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How To Become a Motion Designer

How To Become a Motion Designer (+ What You’ll Likely Do)

11 minute read | October 19, 2023
Sakshi Gupta

Written by:
Sakshi Gupta & reviewed by Meg Clayton

Sakshi Gupta

Reviewed by:
Meg Clayton


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Imagine watching a beautifully animated film, a sleek user interface, or an attention-grabbing advertisement and thinking to yourself, I made that come to life. This is the rewarding reality of a career in motion design, where creativity blends with technology to create engaging visual experiences. The demand for this skill set is on the rise, and it’s a career that promises growth, innovation, and a constant infusion of creative challenges for many years to come.

While the journey into the dynamic world of motion design can be exhilarating, the path isn’t always clear-cut. With a competitive job market and a range of educational routes and skills to master, figuring out how to break into the field can be intimidating.

Should you pursue a university degree, attend a bootcamp, or follow a self-taught route? Which skills are vital to hone, and how do you build a standout portfolio? It’s questions like these that likely brought you here.

In this article, we’ll demystify the process by walking you through a step-by-step guide on how to become a motion designer. From understanding what the role entails, the educational paths you can take, and essential skills to develop to tips on networking and building a strong portfolio—we’ve got you covered.

What Does a Motion Designer Do?

Motion designers are visual artists who create engaging and dynamic content that brings stories to life. They work with various elements, such as typography, shapes, images, video footage, 3D models, and even sound. By animating these elements, they create captivating narratives that communicate complex ideas or evoke specific emotions. They do this using a wide range of digital tools and software, such as Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, and Maya, to name a few.

The work of a professional motion designer is pivotal across many industries and fields. They collaborate with a diverse group of professionals—art directors, marketing strategists, UX/UI designers, video game editors, and even programmers.

Despite the technical nature of the job, at the core, motion designers are creators. They conceptualize and transform static designs into vibrant, moving pieces of art. This production process requires a deep understanding of design principles and animation, coupled with a healthy dose of creativity and imagination.

How To Become a Motion Designer in 9 Steps

Here’s a 9-step roadmap to help you navigate your way into a successful career in motion design.

  1. Get Educated

  2. Get Familiar with Design Fundamentals

  3. Learn the Essential Tools and Software

  4. Build Your Skillset

  5. Build Your Portfolio

  6. Remember: Your Network Is Your Net Worth

  7. Find a Mentor

  8. Consider a Motion Design Internship

  9. Work Toward the Job You Want

Get Educated

Starting your journey into motion design through a course or degree is very beneficial. There are primarily three ways to dive into this world through education—a formal degree at a university, immersive bootcamps, or the self-taught route.

Formal Education/University Degree

While a formal degree is not always a prerequisite in the field of motion design, it can certainly add value to your profile.

Degree programs, especially in graphic design, animation, visual arts, or multimedia arts, cover elements that are highly applicable to motion design. These give you theoretical knowledge and technical skills and can offer internships or capstone projects that allow students to apply what they’ve learned in a professional context.


Bootcamps offer intensive, focused training in a shorter time frame, so they are the perfect choice for aspiring motion designers, regardless of their previous educational background. They often incorporate project-based learning, giving you a taste of real-world application and an opportunity to add something valuable to your portfolio.

Self-Taught Route

Being self-taught requires discipline, structure, and a clear learning path. Online platforms offer a range of quality courses from experienced professionals. Pay attention to reviews and course content to choose wisely. Take advantage of resources like tutorial videos, eBooks, blogs, and community forums to supplement your learning.

Get Familiar With Design Fundamentals

Before you dive into animation and motion, you need to understand the fundamentals of design. 

These provide the essential knowledge and skills needed to create successful animations and motion designs:

  • Color theory helps you understand how different colors work together and how they can evoke specific emotions or moods. 
  • Typography is crucial in conveying messages effectively, as different fonts and text styles can impact the readability and overall aesthetic of a design. 
  • Layout and composition play a role in organizing the elements of a design and creating a balanced and visually pleasing composition.

Understanding the 12 principles of animation is equally important in creating compelling motion designs. These are:

  • Squash and stretch
  • Timing and motion
  • Anticipation
  • Staging
  • Follow-through and overlapping action
  • Straight ahead and pose-to-pose action
  • Slow in and out
  • Arcs
  • Exaggeration
  • Secondary action
  • Solid drawing
  • Appeal

Learn the Essential Tools and Software

Motion design requires familiarity with a set of specific software and tools. Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop are industry staples. Software like Cinema 4D or Blender might be necessary if you plan to work in 3D motion graphics design. 

