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What are the Differences between the Jobs of an Animator and a Motion Designer?

Differences between animators and motion designers include the types of projects they work on, the skills they use, and their career paths.

An animator hard at work in her studio.

The jobs of an animator and a motion designer may sound similar at first, but they actually have some key differences. While both careers involve creating moving images and graphics, the specific tasks and responsibilities of each role can vary.

An animator is responsible for creating the illusion of movement by creating a series of static images and playing them back in sequence. This can involve creating hand-drawn or computer-generated images and using techniques like keyframing and interpolation to give the illusion of movement. Animators may work on a variety of projects, including feature films, television shows, video games, and advertisements.

On the other hand, a motion designer is focused on creating motion graphics and visual effects. This can involve creating graphics, text, and other visual elements and then animating them to create a cohesive and engaging visual experience. Motion designers often work with software like After Effects and Cinema 4D to create their designs, and may also work with audio and video editing tools to create a complete package.

A motion designer working in Adobe After Effects

Animators and motion designers use similar techniques, but for very different projects.

One of the key differences between animators and motion designers is the type of projects they work on. Animators are often focused on creating characters and environments, while motion designers are more focused on creating graphics and visual effects. For example, an animator may be responsible for creating the movements and actions of a cartoon character, while a motion designer may be responsible for creating the visual effects that are used in a film or television show.

Another difference between the two careers is the specific skills and techniques they use. Animators often need to have a strong understanding of traditional animation techniques, such as solid drawing and staging, as well as a solid grasp of anatomy and character design. In contrast, motion designers need to be skilled in things like Typography and Visual Language, and may also need to have a background in graphic design.

A 3D motion designer working in Cinema 4D

Career paths for Animators and Motion Designers.

Another key difference between animators and motion designers is the career path and job outlook for each profession. Becoming an animator is easier (for now) with a college degree in animation or a related field, and many animators start out as assistants or trainees before working their way up to more senior positions. The job market for animators can be competitive, but the demand for skilled animators is expected to grow in the coming years, particularly in the gaming and entertainment industries.

In contrast, the path to becoming a motion designer can be more flexible, and many motion designers start out as graphic designers or other creative professionals before transitioning into the field. Motion designers may need to have some specific technical skills, such as knowledge of motion graphics software, but they do not necessarily need a college degree. The job market for motion designers is also growing, particularly as businesses and organizations increasingly use motion graphics in their marketing and advertising efforts.

The owner of Lunar North studio in Detroit, MI.

Earning potential for Motion Designers vs Animators

In terms of salary and earning potential, animators and motion designers can earn similar salaries, although the specific amount can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and the type of projects they work on. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for an animator in the United States is around $60,000 per year, while the average salary for a motion designer is around $70,000 per year.

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In conclusion…

In conclusion, the jobs of an animator and a motion designer may seem similar at first, but they have some important differences. Animators are generally responsible for creating the illusion of life by creating a series of static images via traditional or CG-assisted means, and playing them back in sequence, while motion designers create motion graphics, abstract design-driven work and visual effects. Animators often need to have a strong understanding of traditional animation techniques and character design, while motion designers need to be skilled in using motion graphics software and applying design principles to their work.

Both careers can be incredibly rewarding, but the career path and job outlook for each profession can vary. Becoming an animator may still require a college degree at some companies, while the path to becoming a motion designer can be more flexible. The job market for both animators and motion designers is growing, and both professions offer the potential for creative fulfillment and financial rewards.

The Adobe Suite ready for action.

In the end, the key to success in either career is a passion for creating moving images and a willingness to constantly learn and adapt to new technologies and techniques. As the old saying goes, "The world of animation is always in motion, so keep on moving forward!" (Sorry, I couldn't think of a clever animation pun!)

Want to learn more about Design and Animation?

Check out our free Beginner's Guide to Design & Motion course. This course is hosted by the talented Michael Jones, who introduces the foundational concepts of design and animation. After completing this free series, you will be ready to take your next steps into the world of motion!

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Dive into real-time 3D with our Unreal Engine beginner's course by Jonathan Winbush. Master importing assets, world-building, animation, and cinematic sequences to create stunning 3D renders in no time! Perfect for motion designers ready to level up.

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Unlock the secrets of character design in this dynamic course! Explore shape language, anatomy rules, and motifs to craft animation-ready characters. Gain drawing tips, hacks, and Procreate mastery (or any drawing app). Ideal for artists seeking to elevate their craft.

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Rev up your editing skills with After Effects! Learn to use it for everyday needs and craft dynamic templates (Mogrts) for smarter teamwork. You'll master creating animated graphics, removing unwanted elements, tracking graphics, and making customizable templates.

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Stand out with Demo Reel Dash! Learn to spotlight your best work and market your unique brand of magic. By the end, you'll have a brand new demo reel and a custom campaign to showcase yourself to an audience aligned with your career goals.

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Illuminate your 3D skills with Lights, Camera, Render! Dive deep into advanced Cinema 4D techniques with David Ariew. Master core cinematography skills, gain valuable assets, and learn tools and best practices to create stunning work that wows clients.

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Master After Effects at your own pace with Jake Bartlett's beginner course. Perfect for video editors, you'll learn to create stylish animated graphics, remove unwanted elements, and track graphics into shots. By the end, you'll be equipped for everyday AE needs and more.

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Revolutionize your Premiere workflow with customizable AE templates! Master creating dynamic Motion Graphics Templates (Mogrts) in After Effects to speed up your team's work. By the end, you'll craft easily-customizable templates for seamless use in Premiere Pro.

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Not sure where to start?

If you’re a beginner, here are some great courses to help you get started:

After Effects Kickstart

Dive into the fundamentals of motion design with our most popular (and recently updated) After Effects course.


Photoshop + Illustrator Unleashed

Master the basics of Photoshop and Illustrator and gain invaluable insights in this introductory level course.


Design Kickstart

An introduction to the design principles behind all great work.


More Advanced?

If you’re a more advanced student looking to up your game, here are some great options:

Animation Bootcamp

Learn the art and principles of creating beautiful movements in Adobe After Effects.


Design Bootcamp

Learn to design for motion in this intermediate-level, project-based course.


Cinema 4D Basecamp

Learn Cinema 4D from the ground up in this exciting introductory C4D course.


Now is the time to learn the skills you need to advance in your motion design career: