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It All Started with an SOM Tutorial: A Conversation with Jeremy Rech
Motion Designer Jeremy Rech, School of Motion Alum and Teaching Assistant, Talks Art, Design, Education and Inspiration
Prior to his sophomore year in college, Jeremy Rech had never used Adobe software; today, the former student at School of Motion is an SOM Teaching Assistant, as well as Editor & Motion Designer for OFC: Office Channel. He also maintains a freelance career in motion, interactive, print and visual design, and has worked with noteworthy clientele including TIME, Audible and Kids Discover.
How'd he get his start? The free SOM series 30 Days of After Effects.
In this Q&A, we speak with Jeremy about his lifelong affinity for the arts, transition from still design to motion graphics, educational and assistant teaching experiences with School of Motion, professional client and personal projects, career aspirations, greatest inspirations, and best advice for up-and-coming motion designers.
An Interview with Motion Designer Jeremy Rech
1. Hey, Jeremy, thanks for joining us. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself, and how you ended up in motion design?
I was born in Philadelphia, but was raised and still live in New Jersey. Growing up, I was always doing something related to art — sketching, painting, making cartoon characters out of Sculpey clay.
I was also a Bob Ross devotee. My parents have stacks of my paintings of happy little trees in the attic to prove it.
After high school, I followed the traditional route of attending college, and was a fine arts major at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.
I didn’t even touch a computer in school, or do anything related to Adobe until my sophomore year in college; I had a very hands-on arts experience before getting into anything digital.
And by digital I mean going to the computer lab with my zip disks to get anything done... Creative Cloud, what’s that!?
My career goal was to eventually become a graphic designer — whatever that meant. That made my parents feel better, at least, as being an “artist” didn’t sound like a very lucrative career path.
2. We've all been there! So, how did graphic designer become motion designer?
I found motion design pretty late in my career.
I started as a print designer, designing book covers, brochures, logos, print ads, catalogs for toilets — that's a long story — and everything in between.
Eventually, I began working for a marketing and advertising agency, still as a print designer, and a few years into my tenure there, the interactive/digital department had a need for additional designers as more client projects were moving into the digital realm.
So, I moved on to designing websites and iPad apps... and the interactive team also asked me to start poking around in and learning a thing called After Effects.
Doing animation and motion had never crossed my mind, and I had never even heard of After Effects until the first time I opened it up and saw that After Effects CS5 splash screen.
The Motion Design Journey
3. Online tutorials can certainly help kick off a career, as we've seen before. What about SOM courses? As a former student and current teaching assistant, do you have a favorite?
Animation Bootcamp really helped fast track my motion design career. It enhanced my skillset in a very short time and gave me the confidence to finally call myself a motion designer!
But, Character Animation Bootcamp is the closest to my heart. I was one of the first students to ever take it, as part of the beta session; and I've been a TA for CAB ever since.
Having always drawn cartoons and dreamt of animating them, it was an amazing experience to finally be able to bring characters to life.
Of course, School of Motion courses are always difficult, but the reward of learning so many new skills and tricks is priceless.
The amount of times I said “Whoa, that’s super useful” while taking a course was well worth the late-night hours of trying to complete the homework assignments.
And then, becoming a part of the SOM alumni community has been amazing as well. So many great people have walked through the virtual SOM doors, and it’s awesome to say you’re a part of it with them.
4. It's pretty special for us as well, to witness the incredible success of our alumni and enjoy the collaborative and cross-promotional nature of the alumni community. Have you taken any other SOM courses? If so, how would you describe their impact on your career?
As you know, I was a graphic designer before I got into motion design, so I thought I already knew my stuff, but Design Bootcamp opened my eyes to so many different ways of not only executing good design but also thinking about design.
Simply developing a new thought process around concepting and designing has helped me become a much better designer, 10 times over!
For example, I am much more thoughtful now during the beginning stages of the design process than I ever was before.
I used to just dive right into producing a polished design; now, I do more research, plan things out better and am more focused on the nuances and small details that make a big difference.
Thanks to Design Bootcamp, I’m a more disciplined designer.
A great illustrative example of this is the process I followed in creating my Everlearn.io Explainer video for the Design Bootcamp class.
5. What about teaching? What has that transition been like?
My critiquing and explaining skills have definitely improved.
Reviewing all of those homework assignments multiple times over really hones your attention to detail, gets you to focus on all parts of an animation, and helps you become more precise and efficient in how you critique and explain.
Naturally, this has also helped me in my everyday job. As a result of my TA role with SOM, I now have the confidence to pass on my knowledge to other creatives who are just starting their careers — and, because of my experience level, I am counted upon to help out and mentor younger staff members.
Plus, being a TA has also helped my own creativity.
A lot of times the students take an assignment down a path I never would've thought of, and seeing something unique and different can really get you going.
Take Michael Mueller’s Axel Dangerson video, for example. The creativity just blew me away. You can tell he put a lot of thought and work into it.
Seeing work like this from students really gets you excited, and inspired, as a TA!
6. So true, and that's what SOM's all about — that give and take, and growing together. As you mentioned, you see a lot of creatives grow their skills as you guide them in their homework submissions. Are there any recurring themes you see among those who thrive at SOM?
Definitely. Students who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries, to try something outside the direct lesson or take the time to add those extra touches, who get excited about going above and beyond... Those are the ones who get the most out of the lessons and the courses.
Movement in Motion Design
7. Just like anything else, I guess. The brave and committed reach the highest heights... Speaking of going above and beyond, are there any professional client projects of which you're especially proud?
For a couple of years I was lucky enough to be able to animate TIME magazine’s covers for their social media channels. I got to work with and animate artwork and photographs from some of the best artists around, like Tim O’Brien, Edel Rodriquez, and JR.
Their works are very inspiring, and to be able to bring motion to their art was an honor.
Not to mention, TIME reaches a very large, worldwide audience, so it was pretty amazing to have my own work seen by that many people... No pressure!
The big thing I learned from those projects was that sometimes with motion design, like anything else, less really is more.
The most important part of these TIME covers was the message, not whatever fancy motion I could add to it, so I let the artwork do most of the work.
8. What about passion projects? What have you learned from creating and releasing them?
These collaborations are always great fun. They give me an opportunity to do my own thing, try something new, or expand the boundaries of my animation and design skills.
They also represent a great opportunity to stay involved in the motion design community, make new connections, and just have some fun... And having fun is a great motivator, no matter how crunched you are for time.
If you can find time to work on something just for fun, it’s always rewarding.
9. Among all your collaborations, do you have a favorite?
I loved the premise: getting a style frame from a mystery animator, then having to come up with a creative way to transition from that style frame you'd never seen to one you created, linking them as seamlessly as possible.
Seeing the finished project, when all the participants' pieces were stitched together, was a delightful surprise.
I also loved working on and seeing the final result of Jordan Bergren’s collaborative music video for his song "Please Rise." There were 35 animators from 16 different countries who worked on it!
10. Yeah, those are two projects that really represent our industry illustriously, for multiple reasons. In addition to continuing to collab, what do you foresee in your professional future?
If I could, I would retire immediately and bike around the world with a cat in the front basket, like my dudes Dean and Nala! I'd spread the word about motion design all around the world, like some kind of motion-evangelist...
But in all seriousness, I would love to work on projects and with clients that are making a difference in the world — organizations that are helping people, animals, the planet… It would be satisfying to do a project that I could point to that made even a small difference for something important.
11. That's awesome — and don't short-sell what you've done already. What about learning? As motion designers, the education and growth never stops. So, what do you plan on mastering next?
Well, my career has shifted once again, and I have transitioned into the realm of video editing.
As for what's next, I keep threatening to learn 3D and dive into Cinema 4D. And I will one of these days. The numerous ways that 3D can enhance a design or animation is pretty enticing.
Inspiration and Advice
12. Great idea! That's one of our most popular courses... Aside from the creativity of your SOM students, do you have any other sources of inspiration as you progress in your career?
Whenever I travel to a new city or town, I always make it a point to visit art museums. Looking at paintings, drawings or sculptures can really help reset your mind, get you into a different head space, and also implant different ideas — unique shapes, colors or compositions that maybe you would have never thought of using before.
Plus, it’s fun to think about how you could animate a piece of art and make it come to life through animation.
Also, just sitting on a park bench and observing people or animals can go a long way toward making you a better character animator.
Observation is a necessary tool to have in your arsenal if you want to learn how things move. Just open your eyes and pay attention to your surroundings, and you’ll be surprised at how that can make you a better animator.
13. That's great advice. Any more you wish to impart on the younger generation of motion designers who may not be lucky enough to work with you or take the course for which you assistant teach?
There’s no substitute for making things! Try to challenge yourself to make something new every week.
And don't underestimate the power of a peer network. These people can help keep you accountable, push you to grow, trade tips and tricks, and maybe even collaborate!
14. Awesome. Anything else?
Always be open to learning something new. That new skill could lead you down a new path that you never even thought about.
That’s how motion design and animation became a part of my journey. I was open to it, and it took my career down a whole new path I never would've envisioned when I graduated from college.
Treat life like an improv class: 'yes, and' everything!
And that includes watching tons of tutorials, like I did... and investing in yourself and your career — School of Motion courses, hint, hint!
Follow in His Footsteps, and Pave Your Own Path
And these courses work, but don't take our word for it: 97% of our alumni recommend School of Motion as a great way to learn motion design.
Indeed, MoGraph Mastery starts here.
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