What is the specific pipeline of a motion designer? Everyone works differently, but can we find any common threads?
We have contacted several motion designers around the world to ask them one question:
“What is your specific pipeline as a motion designer?”
Below, you can see their answers, as well as the answer of our own Motion Graphic Designer and Chief Creative Officer. Hopefully, it will help you in your future career choice or would be an interesting read.
Let’s dive into it straight away!
Position: Chief Creative Officer
"In case I need to create a video that is large in length, I research the internet for some inspiration to present to illustrator and then we start creating the sketches and the storyboard.
Later on comes illustrations on the computer which gets thrown into After Effects for the animation. To solve various problems with animation I also use 3D software.
Inspiration I usually get from Dribbble, Behance, and Pinterest. Among the software I use are After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Cinema 4D, Premiere Pro."
Position: Art director
"For me, the first step is detailed info about the project.
Usually, we ask about a script, reference to style (if the customer needs something special), total animation time, etc...
Will be good if the customer could send simple primitive storyboard to us (just for understanding how he sees it).
We can suggest many styles - we have a big experience in this work and we know many interesting styles.
When we start our work we can divide it into few parts: script, style, characters design, animation. We need to approve each part of work before we can start the next part.
We do not use sketches usually or we use them for storyboard only."
Position: Freelance animator and illustrator
"My work starts of with a vision, rough sketches and character concepts. I try to keep my illustrations pretty simple and fun. I look for the inspiration on the web - mostly on Dribbble and Instagram. But I also like to watch short animations on Vimeo.
Looking at different styles is always a great inspiration. When I'm happy with the design I take it to Illustrator. Once a visual side of a project is accepted, it's time to move to After Effects. I'm mainly focused on character animation, so again, I usually search for the references on the Internet. But I found that the best way for me to find the right movement is to observe. Jumping and acting silly in front of a mirror - that's what really works for me. Then I try to recreate it in After Effects. It takes time to make something good so I let myself do a lot of tests and mistakes."
Position: Freelance 3D artist and motion designer
"Actually the answer is quite complicated :)
I think it really depends on the project Itself. Usually, I have a really basic Idea + Ref of what I want to achieve - then I just like to play inside the software to see where it takes me - without much thinking. Then I go back to look for more inspiration - then I go back to design and so on and so forth (like ping pong) until I'm satisfied - coloring - lighting - and then animation. :)
I take my inspiration usually from collecting different stuff from Vimeo or Instagram - and some from talking to people around me ;)"
Position: Motion, UI, Graphic designer
"The most important thing is to start and keep on working. Open up a comp and start layering things out. Review and iterate as you progress, fix the problems on the go. People like to dedicate a lot of time planning the workflow and try executing tasks perfectly on the first try, but I don’t do that.
Inspiration is an indispensable part of the design. I like to inspire myself and learn from others, just the way they got inspired by people before them. There's nothing new under the Sun - if you’re working on something, chances are somebody else has already accomplished a similar task. Take a look at other people’s work, see how they solved the problems you’re facing and get inspired. It is a great way to increase your “creative capacity”. Do not copy, though!
Lastly, don’t rush it. When I’m done with my project, I like to take some time before sending it over to my client. Usually, there is space for improvement that you might not see at first."
Position: Motion designer
"I usually start a project by finding inspiration, looking through my ”liked” videos on vimeo. Lately, I’ve been looking through concept images and style frames on pinterest. There’s a lot of great work there so that’s a very good resource for inspiration.
Second step is to create some style frames on my own. I usually work in illustrator and photoshop for that kind of work. I normally do around 3-5 sketches for different scenes from the script. I try to do some variations in style, so the client can have some options of what look they want to go with.
Once the client has decided on the style they want. We go on to make the storyboard with all scenes covering the whole story.
After that, we do an animatic with the illustrations from the storyboard to get the timing right with the voiceover.
Once the timing is good we do the final animation for each scene and the final video takes form.
Last but not least we do music and sound design. Since I also do a lot of music production I really appreciate good sound and music. It’s really important to have a good sound design in animated videos. It’s often overlooked but, done right it, elevates the video to the next level."
Company: PH Creative
Position: Founder/Creative Director
"I definitely believe that motion design is a fifty-fifty: 50% idea, 50% sexy.
The first 50% is about SEEING. Dribbble and Behance are my main sources of inspiration to fuel my creativity. Icons, animated transitions, 3D animations and designs, basically everything that moves, analyzing the durations of the movements, if the elements have ease in or ease out and things like that.
From there it is easier to create an idea in your head and then download it to the pc, and in some cases paper and then pc.
The second 50% is about making it as sexy as possible. Lights, shadows, colors, planes, lines, gradients, textures, and above all, dynamism in animation. It has to be totally natural and enjoyable.
One thing I forgot to mention is defining the style, but this is in the middle of both. [Fifty-style-fifty] Because defining it is part of the idea, but we will also have to try it to see if it is sexy, if it does not look sexy enough we will have to rethink it.
Anyway, honestly, that's the way I have to do it. It's my way, the way I found it works for me. But there is not a single way to do it and everyone will find their own way to make it better."
Company: We Wander
Position: Freelance Motion Graphic Designer
"I start with nailing down a budget that everyone is happy with. Usually, my estimate is a rate per minute of finished video. This way both the client and myself are protected if the video runs long or short.
The first step in production for me is storyboarding. Pretty standard, just sketches paired with lines from the script.
From there I move into design. I start with 3-5 style frames. Once those are approved I move into finishing out the rest of the frames of the storyboard.
Then the fun starts. I hop into After Effects and start animating. I pick a single frame and animate it and if there's characters in the project then I'll do a walk cycle. This is just to make sure the client is on board with the way things are moving. During this phase, I also start looking for VO artists and narrow it down to a few options for the client.
With animation tests approved, the rest of the animation moves forward. This is when I get the final VO read so I have something to time the animation to. Once it's done, I pass it to a sound designer that puts the finishing touches on it. Then we all grab a beer and celebrate!"
Position: Illustrator, animator, motion designer
"I work on visuals by myself from scratch. Therefore, I create the image, already on the basis of which it will move.
Before I begin, I try to set the right direction to get the expected result.
That’s why I start from the sketch of an idea, so then I can not lose it. The next step is to search for examples and references by different criteria (colors, scenes, characters, patterns, details, animation, etc.)
This does not mean "making a copy," it's more like "compilation" or "synthesis."
I think it is necessary, to analyze the analog environment for studying the solutions of such problems.
I like Dribbble, Vimeo, Behance, Instagram. Less are Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube.
I turn to my sketch and update it. I start to draw a different set and develop the idea.
While I do it, I find different options not only of form but of motion too.
My rule in sketching: here wins the quantity, not the quality. And after all, I can find the profitable moments and combine those.
According to the story, I can add color to the first sketches. But mostly I put it on the final sketches.
So there is a concept. Then I just move on to the next point.
I believe that inspiration is born in the process of work."
Position: Freelance brand designer, visual Identity expert, illustrator and graphic designer
"As a motion designer, the main form of inspiration for me is looking around myself. It’s a nice exercise to just look around you and try to reproduce in your mind the movements and actions you see as if they were animations. You start to gain what I call a “compositions mind” - you learn to figure out all the ways to develop an animation, from the simplest one to the most difficult one.
When I start my project, I always start with a computer, a sheet of paper and a pencil. At first, I trace the goals and the purpose of the animation I am going to design (core values, communication purpose, and so on) - then, I start by doing some research.
I believe in “ideas in, ideas out” so I read and read and read and then I start looking at other people’s artworks: it's’ always great to see what other designer have done.
You can learn a lot, maybe you find that particular technique you still have to master or learn, so you grow your set of skills, but you also see different ways or approach to the same problem. This is the initial procedure - setting goals and vision, looking for information and inspiration.
The second part of the work is sticking all those pieces together - I sketch the initial design on paper and I try to make it as precise as possible before starting working at the computer.
When I am happy with the paper and pencil part, I start to digitally recreate it.
My main software is AfterEffects for complex animations, involving characters or complex compositions - for interfaces and user experience flows I use Flinto.
I try to polish the digital work as much as possible, taking all the time I need - I want it to be pixel perfect and smooth. Once I’m satisfied with what I see on screen, I hit the Export button and I play and replay my work because I love looking at my little babies."
Company: Cub Studio
Position: Animator and Motion Designer
"I usually start by browsing through Dribbble and Google Images for visual references and writing down the ideas in my notebook. I do write quite a lot in there, it's usually just a mess of various random ideas and things that need to be done. Sometimes browsing through Behance helps me find inspiration for various stylistic approaches and Giphy helps me with animation ideas, there are plenty of real life examples in there. While illustrating, I like to examine some icons, to see how specific things can be simplified. I always finish my illustrations before touching the animation part. I am more of a “finish one thing before starting another” type of person; this helps me avoid a mess and makes me feel in control of the project. This also reflects in the way I usually animate, from the first scene to the very last, without jumping between scenes."
Position: Illustrator and Graphic Designer
"As an illustrator, my part on a motion graphic design project should be very helpful for the animator or animation team.
I’ll try to do it really simple. It’s very important to show to the team and the client, the look of the illustrations, but also how the animation should work. For that reason, it’s very important to get in touch with the animator in the beginning of the project, to define the style of the characters, and the animation.
I usually work with the computer to do the artwork or storyboard, but doing sketches more than final drawings, it’s easy for me to do some changes.
Inspiration is very important for the creative work, it’s necessary to take visual references before you do the art direction, but when the art is defined, it’s time to work with your own ideas.
References should be used only as a way to understand what other designers do and why, but it’s very important that you create your artwork based on your own ideas, and the project needs."
Paula Alvarez Alves
Position: Freelance Motion Designer
"In general terms, I start by highlighting relevant keywords from the brief and doing research on them. Most of the time I’ll have specific references in the back of my head that I think resonate with this project, so I dive into my pinterest boards and study how I could build from there. Having references that I like saved into pinterest saves me from diving aimlessly into vimeo or other sites looking for some abstract inspiration - whenever I’m watching videos online I will pin the ones that I think are relevant to my style, or have a particular technique or effect that I think I will use. I also pin photos of interesting composition or illustrations for their pallets. I do sketches, but I will be aiming to deliver style frames and a storyboard, which I have found are the best resources to convey your idea. I think it’s also important that the majority of the content that gets to the client is authored by you and not tons of references by other people. The style frames will be made in illustrator and/or photoshop and will be ready to import into after effects, separating different assets in layers, characters by body parts with textures and shading separate. All layers named.
I have a project template for after effects with predetermined folders to organise the different assets and subcomps. I work a lot with DUIK but for a lot more than character animation, the function of attaching a puppet tool pin to a bone with just a click is extremely useful. I start working on an animatic that I can show the client and then work from that, cleaning and perfecting animation. I find it very helpful to create 3D simulations or event 2D ones when doing frame by frame animation, since it’s still a bit hard for me to nail the timing and spacing of things."
Position: Motion Graphics Artist
"I always start a new project with understanding of kind of work i'm going to do. I love to animate and work with illustrators. I can draw too, but I know people who make it a lot better. I’m pretty sure that good script and illustration is a main part of success. So if I have a chance to work with good illustrator I’d better do it :) If I make an illustration on my own, I always start the project with sketches. This is a very important step to understand composition, make points in illustration and underline main paths in animation. Often I make two versions of sketches: for me and for the client.
About inspiration. My #1 book, for now, is «Cartoon Animation» by Preston Blair. I’m absolutely 2D lover, I like to learn new techniques and apps to improve my animation. I’m inspired by Markus Magnusson, Seth Eckert, Jardeson Rocha and many others. Also, I follow a lot great animators and illustrators from Russia and Ukraine.
I often get ideas when I ride a bus or in a car. I don’t really like quiet places, I need to keep in touch with the city, people. St Petersburg is also a good place to get inspiration. I’m a traveler, so when I visit a new country and explore the city it’s always a very strong impression that affects my perception of the world and the profession."