Spend time getting comfortable with these tools, exploring their capabilities, and mastering the features most relevant to your work.

Build Your Skillset

You must constantly improve your skills and always learn new ones if you want to remain relevant as a modern motion designer.

Technical Skills

The technical skills you need as a motion designer include:

  • Proficiency in Adobe Creative Suite (After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop)
  • Familiarity with 3D software (Cinema 4D, Blender, Maya)
  • Understanding of design principles and color theory
  • Knowledge of animation principles
  • Graphic design skills
  • Coding or scripting (JavaScript or Python could be useful for scripting in After Effects)
  • Video production
  • Understanding of UI design

Soft Skills

Soft skills are equally essential for motion designers. These include:

  • Creativity and imagination
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to accept and act on feedback
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Patience and perseverance
  • Lifelong learning mindset

Build Your Portfolio

To showcase your skills and creativity in your portfolio, begin by developing sample projects. These motion design projects can serve as tangible proof of your abilities. 

Consider volunteering your skills to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local businesses, or student organizations. NGOs have a strong focus on social impact and can give you the opportunity to work on projects that contribute to a greater cause. 

Another option to consider is freelancing and participating in design hackathons or contests. These events provide a unique and competitive environment that encourages innovative thinking and collaboration. They are the perfect way to demonstrate your ability to conceptualize ideas and execute them effectively in a limited time frame.

Remember: Your Network Is Your Net Worth

In a competitive field like motion graphics design, networking is paramount. Here’s how to do it.


LinkedIn is a powerful platform for networking in the professional space. Build an engaging profile, highlight your skills, share your work, and connect with other motion designers. 

Joining relevant LinkedIn groups like Broadcast Design & Motion Graphics can also provide opportunities for discussions, learning, and networking.

Online Communities

Joining online communities dedicated to motion design, such as Behance, Dribble, or certain subreddits on Reddit, can offer invaluable resources. Here’s where you can get feedback on your work, learn new techniques, stay updated on industry trends, and connect with industry peers and experts.


Conferences are an excellent opportunity for motion designers to broaden their horizons and gain fresh perspectives in their field. They are a sure way for industry professionals to share their experiences, showcase their work, discuss trends and innovations, and inspire the community.

For example, the Motion Design Education Summit is a great space for academics and professionals to come together, while the International Motion Plus Design meetup offers presentations from world-renowned artists and opportunities to network.

Go in with a clear plan. Identify the sessions and talks that align with your interests or career goals, and don’t be shy about engaging in discussions or asking questions. Use networking breaks to connect with other attendees and follow up with them afterward to maintain the relationship.

Find a Mentor

Look for mentors within your network, online communities, or professional organizations, and don’t be afraid to reach out for advice. These people are happy to provide guidance, feedback, and entertainment industry insights.

Consider a Motion Design Internship

An internship can be a stepping stone for you if you’re looking for a hands-on experience that’s difficult to replicate in a purely academic setting. It lets you apply the concepts and techniques learned in your courses or self-study to actual design projects.

Internships also expose you to different types of projects and workflows, helping you identify what you enjoy most and where your strengths lie.

Work Toward the Job You Want

Remember that motion design is a broad field with several specializations, such as UI animation, commercial animation, film and video effects, etc. Define your career path based on your interests and skills, and work towards it.

Create a Strong Resume and Update Your Portfolio

To stand out, tailor your resume to each job application, highlighting relevant skills and experiences. Continually update your portfolio with your latest projects to reflect your current skill level and style.

Build Your LinkedIn Profile

A well-crafted bio can also help leave a strong impression.

Add relevant keywords to your profile to make it easily searchable. Highlight your experiences and skills, and add links to your portfolio work.

Start Applying

Search for jobs on dedicated job boards like Behance Jobs, Dots, or more general ones like Indeed and LinkedIn. Prepare for interviews by researching the company and understanding common interview questions.

Don’t forget to showcase your creative process and problem-solving skills in your responses.

Get To Know Other Design Students

Jeffrey Surban

Jeffrey Surban

UX Designer at Citi

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Jane French

Jane French

Founder at Ella Verbs

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April Hoang

April Hoang

UX Designer at Microsoft

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The Impact of AI on Motion Design

While it’s true that AI is gaining ground in the realm of motion graphics design and the broader design industry, it’s essential to approach this technological advancement from a balanced perspective.

AI-driven tools automate repetitive tasks, refine workflows, and even offer predictive design solutions. For instance, automated animation tools can generate simple animations more quickly, freeing designers to focus on more complex and creative aspects of a project.

Despite these advancements, it’s important to remember that AI is a tool, not a replacement for human designers. The essence of motion design lies in its creativity and emotional connection, which is something machines are currently unable to replicate. AI lacks the human touch, the understanding of context and subtlety, and the ability to create unique and innovative designs based on abstract thinking.

Rather than looking at AI as a threat, think of it as an opportunity. Embrace AI as a collaborative partner that can handle tedious tasks, leaving you with more time and energy for ideation, innovation, and nuanced design work. This synergy of human creativity and AI’s computational power is likely to be the real future of motion design.

How Much Can You Earn as a Motion Designer?

Here’s how much you can expect to earn as a motion designer, depending on your experience level.

Entry Level 

how to become motion designer, entry-level average salary

The average salary for an entry-level motion designer is around $63,778 a year.

Mid Level

how to become motion designer, mid-level average salary

Mid-level motion designers with a few years of experience under their belt and a more extensive portfolio usually earn an average of $73,765 annually.

Senior Level 

how to become motion designer, senior-level average salary

Senior-level motion designers, who possess significant experience and often have leadership or managerial roles, earn an average of $79,445 per year.


how to become motion designer, freelance average salary

Freelance motion designers have a wide range of potential earnings, as it can depend significantly on their client base, project complexity, and hours worked. They might earn an average of $87,583 per year.

What Does the Career Path of a Motion Designer Look Like?

The career path of a motion designer is rewarding and dynamic, often beginning with entry-level roles that evolve into more specialized and senior positions over time. An entry-level motion designer starts by assisting senior designers, focusing on the basics of motion graphics, learning about different styles and techniques, and gradually building a portfolio. With more experience and developed skills, they progress to mid-level roles, where they handle more complex projects, perhaps specializing in certain areas of motion design, such as character animation, visual effects, or UI animations.

Ultimately, the career trajectory can lead to roles such as creative director or art director in a design or advertising agency, where you’ll be responsible for shaping the creative vision of projects or even the entire organization. For others, the ultimate goal might be to work as a freelance designer with high-profile clients or start their own motion design studio.

Becoming a Motion Designer: Real-Life Examples To Inspire You

What better way to get advice on how to become successful as a motion designer than looking at how other people navigated the same path? Here are two real-life examples to inspire you in your journey.

Ben Marriott

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Ben Marriott’s video is a great resource for anyone having doubts about starting out as a motion designer. He goes over important questions and talks about some of the most common aspects of the motion design world. These include but are not limited to:

  • The average rates for motion designers and how much you can expect to earn
  • How it’s like to work with clients, including the best and worst experiences
  • Concerns about the impact of AI on the design industry
  • Why online learning options are generally better than traditional design or motion design schools


how to become motion designer, real-life example

This Reddit post titled “What’s the life of being a motion graphics designer?” has detailed responses from users who share their personal experiences as motion graphics designers.

They share details on their working hours, freelancing, and finding a job in this competitive field. What’s interesting about these responses is that they show how different people prefer either working as freelancers or as part of a team, highlighting that motion design is financially rewarding either way.

How To Become a Motion Designer FAQs

We answer your most frequently asked questions.

Are Motion Designers in Demand?

Yes, the demand for motion designers is continually rising. Motion designers are critical in various sectors, such as advertising, gaming, film, television, and digital marketing.

Is It Hard To Learn Motion Design?

The challenge of learning motion design is subjective and depends on your background, the effort you’re willing to put in, and your aptitude for visual and creative work. Whether you opt for formal education, bootcamps, or the self-taught route, the journey can be incredibly rewarding.

What Software Do Motion Designers Use?

Motion designers use a variety of software depending on the project’s needs. Adobe After Effects is a key tool in a motion designer’s arsenal, renowned for its versatility and wide range of capabilities. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are often used for creating and editing static visuals, while Cinema 4D or Blender can be used for 3D animation work. Other software includes Sketch for UI and user experience design and Premiere Pro for video editing.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Motion Graphics Designer?

The timeline to become a motion graphics designer varies significantly based on the learning path you choose and your prior experience in related fields. A university degree in graphic design or a related field typically takes around four years, while bootcamps or dedicated motion design courses can be completed in several months.

Do I Need To Be a Graphic Designer To Be a Motion Designer?

While being a graphic designer can certainly give you a strong foundation for becoming a motion designer, it’s not a strict prerequisite. Many successful motion designers come from various backgrounds, such as fine arts, digital animation, or even self-taught routes.

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About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Managing Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer with experience in the Indian and US markets.