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The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Motion Graphics Designers

As a motion designer, odds are that you use After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro or some other video editing software, and as a visual artist you have (hopefully) mastered the fundamental foundations and techniques of animation, graphic design, typography, and color theory.

With these skills & techniques and a good dash of creativity and perseverance, you are well equipped for your journey towards a rewarding career but take it to the next level and become a motion design ninja by adopting the following 7 highly effective habits of successful motion designers.


be organized!

First and foremost: be organized! Let’s be very clear about this: the essential habit of being organized is what separates the amateur motion designers from the seasoned professionals.

This means that everything you work on — every file, folder, layer, clip, footage, everything! — should have a structure, a category, a place and a name. This may seem tedious but when assets are in the right place and easy to find you avoid going bonkers and save precious time and energy that would otherwise be squandered in desperately tracking the needed assets.

Being organized with your workflow is a vital habit when you fly solo but particularly crucial when you are part of a team. So even if you’ve been a slob so far, start right at this moment to mend your slovenly ways and to:

organize file

Being organized with your workflow

  1. Organize Folders & Files. Create a system for organizing your folders and files. For example, when starting a project create a master folder where everything related to this project — from inception to the end — is kept. This means everything: from JPG inspirations to Photoshop, Illustrator, audio and video files to the final rendered project file. Organize your main files by indexing numbers based on priority or relevance. For example, if your reference file is the first priority it gets file number 001 and then all other files according to their hierarchical priority get subsequent numbers.
  2. Say No to Messy Project Panels. Organize your layers and compositions by label and color to keep the project panel neat and visually legible. For example, you can categorize different layers — like vector shapes videos and controller layers — by color so that even if you have 100 plus layers in your panel instead of being overwhelmed you can visually find what you want.
  3. Categorize Footage. In the same vein, when it comes to footage, assign different colors to different kinds of footage, audio elements, and graphics. Color-coding your clips allows you to instantly spot what you need on the timeline and keep track of all the elements in your video.
  4. Categorize Video Clips. Name clips and place them in categories. For example, organize clips by having folders for scenes categorized into master shots, wide, close-ups, etc.

Do you need further detailed insight into exactly how to conquer the organizing game? If so, as further reading we recommend this excellent article where you will get lots of input as to how the good author says: Get Your Shit Together!


Contiuuous Growth

Contiuuous Growth


Let’s say you have your niche market, style and expertise and a nice steady stream of projects. Should you just chill and take it easy? Chilling is always advisable but digital art relies on technology and as a digital artist who wishes to remain relevant you need to keep up with the current and emerging technology.

Following in the path of the best motion designers, consistently strive to learn and improve your traditional and technological skills to both maintain a great momentum and also continue to grow. That way you can not only infuse your signature style with new inspirations and techniques but will be ready if the market changes as well and won’t miss out on any big gigs for lack of skills.

Here are a few ways to adopt the habit of systematically turbocharging your motion graphics skills:

  1. Challenge yourself to master a few or all of the following: Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final cut pro, Cinema 4D, and maybe even game development and 3D render engines like Octane and Vray.
  2. Focus on one video/photo editing software and do quick projects to build your understanding of all that it offers. Rinse and repeat with all other software programs of your choice.
  3. Learn the proper workflow from one software to another. This will greatly streamline the speed of your work.
  4. Know the popular new plugins and scripts and tools and apps.
  5. Read up and fill any gaps in your knowledge of graphic design, typography, and color theory. It never hurts to continue to build expertise and thought leadership in these classic disciplines of art and design.
  6. Watch at least one tutorial weekly. And practice, practice, practice. (Wink wink: you can start with our After Effects video tutorials)



Keep Up With Trends

Motion design is a new and notoriously fast and furious field where it seems there is always a new motion graphic style around the corner that is all the rage: from particle effects to liquid motion to 3D macros.

Stay up-to-date and on the cutting edge by keeping informed with all these developments. We recommend that you start with reading our Top 20 Motion Graphic Trends of 2018 to get a feel for all the hot and emerging trends of the year. Here are a few other things you can do on a regular basis to keep up:

  1. Follow the social media channels of motion design industry’s leading companies like Adobe, Foundry, Autodesk.
  2. Find and follow a few choice motion design influencers & communities on the web and across various social media platforms. For example, we enjoy the following accounts for news and inspiration: Ales Nesetril (for Instastories); Ramin Nasibov, dina Amin, Paul Delting and Jonathan Torke just to name a few. Make your own list!
  3. Follow artists and new projects on Behance, Dribbble, Pinterest, Vimeo, and YouTube. (This is also a good practice for keeping inspired. More on that below!)
  4. Follow a few trusted & stimulating curated feeds. A few of our own favorites to follow are: StashMedia, Motional, and Motionagrapher.
  5. Follow motion graphics podcasts. Podcasts are an excellent way to keep up with what’s going on and to be engaged with the motion design community’s news and goings-on and the best thing is that with podcasts you can multi-task and grok it while you’re walking or doing other chores. So for sure, spend some time exploring to find a few podcasts to your liking. For example, we are really into Video Pro Podcast and we also greatly recommend the excellent Player FM podcast app listing of the best motion graphics podcasts 2018 for you to explore to find your own favorites.
  6. Periodically treat yourself to browsing and leafing through books and magazines at the art and design section of your favorite bookstore. You can subscribe to one or more of your favorite art/design magazines as well.



Remain Oeiginal

Remain Original

The best motion designers experiment with all the emerging tools and keep up with all the latest trends to be informed & ready for all the opportunities of the digital work but also strive to remain original and true to their innate style.

Your personal style is your signature, so don’t dilute it by blending into the crowd and blindly copying the works of others. Instead, as the best motion designers do, keep informed and inspired by new trends but stand out by infusing them with your own unique interpretation and style.


Embrace The Art Of Self Promotion

Embrace The Art Of Self Promotion

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert you need to learn and practice the fine art of tooting your own horn. You live in a digital world, you work in a digital field, and you’ve got to understand that in this day and age with all the communication and connectivity that social media channels have to offer it is pivotal to put yourself out there and engage and interact on social media. Indeed it is utterly inexcusable not to do so.

Self-promotion doesn’t have to be yucky, cringe-inducing, or shameless; although, ultimately there should be no shame in your game. Indeed, self-promotion can be done with sensibility, tact, finesse, and strategy; and it behooves you to boldly cultivate it just as you cultivate your creativity.

Here are a few ways to build up your self-promo mojo:

  1. Spend some time to hone your online presence. As grotesquely corny as it sounds, you are a brand, so treat yourself as one. Polish up your social media profiles so that they are cohesive, and so that the visual and copy elements are the best, most authentic embodiment of you and your work.
  2. Share your work on popular artist portfolio sites like Behance and Dribble, Deviant; and also on Vimeo and YouTube. Don’t be shy or lazy about this.
  3. You can’t expect the media to come and find you. Be proactive and reach out to publications and sites and communities whose vibe you enjoy and who you think would mutually appreciate the vibe and quality of you and your work.
  4. Have your elevator-pitch so that when you are networking in real life you know precisely how to pitch yourself to prospective contacts and clients.

In conclusion, you don’t need a publicist and you don’t need to overwhelm yourself with an overly ambitious plan of action, but you should develop a strategy self-promotion, one that you feel comfortable with, and you need to stick to it and stick with it.


Be Inspired

Ah, inspiration! How to chase the muse? You know how Archimedes got his famous eureka inspiration when taking a bath? Sometimes, instead of the chase we just need to unplug and change the scenery to charge the senses.

Here are a few tips to get those creative juices flowing into your geeky veins:

  1.  Challenging yourself to learn new skills and techniques is one surefire way to jump start your creativity and you will kill 2 birds with one stone by not only remaining on the cutting edge of the industry but also vital & inspired.
  2. Speaking of vitality, do something physical to get the blood flowing into your brain and body. Take a walk. Train for a marathon. Do push ups. Do yoga. Anything. Something! But something that you genuinely enjoy and gives you that good burst of endorphins.
  3. Following up on the above, remember that a healthy body equals a healthy mind … Yada yada! We all know the drill, and as cliché as it is, to do your best work you need to be your best healthiest self so: eat well, exercise, and get lots of sleep and rest. Take care of yourself. You’re in a marathon, not a sprint.
  4. The digital world is awesome but make sure not to deprive yourself of the distinct horizon-expanding pleasures of tactile IRL creativity. Keep a notebook to jot down thoughts and ideas. Keep a sketch book and draw as much as you can. Take an art class: ceramics, sculpting, painting, figure drawing, whatever. Get creative in the kitchen. You get the idea.
  5. Gradually create your own reference library with the kind of books and magazines that genuinely delight and inspire you and make sure to periodically leaf through to charge your tickle your senses and creative appetite.


Have a Life

Have a Life

The most successful people in any field know the secret of balancing work and life. As we saw dramatically demonstrated in The Shining, all work and no play makes Jack a psychotic dull boy. So as you valiantly climb the ladder of success in motion design, make sure to make time to: have a life!

Get away from the computer. Be engaged with family and friends. Travel. See a movie. Read. Daydream. Volunteer. Schedule regular intervals of digital free time into your schedule when you truly unplug.

And — that’s all folks!

Did you find these habits helpful? Would you like more posts like this? Do you want to share with us any tips about your good habits that have served you well as a motion designer? Let us know in the comments. We would positively love to hear from you.

Speaking of loving to hear from you, we would be stoked to connect with you on social media. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest & Facebook.) And don’t forget to explore our YouTube channel for excellent After Effects tutorials, and check out our website for a ton of freebie motion design goodies.

Now go forth and conquer you motion design ninjas!

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