What are the thoughts on learning design software?

We all use the software, and we all kind of describe it in our heads the way that makes sense to us. I’m a bit of a nerd for documentation, and so I like reading manuals so I can really understand how these things function and the terminology. But it also doesn’t actually matter that much—if you understand what these things are doing, who cares what they are called.

Being someone who is more technical, there is a point where the technical knowledge makes you feel more proficient and effective—but it can become a hindrance. When you are too aware of what the constraints of the software are, you get boxed in. I have seen artists who are not as technically savvy, who do not abide by boundaries and figure out ways to do things.

They do something that I would call “hacky” or not “semantic” or whatever developer-centric terms. But they end up making things that I didn’t think was possible, because they are not so bound by the limitations of what they think can be done. In my technical career, the challenge is to not let guidelines or limitations stop me from making the things that I want.

Thoughts on procedural versus bespoke:

The various sectors within Motion Design make a big difference. I mostly do branding, toolkits, and iterative projects. The longer 30-, 45-, or 60-second spots, where every single frame is crafted, lends itself to the bespoke side of the spectrum. A brand is a system where nothing exists by itself. You have to be more agile and willing to address notes and have systems that work together. With the longer narrative animations, I always fawn over the amount of detail and custom care that goes into every single ease, and every single frame.

We use the term Motion Design that describes such a wide gamut of everything that can be done. I think the different sectors within the Motion Design world have different places on the spectrum where they succeed the most. An animator doing beautiful, stylized character work who is too enamored with the technical limitations—they may never get animation that looks that beautiful. On the other hand, if you have someone doing heavy branding for a news network, who is way too obsessed with making every frame perfect—they are going to get a system that doesn’t function because everything is custom. It’s figuring out what the right amount of procedural versus bespoke is based on the work that you are doing. There is no one size fits all.

thoughts on branding in Motion Design:

Branding can be everything from network branding to live streams like Twitch, where streamers have brands; each component is a piece of a whole, whereas a monolithic spot can have something singular about it. Branding is not one element. When a Motion Design studio that specializes in branding presents a brand, it’s a sizzle reel of hundreds of elements. A project in branding is made up of lots of different small parts versus a longer one-off piece. Procedural is another way of saying algorithmic, or a set of instructions. A brand is a set of instructions that generate a bunch of different assets.

There is a set of instructions that says, “This is my color palette, this is my typeface, this is my motion language, etc.” I can run an element through that procedure and get a lower third, an open, a button, or whatever. When you have a stand-alone spot, you can pay attention to each of those things on their own. That’s different than a brand where all those things have to work together.

Suggestions for young designers:

The places in your career or life that cause the most growth is where you commit to doing something that you don’t know how to do, but you are confident you can figure out. I think everyone should learn a little bit of code. If you work on a computer all day, everything you do is code, whether you know it or not. Once you have a little bit of coding knowledge, you start to understand that what is impressive about a computer is not the complexity of what it does, but how quickly it does simple things.

Once you have that fundamental understanding, you can begin to look at the software we use in a different lens. It’s not necessarily doing big, complicated things; it’s breaking every task down into a multitude of sub-tasks and doing those really quickly.