The term motion designer is often loosely used and is sometimes interchanged with other names. The role of a motion designer can vary client to client. However, the topics covered below should give you a basic insight into what it can take to be a motion designer. Whether that’s as a hobby you want to dabble in, or if you’re seriously thinking of it as a career prospect.

5 Must Need Skills For Motion Designers

1) Graphic Design Skills

Though Motion Design is a broad brush. It is essentially the art of bringing still motionless graphics to life. Layout, typography and an understanding of colour theory are just as important.

Having a basic understanding of design fundamentals will give your work a more professional feel. If you are looking for a career in motion design most, if not all job postings online will require an understanding of design.

If you are a freelancer, being able to create assets from scratch is a task you may be challenged with frequently. Understanding how assets are created allows you more flexibility. Especially when it comes to making creative choices, being able to edit and alter assets to your needs.

2) Understanding of Animation

No matter how technical you may be, or how appealing an asset may be, having a deep-rooted knowledge of the 12 principles of animation is a must. These principles apply to anything that moves, whether it be a ball bouncing up and down, or an enormous CGI dragon from Game of Thrones. You should know how to time an action, or how much exaggeration should be used on a movement.

The illusion of life from cento lodigiani on Vimeo.

12 Principles of Animation:

  1. Squash and stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight ahead and pose to pose
  5. Follow through and overlapping action
  6. Slow in and slow out
  7. Arc
  8. Secondary action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid Drawing
  12. Appeal

There are many great resources to help you on your way to mastering these. One timeless and well-respected resource is Richard Williams’’ book ‘The Animators Survival Guide’.

Mastering these skills doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice, practice and more practice.

3) Creative Thinking

The main role of a motion designer is to tell a story. It’s your job to not only know how to bring a graphic to life but to also know the best way to do so. After all, a motion designer is a storyteller.

Every job is different, each having their own amount of flexibility. Some clients may be open to inventive transitions, whereas others may be much tighter in regards to what is allowed. This is where creativity is important, the ability to take a simple concept and turn it into something complex and appealing.

4) Technical Skills

Now more than ever, more and more tools are popping up faster than you can say “Easy Ease”. Though a lot of these tools make little to no impact on the industry. It’s important to always be aware of the big players and possible disruptive software.

Fundamentally you need to have skills in software that will allow you to tackle any brief. The safest bet is always Adobe’s After Effects.

It is probably the most commonly used software amongst motion designers. Next, other software from the Adobe family… Premier for editing. Photoshop and Illustrator for creating and editing assets.

If you want to delve into 3D there’s a bit more variety. If you are on a low budget Video Copilot have a fantastic plugin, Element 3D for After Effects. For those with a higher budget Maxon’s Cinema4D is a big player in the industry and can meet all your 3D needs.

5) Interpersonal Communication

It may come as a surprise to come, but interpersonal communication skills are invaluable. A lot of the time you won’t be dealing with clients, and generally speaking they aren’t designers.

You may have to try and sell a pitch on just a few frames from a storyboard or you may need to answer concerns they have. The ability to be able to articulate your vision and creative decisions is essential.

To wrap up…

Motion design is one of the only art forms that encompasses such a broad range of subjects. Audio, colour, composition, animation, storytelling and more. Hopefully, this article has given you an insight into the fundamental skills you will need as a motion designer.


After studying Animation at the University of Central Lancashire I got the bug for motion design and went on to study a masters where I specialised in the subject. I have experience working freelance, in-house and now an agency. Out of work I like to spend time rebuilding classic motorcycles with my dad and brother.

Write A Comment