommend After Effects as the first program for aspiring motion designers. The best way to do this is getting a Creative Cloud membership, which costs between $20 and $30 a month, depending if you qualify as a student. 

For early education, you can start by watching free tutorials online, but we eventually recommend you find a beginner course as a way to speed up your progress. 


Finally, the computer you use must meet some basic requirements. Whether you have a Windows or Mac computer, you’ll want 500 MB of storage space, 8 GB of RAM, and any GPU card operating on 3.3 GPU with 2 GB RAM. Most computers already have that capability, but check yours before getting started so you can avoid some frustration. Finally, a standard mouse or tablet will help with input, and a 24-bit display of 1280×720 will prevent mistakes (and eystrain). If you need guidance on choosing your monitor, check out our article
Why You Need a Good Monitor.

Looking at all those investments may be daunting, and we get that. Which is why we’ve started to turn the model on its head and offer “cashback” benefits for learners. 

Our goal is to reward users who take fast action and push forward in their studies. Web3 enables a new business model called “learn-to-earn” (L2E) where users can get tokens in exchange for participating in the ecosystem. 

$eMotions tokens are real money. Purchasers of any program will get 10% of their course fee back in tokens for their participation in the ecosystem. With those tokens, users can spend to submit their homework, which rewards the graders of the program. As soon as homework is approved, the student gets 5x the tokens they spent back. This rewards users for their hard work and incentivizes greater engagement. 

The last thing we want is an unegaged student population. $EMOTION keeps students interested and moving through the courses faster than if they didn’t have the financial motivation. IF they’re really confident, they can compete in “homework battles”, where they contribute to a pool and the best project wins the entire pot.

Now It’s Time to Start Work – Here’s What You Need to Do

Once you have the basic skills and are able to do work… it’s time to get out there and start building a name for yourself!

There are many different ways to do this, and it basically comes down to whether you’re going to work for others or work for yourself. 

You can build a portfolio and start doing client work, or you can build a personal brand that you monetize in one of several different ways. 

Your career is a summation of what people think of your work, and it will likely make sense for you to pursue both paths at some point, but we recommend starting with one or the other.

If you choose to do freelance work, you’ll want to go on a platform like Upwork or Fiverr and start winning jobs. Although it can be tough going when you are trying to get your first few jobs, you’ll eventually hit a point where it’s easy to find more work. 

Of course, with Motion Design School jobs will come to your personal account, allowing you to audition for your first project as part of the educational process.

ONLINE COURSE

Motion Beast

To find work faster, take initiative and build out a portfolio of your work. You may not have done any client work yet, which is why doing a few pieces of personal work that highlight skills of yours can go a long way. Assignments done within Motion Design School can serve as the perfect portfolio pieces, and we suggest that you always think of education as a chance to build out your portfolio. 

As an alternative to this, you can build a personal brand around selling your own work. Work can be sold as a template on stock websites, where other motion designers will pay for the access to what you’ve posted because it will save them time. This can be a great revenue stream. 

Your personal brand could also be built around selling NFTs. You probably saw when Beeple sold his Everydays: The First 5000 Days piece at Christie’s auction for $69.3 million last year. That was a huge moment because it told the world that artists were going to get rewarded for their unique work in the world of NFTs. Although a riskier route, NFTs are going to make a lot of motion designers very successful and it’s something worth considering. 

If you choose to do freelance work, you’ll want to go on a platform like Upwork or Fiverr and start winning jobs. Although it can be tough going when you are trying to get your first few jobs, you’ll eventually hit a point where it’s easy to find more work. 

Of course, Motion Design School can jobs will come to your personal account, allowing you to audition for your first project as part of the educational process.

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So… Should You be a Motion Designer?

After reading all this, you’re probably wondering if being a motion designer is a fit for you. Is it something you could do professionally? How long would it take? What if you know virtually nothing about motion design right now? 

These are all valid questions, and my story was one of growing motion design from a passion to a daily habit to my sole source of income. The path from inspiration to income isn’t obvious, but I’ve seen lots of people do it at this point.

My journey started the day I saw a stick figure animation and was wildly impressed by it.
I knew I needed to learn how to manually make animations on my own. This was a huge step for me. After that, it was all about discovering the tools that would make it easier for me to create what I could already see in my mind’s eye. 

Lucky for you, you don’t have to depend on outdated and basic tools like Macromedia Flash MX 2004! New tools like After Effects enabled me to take on freelance client work, as well as making it easy for me to build and sell templates.

Since then, it has been a matter of learning faster and more efficient ways to bring my visions to life. Expressions were a whole new step for me, and I put it off because I thought math and variables would take away the fun from motion design. Or make it too hard.

But it was precisely the opposite. I ended up going deeper and learning more on this path, because I could animate 10 times faster. 

That’s my journey, and I’ve put together courses to help you along every stage of development, so you can become a great (and well-paid) motion designer sooner than I did. 

I would recommend everyone who gets into motion design have a passion for it. 

You may not have a passion *yet*, but playing around with something is the best way to see if you care about the result and want to get better.

As for whether you should be a motion designer, there’s only one way to find out. Start looking at animations, trying stuff yourself, taking courses, and experimenting with software. 

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