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Make the World a Better Place: A Chat with Katie Aronat
Equipped with a passion for education, a degree from UCLA, and a trifecta of School of Motion Courses; Katie Aronat is on a mission to make the world a better place wielding the power of motion.
It's not a secret anymore, our alumni are absolute rock stars. Art Director and Motion Designer Katie Aronat is no exception. With everyday practice in high-level roles other that pure animation, Katie is constantly pushing her creative abilities. We reached out for a chat with katie to talk about her career as a motion designer.
In the interview, Katie talks about her experience as a recent college graduate, her passion for educational content, and what it's like working for Google. Be prepared to learn from her experience, this is an amazingly insightful interview. Let's get going...
Background & Education
Tell us about yourself, how did you become a motion designer?
I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Design Media Arts. For the first few years I focused on Graphic Design and really built up a foundation learning the principles.
I was also involved in a student organization that raised funds and awareness for Pediatric AIDS. I made educational flyers, advertisements, infographics, and was really inspired by how I could use my skill set to inspire others to take action.
During this time, I came across a video called The Girl Effect. It was the first educational motion graphic video I’d ever seen and I was incredibly inspired by how much more powerful words can become when you are telling a story with motion. After seeing The Girl Effect, I knew I wanted to pursue motion graphic design and create educational content.
My program didn’t offer much direction in terms of Motion Design, so I was mostly self taught. The first motion graphic video I ever made was a personal project focused on Pediatric AIDS. You can actually learn more about that project here: Dancer Diaries: UCLA Senior Merges Design with Advocacy. I ended up revamping that same video after my skills were a little bit more developed: Pediatric AIDS Motion Graphic - EGPAF Up 4 the Fight.
I knew I had a long way to go, but I was so passionate about the direction I was going and continued to push toward my goal of being a Motion Graphic Designer creating educational videos.
My first job out of college was within the UCLA Environment Health and Safety department as a Designer / Video Editor. This job allowed me to continue to hone my skills in the form of safety videos: Lab Safety Culture at UCLA
A few years later I landed my dream job (at the time) at GuideSpark, and was hired to create educational motion graphics focused on employee communications; like benefits, financial wellness, etc. I was there for three years and eventually moved into an Art Direction role overseeing other Motion Designers! I learned a lot during my time at GuideSpark, but eventually I felt like I wanted more of a challenge. It was during my time at GuideSpark that I started taking some School of Motion courses. I wanted to get myself ready for a more challenging role.
How did Character Animation Bootcamp help you as an artist?
I was doing a lot of character animation before I took CAB, including a series of videos focused on a llama wreaking havoc in the workplace.
Looking back on that work, all the movements seemed SO slow, awkward and unnatural. I had no idea what I was doing!
CAB helped point out what should have been obvious to me! Animated characters need to move like we move as humans. It’s not as simple as a limb moving from point A to point B because there are so many other factors to consider.
Things really clicked for me after taking this course. Taking the time to pose the characters has become a critical step in my process that didn’t exist before and it’s empowered me to take on new character animation challenges!
What encouragement would you give to those looking to grow their character animation skills?
Character animation is tough, and oftentimes rigs can be limiting, but when you push through the challenges and find ways to problem solve for the limitations, you can have SO much fun.
Character animation can be so rewarding. When you get comfortable with a rig, the possibilities become endless!
MoGraph at Google
You currently work with Google as a motion designer, that’s super awesome! How did you land such an awesome gig?
I actually got really lucky and was referred by a former colleague! Now I work there as a contractor!
What does a typical workday look like as a motion designer at Google?
Google is enormous, there are so many different motion design needs. I actually work on a team that creates training materials for the Google Assistant. It’s my team’s job to train sales associates, while supporting agents and brand ambassadors on the latest and greatest of the Google Assistant.
I was hired to do Motion Graphics, but my role has actually expanded quite a bit since I started. We are a team of four, and I am the only creative on the team. My background in Graphic Design, Motion Graphics and Art Direction has allowed me to add value in multiple ways. I wear a lot of hats in my role!
On any given day I could be in After Effects working on videos or Art Directing our agency. Some days I’m communicating with our stakeholders to make sure our content is aligned with Google’s brand and latest messaging.
