Back to Blog

Why Motion Design Needs Graphic Designers

By Adam Korenman
PhotoshopIllustratorCinema 4DAfter Effects

If you've got the chops as a graphic designer, the world of motion needs you!

Graphic Design is described as "art, with a purpose." Artists from around the world use their skills to create a huge variety of designs for an equally large client base. From international companies to local bakeries, everybody needs a good artist...and the Motion Design community is no exception. If you're a Graphic Designer, maybe it's time to consider adding a little movement.
WHY-MOTION-DESIGN-NEEDS-GRAPHIC-DESIGNERS.jpg
Many Graphic Designers already employ motion into their work. Whether they're playing with animation by creating two-frame GIFs or actually throwing down with After Effects, most artists see the value in animating their artwork. Now we may be a little biased, but we see the worlds of Motion and Graphic Design as one huge community...and one huge opportunity.
Simply put: if you're a Graphic Designer, we think you should add motion to your toolset at once!
Here is what we'll cover in this article:
  • What are the similarities and differences between Graphic Design and Motion Design?
  • What do Graphic and Motion Designers Do?
  • Why Graphic Designers often need Motion Designers
  • What skills do Motion Designers Need?

What are the similarities between Graphic Design and Motion Design?

It should come as no surprise that Graphic and Motion Designers share a ton of the same software, principles, and methods.

Both use Illustrator and Photoshop

graphic-designers-to-motion-design-8.jpg
Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are the most commonly used programs for both disciplines. Whether you're designing a new logo or drafting a character for animation, these programs offer the versatility and adaptability to meet your needs.
Better yet, they are integrated into the Adobe Creative Cloud, meaning it is simple to move your artwork over to After Effects or Premiere for animation and editing.

Both use the same Principles of Design

From the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Ratio to color grading and typography, Motion and Graphic designers share a common language: Design.
The Principles of Design work whether you're creating a static image or a feature-length animation. While it's easy to learn the different principles, it is a lifetime of work to put them into practice. Graphic Designers constantly use these tools to create better artwork for their clients.

Both need to build strong communication skills for clients

graphic-designers-to-motion-design-5.jpg
Whether you're a freelancer or studio head, you're career lives and dies with communication. You can't meet new clients, land new jobs, and handle notes without clear, considerate communication. Many new Motion Designers cite this as the most difficult skill to develop.
As a Graphic Designer, you've had more than your share of notes sessions with unruly clients. You've likely had to sell yourself and your skills on a near weekly basis. That practice puts you above the rest when it comes to locking in new jobs as a motion designer.

Both need the ability to pre-visualize

graphic-designers-to-motion-design-3.jpg
Good artists are able to see what a thing will become, even if it's not there yet. This is the exact reason that your clients hired you. Anyone can jump into Photoshop and start dragging brushes across the canvas. It takes an artist to actually create something worth looking at.
Motion and Graphic designers have to be able to look at a brief and see the end result before a single pixel has been affected. If you've already honed that skill for static images, you'll find that it's pleasantly similar to the skills needed for motion design.

What are some differences?

graphic-designers-to-motion-design-2.jpg
This may sound overly simplistic, but the biggest difference comes from motion. Static design is often about having to fit everything into a single frame. When your elements move, it means you don't necessarily need to cram everything in at once, so each major element can have its own "moment." The amount of time you give that starring role to an element helps communicate its importance to your audience, and the actual way that it moves becomes another aspect of imparting meaning and character to the element.
Motion Designers have to combine the Principles of Animation and Design in crafting their art, and it can be a dramatic shift for Graphic Designers.

What do Graphic and Motion Designers actually do?

If you're not a Graphic Designer and simply wandered onto this page (welcome, by the way), you're probably wondering what these designers actually DO.

What does a Graphic Designer Do?

graphic-designers-to-motion-design-1.jpg
Graphic Designers create focused art to market concepts, emotions, and brands. Using a variety of computer programs, or just a good old fashioned pen and paper, they design evocative static images to inform and entice. These images can include posters, packaging, and all manner of marketing materials.

What kind of jobs to Graphic Designers do?

Graphic designers take all kinds of jobs from all kinds of companies. You could be designing a logo for a local bakery or fashioning a brochure for a major automobile company. Here are just a few possible jobs:
  • User interface (UI) designer
  • Production artist
  • Art director
  • Marketing specialist
  • Freelancer (logos, websites, brochures, etc)

What does a Motion Designer Do?

Motion Designers have become a catch-all group for the broad spectrum of motion graphics and animation. While they do work with characters, they are not traditional animators. While they do work with logos and title cards, they are not graphic designers. It's such a diverse field that we decided to put together a video to explain it better.

Why Motion Designers often need Graphic Designers

There are also things that just aren’t easily accessible to motion design without a solid set of graphic design skills: title sequences, fluid transitions, or styleframes  made swiftly.
Design is a difficult concept to master, so much so that we've spent years developing courses to aid our community in building on the principles and learning the techniques.
Motion projects require the marriage of all these skills into one artist, and that can be very difficult. Forging a career as a Motion Designer requires a solid work ethic and drive for continued education. You can try to hack MoGraph videos together without graphic design skills, but you won’t be able to sustain a career.

What skills do Motion Designers need?

graphic-designers-to-motion-design-7.jpg
So now your interest is assuredly piqued, so what do you do next? Well, if you're looking to transition into Motion Design, you've already got a lot of the skills needed.

Graphic Designers have a solid foundation for learning Motion Design

As a Graphic Designer, you already understand the Principles of Design better than most. You know how to employ contrast and hierarchy and balance. You should have a working knowledge of color theory, and you should be comfortable with the software we've mentioned above.
Those skills allow you to quickly jump into the programs needed to animate your artwork. Moreover, you've already spent time developing your artistic eye, and that is a skill that can't be underrated.

What additional skills a Graphic Design needs to learn to transition to Motion Design

You should get very familiar with the 12 Principles of Animation. Designed by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston—from their time at a little company called Disney—these principles help you infuse static images with the illusion of life.
Finally, it's time to add the proper software to your tool belt and start practicing. If you're more comfortable in 2D, we'd recommend picking up Adobe After Effects. If you want to jump into 3D, you could grab free programs such as Unreal Engine or Blender, or dive into Cinema 4D.
Of course, learning new software is never easy, but you've never been one to shy away from a challenge, right? More to the point, you're not alone in trying to learn. That's why we spent years developing some of the best courses in the world for Motion Designers, from beginners to experts.
  • After Effects Kickstart - Learn the basics of the world's most popular motion design software in this After Effects intro course taught by Nol Honig.
  • Animation Bootcamp - Discover the hidden techniques behind organic motion design animation in this essential After Effects course from Joey Korenman.
  • Illustration for Motion - Explore the exciting world of illustration for animation projects in this drawing course from Sarah Beth Morgan.
  • Design Bootcamp - Create incredible design work for animation projects in this course from Mike Frederick. Unlock essential storyboard techniques using Illustrator and Photoshop.
  • Cinema 4D Basecamp - Journey into the exciting world of 3D in this Cinema 4D basics course taught by industry expert, EJ Hassenfratz.
Adding Motion to your Design Toolkit opens up a new world of clients and gigs that were previously closed off. Even better, your design background is going to give you a leg up on the competition.

Grab your stylus and join the fight!

Whether you’re a graphic designer interested in learning motion or not, the Motion Design industry can use your talents! If you want to learn more about what it means to be a Motion Designer, why not check out our free course, Path to MoGraph!
In this short 10-day course you'll get an in-depth look at what it takes to be a Motion Designer. Along the way, you'll learn about the software, principles, and techniques used in the field through in-depth case-studies and tons of bonus material.