An animation designer creates animated designs and special visual effects for a variety of media—such as websites, video games, and movies. Animation is a crucial design and branding tool, and designers with animation skills are an essential asset to any team. The nature of the job depends on team makeup and project, but generally, animation designers are responsible for a variety of design tasks, including animation, wireframing, storyboarding, writing, and more.
So what skills do you need to become an animation designer? Because the position can encompass so many different things, it requires more than just artistic ability. Animation designers must possess a varied skill set to be successful at their jobs.
1. What qualifications do you need to become an animation designer?
A job with such a broad range of responsibilities necessitates an extensive set of skills, many of which a fledgling designer can acquire through education and on-the-job training. The exact skills and qualifications needed depend on the industry you want to work in, but generally speaking, animation designers need a solid foundation in user interface (UI) design, together with some knowledge of key user experience (UX) principles. Once you’ve got those, you can go on to learn the specifics of animation design. With that in mind, here are some qualifications a prospective animation designer will find helpful, if not necessary, to get started:
- A Bachelor’s degree in design (web or graphic), fine arts, or computer animation: A degree in one of these areas will teach students the fundamentals of drawing and design. This background will well serve animation designers who spend a good portion of their days creating imagery. A Bachelor’s degree in one of the previously mentioned fields will also help budding animation designers become comfortable working with computer software to create visual compositions and concepts.
- Industry certification: As the field of animation design grows more popular, an industry certification will help candidates stand out from their peers. The certification itself does not have to be in animation design, either. Animation designers will benefit from several different curriculums (such as UI Design) because much of the core education is highly relevant to animation design.
- Internships: While not a requirement to become an animation designer, internships can be incredibly beneficial for acquiring hands-on experience and building relationships in the industry.
It’s important to remember that there is no single path into animation design, and there are many different ways to get there. Whether you opt for a college degree, a design bootcamp, or self-taught tutorials, the most important thing is to learn the necessary hard and soft skills in such a way that allows you to apply them in a real-world setting. So what are the necessary skills for a career in animation design? Let’s take a look now.
2. What are the key hard skills for animation designers?
Whether you’re weighing up a career transition or evaluating certification or higher education course offerings, it’s essential to understand what key hard skills you’ll need as an animation designer. Because animation designers are often responsible for a broad set of tasks, these hard skills are quite wide-ranging. Here are some fundamental competencies an animation designer should possess:
- User research: All good design starts with user research, so an understanding of user research techniques is key. Even if you’re not leading the user research, it’s important that you understand the audience for whom you’re designing
- Interaction design: When designing for any kind of digital experience, it’s essential to understand how a user will interact with the product. This means getting to grips with core interactive design principles, such as consistency, cognitive load, and affordance
- 3D modeling/CGI: This involves manipulating vertices in a digital 2D environment to form a “mesh,” which will ultimately become the computer-generated imagery (CGI) 3D object
- Editing/writing: Crafting and editing content for scripts, narrations, or voiceovers (especially if you’re using your animation skills in the context of advertising, gaming, or movies)
- Prototyping: Transitioning a concept from brainstorming to the first stage of “life,” often by creating a very rough approximation of the final product.
- UI design: Focusing on a user’s visual experience with a digital product.
- UX wireframes and storyboarding: Visually documenting the entire experience a user can expect when engaging with a product. A Wireframe sets out the bare bones of a digital product, while a storyboard visualizes each individual frame that makes up an overall sequence or motion
- Graphic design: Creating images using computer software
- Animation: Transforming a host of single frames into an animated video (and editing it) using animation software
Employers will also be looking for knowledge of industry tools, such as Adobe After Effects, InVision Studio, and Animate.CSS.
3. What are the key soft skills for animation designers?
A stellar education will help prospective animation designers to learn the core skills they’ll need to competently perform their jobs, but there are several “soft” skills that will enable them to work smoothly and effectively with others. Here are some of the top soft skills animation designers can leverage for success:
- Creativity: As an animation designer, people will constantly look to you to provide all types of innovative, engaging content.
- Collaboration and communication: Animation designers work as part of a team; as such, they need to be willing to compromise, support other members, communicate clearly and promptly, and never lose sight of what will help the team (not just them personally) succeed.
- Organization and project management: Juggling concurrent projects and varied tasks takes discipline and organizational skills to stay on top of priorities.
- Time management: Animation designers, like everyone else on their team, are often under strict deadlines, necessitating an almost obsessive dedication to time management.
- Attention to detail: To create flawless animations, surface typos in scripts, and consistently perform at the high level required by the job, attention to detail is a must-have skill.
- Ability to take feedback and criticism: The ability to put the team’s success before your ego is perhaps one of the most undervalued soft skills an animation designer can possess.