Why You Should Invest in Illustration as a Motion Designer

Illustration by Raff Marqs — dribbble.com/raffmarqs

Movement is the gist of Motion Design and knowledge about time and space must be part of a Motion Designer’s expertise. During my past years of experience in the field, I met and worked with different professionals and studios, and most of the times after presenting my work those people came to me with the same question: Do you also illustrate?

I can even say it’s a fact that almost 100% of the times I met someone from another studio, they asked me that. If we start to think about it, it’s a curious question and makes you think: ”Wait! Am I supposed to be good at animation, movements, etc, and now you are asking me if I illustrate?”. Sometimes it’s a shock for most Motion Designers that never thought about the possibility of learning it, but investing on your illustration skill will help you grow as a professional as well. Here, I will show you why you should invest in Illustration as a Motion Designer.

To understand why people ask that, I need to recap something first:

Animation represents only 25% of a Successful project

Not only that, it’s the last step of a huge process. To be a good professional, you need to know and understand every aspect that will join the animation you are creating.

Being a master of a software is great, but being a master of your own field is better.

Animations are a series of images put together to create the feeling of motion. Those images are the primitive component of what will be created and they are far more important to your final result than knowing which plugin to use in your software.

Illustrations for Animation vs Illustrations for Printing

If you had at least a little experience working with Motion Design, you know how awful it is to prepare illustrations to be animated. We need to split Photoshop and Illustrator files into hundreds of layers before we even start to animate. Some of those files come messy and most of the times there are parts that need to be recreated. It’s for sure one of the most annoying experiences of working for Agencies, Studios or with Illustrators that provide their own visual assets.

There’s a great difference between illustrating for animation in comparison with other medias and usages. Professional Illustrators usually create their work for static media — both print and digital — and the way they build their illustrations are always focused on a single image as an output. When working with animation we need every detail, even some parts that would be hidden from a static representation need to be created, since the elements will be moved, hidden and showed in many different ways. Also, depending on the illustration it can be impracticable to animate. As every design field, there are some specifications and limitations that only who work in the field know about.

“Ok. So, do you mean we shouldn’t be hiring an Illustrator?”

No! I’m not saying that. Illustrators are great, they can create unique things, but being honest, it’s better to focus your effort in your speciality than to split your effort between many. What I encourage is that people learn about every step of a project or work for one single reason — to be able to direct it.

As a Director, you need to know how to delegate things correctly. If you understand how an Illustration for Motion Graphics works, you’ll be able to communicate at the same language with your illustration partner, which will result in a better process and better quality of your animation. Not only that, knowing how to illustrate gives you freedom to create your own designs and projects and can be very helpful if aren’t able to hire yet.

Why do people want to know if you know how to illustrate?

The true reason why people ask that question is that they want you to be able to come with fast concepts, to adjust any detail on the illustrations you will receive, and also for you to be able to add your own touch during a project.

Being able to illustrate is essential to explain concepts, create storyboards, to illustrate and to give those fine and awesome details to what you’re creating.

How should I invest then?

You can either invest your time or your money on it. My suggestion is simple: Improve yourself to go beyond the basics of illustration. If you have the time, patience and will-power to become an expert, you’ll be a complete animator. If you lack any of those, you’ll still be a great Creative Director and your work will only get better with that.

Originally published at mowestudio.com on October 21, 2015.

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