Practical Ways To Become a Better Motion Designer

By Michael Jones

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If you are a motion graphic designer, you’ve probably had to consider this question at some point. How do I improve my craft and truly excel as a motion graphics designer? Some of this lies in the job description itself, as well as your personal definition of what equals “good work.” Good motion design work contains a strong visual interest and a sense of movement, presents concepts in an inciteful way, and connects with the viewer. Here are some practical ways to become a better motion designer and improve your work in the field.

Observe Design Principles

A baseline knowledge of design principles is a massive advantage for those who study at good institutions, such as MoGraph Mentor, versus those who simply copy a version of a motion graphics app and learn from tutorials. Not understanding how best to organize visual information will hinder you from making compelling motion graphics.

A good design can include a treasure trove of design principles for study:

  • Repetition
  • Alignment
  • Contrast (color, form, texture, luminance)
  • Harmony
  • Emphasis
  • Variety

Understanding design principles will give you a basic structure on which to base your designs. Suppose you have never studied these facets in detail. In that case, you’re limiting your effectiveness as a visual artist.

Illustration Practice

If you really want to stand out as a motion graphics designer, you’ll need to create more unique visual works. Unfortunately, limiting yourself to circles and squares is not the impact that you’re after. Improving as an illustrator is about drawing as much as you can.

Looking at a complex illustration will show just how important your ability to illustrate is if you want to create works that move past the basic concepts repeated by many motion designers. So how do you improve as an illustrator? Learn and study your craft for years. The reality is that there are no shortcuts to creating powerful illustrations that make an impact. But it’s never too late to start learning.

Practice Frame-by-Frame Animation

While motion graphics designers are visual artists, they are also animators. Relying on expressions or keyframes will limit your work over the years. You need a general understanding of motion graphics on a frame-by-frame level, including a grasp of motion from one frame to the next. Doing 2D animation in Photoshop or Illustrator will make you a much better After Effects and Cinema 4D animator. You’ll need to train your eye for a sense of timing and movement, independent of how the keyframes look.

Software Expertise

Digital art relies on technology and a software’s ability to harness that technology and put it toward motion design. A motion artist is only as good as their mastery of the software. The apps we use employ specific and thoughtful designs that encourage links between the programs. For example, learning the theory of Global Illumination in Cinema 4D (mimicking the way light bounces in the real world) might give you insight into a new project’s lighting setup.

Software knowledge is also essential when a problem arises. Being a digital artist requires technical knowledge. The more you can learn, the better positioned you will be to serve your customers and team. Some tips for learning software:

  • Learn what you can about the software’s “behind the scenes” components. Don’t just learn the user-friendly features but also the challenging professional techniques that can put you ahead of your competition.
  • Learn proper workflow from one software to the next. A completed project rarely uses only one program. You may need to convert and save the files in different formats that you’ll need to know for proper workflow.
  • Do short projects and tutorials to continue to build your understanding of all that a program offers you. Complex techniques can prove quite simple after one or two demonstrations. You can repeatedly do short projects until you master a technique and have a full grasp of its operation.

Real-Life Experience

Visual artists and filmmakers need a well of inspiration from which to draw. That well will run dry if you don’t go out and fill it with real-life experiences. To grow more profound and more relevant, you need to continue engaging in the world around you. If you feel like your work is stale and you’ve hit a roadblock, maybe a little time away from the computer will provide the breakthrough you need. Some simple options include:

  • Going for a walk in the park
  • Partaking in a hobby
  • Dining with friends
  • Traveling

Take It Easy on Yourself

If you’re not where you want to be yet as a motion designer, go easy on yourself. We are all on a continuous journey of growth and improvement. Look for progress in your work, not perfection. The simple fact that you recognize this gap in skills is an excellent sign that you’re heading in the right direction. Pressuring yourself will only hinder your work and steal your joy, which, in turn, will lead to burnout. A happy artist is usually a more prolific artist, which is essential to rapid growth. So do lots of work, but don’t pressure yourself. It’s a process, and if you’re applying yourself, then you’re on the right track.

Growing as a motion designer is about the artistic and technical—but also the personal. There is no shortcut to becoming a master of your craft, but it will take a journey and effort. However, focusing on the classic disciplines and taking a holistic approach is the best path to travel along. These practical ways to become a better motion designer will help you continue on your visual arts journey.

If you’re interested in motion graphics online classes that will propel your graphics career forward, then MoGraph Mentor is the place for you. We offer a more personal, engaging learning experience than other online schools. Our mentorship classes provide an alternative to traditional art school. We’ve taken a formal art school curriculum and condensed it into 9-week motion design mentor experiences.

Whether you are a new student or a seasoned pro, our online motion graphics course will help you create portfolio pieces that will shine above the rest. Expand your creative mindset, and make new connections in the industry through MoGraph Mentor.

Practical Ways To Become a Better Motion Designer


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