I’m also a total process geek (I relate to GYST on a deep level: Get Your Shit Together) so I am also the team’s ambassador for folder structure, naming conventions and project trackers. I love problem solving, inside and outside of After Effects!
Working with the Google brand is a lot of fun too!
Are all of the rumors of incredible company perks true?
Yes! The food is excellent. There are so many different spots to choose from. One of my favorite parts of the day is picking out what I’m going to eat.. Ha! I’m taking full advantage while I can!
I also really appreciate how much effort they put into creating a work-space that makes you feel both productive and inspired. They do a beautiful job of designing the campuses.
I love walking through new buildings and visiting new offices and seeing how they’ve incorporated unique elements into the different spaces.
You recently created a whole video for Google including storyboards and animation. What did you take away from that project?
I’m really proud of that project. It was one of my first projects where I was not only the project manager, but I truly owned it from the conception and scriptwriting phase to the final deliverable. I learned a lot!
Here are a few takeaways i'd like to share from my experience:
Be realistic about how much time each phase of the project takes when you are the ONLY person working on the project. This was a valuable lesson for me to learn if/when I jump into freelance full-time. I didn’t take into account how much of my time would go to the project management piece. I was writing emails to stakeholders and presenting each phase of the project in review meetings. These kinds of things took away from my design and animation time, and there was a lot more I wish I’d had time to do.
Plan ahead. One thing that really helped speed up the animation phase was that I built a full storyboard. There wasn’t a single scene that I hadn’t planned out with animation notes. I wouldn’t have been able to meet my deadline if I hadn’t taken the time to think out every character animation and every transition. I had built scene specific character rigs to make posing easier. Doing that helped me realize the limitations I would face in After Effects, like if I would need a side facing rig or a front facing rig.
Don’t be a perfectionist until you have a full first version. I’m a textbook perfectionist, so sometimes I find myself tweaking the same 5 second animation when I still haven’t finished a full minute of the video. When you’re working on a deadline, you MUST have a full video to deliver. The details can come once you have that full video completed! The other side of that coin though is that sometimes stakeholders can get hung up on little details and it will distract them from the bigger picture. It’s a balance!
Goals & Inspiration
Where do you want your career to take you? Are you trying to grow your skills in a specific direction?
I would love to become a go-to person for explainer videos. I want to help educate around important causes, topics and issues that need more exposure.
Educational videos originally inspired my passion for motion graphics! Explainer Camp is definitely on my list of School of Motion courses to take :).
I love how much control you have with a 3D workspace, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible!
Your Instagram channel has work from courses, fun projects, and client work. How has Instagram helped you as an artist?
I love having a more social place to share my work. It’s become a place where creatives participate in challenges together and inspire each other!
It feels like a safe space where we are all rooting for each other. Even when something is a work in progress, allowing you to share it in your story and use it as a sounding board. I love having a place to connect with other artists, especially because I currently work on such a small team.
What are some of your favorite inspiration sources that most artists don't know about?
I spend a lot of time on Dribbble in the planning phases of a video. I like browsing through the animated GIFs because oftentimes something completely unrelated to my project will spark an idea.
Also, I like to write out a list of buzzwords that are related to my project. Then I will go search those words on Dribbble to see what comes up.
It’s led to a lot of really great abstract representations of complex topics.
Outside of motion design, what are some things that get you excited in life?
Music plays a big role in my life. My ideal night out is going to a concert or even seeing a local band play at a bar. You can usually find me out on the dance floor!
My dad is a true audiophile, so I definitely inherited my love for music from him. He probably has over 1000 records and has a set of speakers taller than me! I like to go record hunting with him; he’s helping me build my own collection.
It’s also no surprise that my fiancé is a musician! I met him while on a cruise–I was a passenger and he was a performer on the ship, I couldn’t resist ;).
How can people find your work online?
Want to level up along with Katie?
School of Motion offers courses geared to launch and build your skills as an artist. From beginner to advanced users you're sure to find a challenge. Make sure to check out our courses for more information!
If you're interested in taking the same courses Katie has taken check them out here: