Motion Graphics

01

WHAT IS MOTION GRAPHICS?

Motion graphics are bits of digital animation which work together to create the illusion of motion. They are typically combined with audio when used in multimedia presentations.  Usually displayed by electronic media technology, like audio and video recordings, slide presentations, CD-ROM, multimedia presentations, and online content, motion graphics can also be displayed through manual powered technology, such as a phenakistoscope (one of the first forms of motion graphics), thaumatrope (a popular toy in the 1900’s), zoetrope (a pre-film animation device), flip book (a series of paper pages that gradually change from one page to the next), and more.  While many forms of experimental animation might be called motion graphics, this field is unique because of the commercial application of animation and effects on film, TV, and video. 

Motion graphics design is a subset of graphic design, taken to the next level, in that designers adopt graphic design principles in video and film production and apply animation techniques.  Designers are typically trained in traditional graphic design, but have learned to incorporate elements of sound, space, and time into their design repertoire. For instance, mixing text and motion to express an idea or concept using video animation.  Examples may include the opening storyline of the movie Star Wars, or the spinning logos of some television channels. 

The popularity of motion graphics as an art form is due to vast improvements that have been made to computer programs for the film and video industry over the past decade. Adobe After Effects, Photoshop (for film), Final Cut Pro, Apple Inc. Motion, and MaxonCinema4D, and MoGraph are all software programs that leading designers use to create and modify graphics and create motion.  And, while the final outcome of a project is dependent upon the designer, software trends are defining what is used, and when.

02

WHAT DOES A MOTION GRAPHICS DESIGNER DO?

A motion graphics artist takes his or her creative talents and artistic abilities and creates moving words, logos, text, and numbers on a screen during a TV show, film, commercial, or other media presentation.  Motion graphic artists have a strong background in graphic design, but can also come from fields like filmmaking and video game design.  Knowledge of a variety of software and computer-based design tools is imperative to work in this field, as is the need to keep up-to-date with advancements in the industry. Depending on the phase during the creative process, a motion graphic artist might conceptualize, create a storyboard, determine how typography will be used, keyframe an object, and perform edits. 

While a particular animation might be a personal favorite, it is important that motion graphic artists create videos that are first good-looking and support a company’s brand or intent, but also draw the attention and keep the interest of the intended audience.  Because many tasks will involve working in a team environment, motion graphic artists/designers must have great interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to take criticism and make changes based on feedback from clients and co-workers. 

On any given day, a motion graphic artist will complete a number of tasks, including

  • Design graphics and animations using computer software and design tools
  • Use independent judgment and presentation skills
  • Make objects appear lifelike by manipulating static images to give the illusion of motion
  • Create basic designs and drawings with pen and paper
  • Script, plan and create animated sequences under tight deadlines
  • Convert static objects into animated objects through modeling and optical scanning
  • Pick fonts to complement final animation
  • Stay up-to-date on all design software, and current with trends in color and visual aesthetics

In addition, a motion graphic artist will project budgets and timelines, and determine resources and materials needed to stay on budget and on deadline.  They must be solid communicators and have strong organizational skills.  They must remain creative, imaginative, and original, and up-to-date on current technology trends and advancements.  Sometimes, motion graphic artists will play critic to another co-worker’s idea, or explain to management how and why a particular font or graphic will be used.  They may direct and motivate team members, resolve conflicts, organize presentations to clients, and process paperwork.  And, in order to keep internal records current, a motion graphic artist will keep libraries of motion graphics content safely stored on a computer.

03

What are the Education Requirements for a Motion Graphics Designer?

There is no degree requirement to enter the field of Motion Graphics, in fact, there is an abundance of self-taught professionals making a living in the industry who do not hold a formal degree. This fact, however, can be misleading to those who are considering a career in the field. While there are numerous examples of artists who have learned the skills necessary to excel at the work (without a traditional education) the reality is that most employers require candidates to hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree to even be considered for an open position. The hard truth is that there are far more qualified candidates with degrees in Animation, Computer Graphics, or a related field than there are open positions. Employers screening applicants for entry-level positions will typically start by weeding out the candidates without a formal degree. The reason is simple – most employers are looking for candidates who can meet the job requirements without the large costs of time and training. Candidates with a strong educational background signal to employers that they already have the foundational skills to excel at their job. Candidates without a degree may never receive consideration, no matter how good their portfolio is. 

Bachelor’s degree programs most commonly include coursework in drawing, painting, and sculpture, as well as animation and film.  Some schools may even have specialized programs in video game design and interactive media.  Many vocational and technical colleges also offer digital media and design programs that award bachelor’s degrees.  Coursework unusually covers most technical and creative aspects of motion graphics development.  Keep in mind that in the first two years of many undergraduate programs only liberal arts requirements and foundational art classes, such as color theory and art history are covered.  During the last two years, coursework dives deeper into an area of focus, in this case, motion graphics.  However, if students are to understand as well as master techniques in both graphic design and animation, they should count on the possibility of attending an extra year or two.

Those who choose to teach or advance in their career may opt to earn a graduate degree in design or motion graphics.  Typically, these programs focus on independent study, demanding a high level of proficiency in all areas of design.  Classes usually culminate in a final thesis which shows a student’s development and progress.

Because this field is constantly changing, people in the motion graphics industry must stay current on trends. For this reason, designers should take advantage of all internship, apprenticeship, and continuing education opportunities available. Many schools offer internships, as do many larger companies.

04

WHERE DOES A MOTION GRAPHICS ARTIST WORK?

Most motion graphic artists work in the motion picture and video industries. Many also work in advertising agencies, TV stations, and for scientific and technical service agencies.  Some designers join production teams for video and computer gaming.  Web development companies and computer software firms may hire designers to work on non-entertainment projects.

Artists and animators work from home or in an office environment during normal working hours.  Many jobs will start out with designers working independently, but will often require the input of a team at later stages of development. Designers may meet with clients or with managers and supervisors to discuss budgets, timelines, and a project’s goals. There may be times when a deadline looms that a designer or team of designers is expected to work overtime to meet a client’s timeline.

Because of the expensive equipment needed to be a motion graphic artist, as well as the need to find and build a reoccurring network of clients, most motion graphic artists do not work freelance, although there are a few who have been able to successfully maintain a career by posting profiles on freelance sites, like UpWork and freelancer.com.

05

WHAT IS THE AVERAGE SALARY OF A MOTION GRAPHIC ARTIST/DESIGNER?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for animators and multimedia artists was nearly $64,000 in 2015. Those just starting out in the field can expect to make less, but those with years of experience and a degree in hand can expect to make much more. The highest ten percent of all motion graphic artists make just over $113,000 per year.  Wages also vary depending on geographic location and industry.

06

WHAT IS THE JOB OUTLOOK FOR MOTION GRAPHIC ARTISTS/DESIGNERS?

Although growth may be slowed by outsourcing jobs overseas, employment of multimedia artists and animators in the US (including motion graphic artist/designers), is projected to grow about six percent from 2014 to 2024, or about as fast as average for all occupations.  Growth numbers are due to an increasing demand for visual effects and animation within the film, video game, and TV industries. 

In addition, consumers are continuing to demand more realistic video games on all consoles, as well as more advanced special effects (like 3D) in movies, and on TV. Plus, as computer hardware continues to evolve, facilitating better graphics and visual precision, the complexity of games will grow too. Therefore, video game studios will add artists and designers to fill the growing demand.

Motion Graphics Career Resources