What Does a Motion Graphics Designer Do? How to Become One

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Explore a career in motion graphics with this guide on how to become a motion graphics designer, the skills you'll need, and info on motion graphic jobs.

[Featured Image]: Motion Graphics Designer working on a project.

A motion graphics designer works with animation, audio, and visual effects to create moving content and graphics for various media, such as television, the internet, and film. Motion graphic designers work with creative teams to incorporate design elements into a project. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a career in motion graphics design, also called motion design, typically requires a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art, or a related field and a portfolio of your work.

Motion graphic designers most often use Adobe software programs. Photoshop and Illustrator are two of the more common programs used in the creative process, and Cinema4D is a 3D modeling software program that’s more advanced.

Read more: What Does a Graphic Designer Do? (And How Do I Become One?)

What is motion graphics?

Motion graphics is a type of animation that transforms static designs into moving pictures. The animations are typically in two- or three-dimensional format and sometimes have sound. 

Motion graphic designers use software programs to create visual narratives digitally or on television. Motion graphics are used in videos and for apps, games, advertisements, and anywhere movement is required to connect with the audience.

Job description of a motion graphics designer 

As a motion graphics designer, your role will be to create graphics and two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation from conceptualization to the final product. 

Other job duties include:

  • Working with various design programs such as Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. 

  • Working in a creative team

  • Creating motion designs for social media platforms such as Meta and Instagram

  • Meeting with clients to address their needs

  • Selecting audio, visuals, typography, and other design elements 

Job duties may also include onboarding new members added to your team and overseeing day-to-day operations.

Skills of a motion graphics designer 

A career in motion graphics requires an understanding of design principles such as layout, typography, and color theory. You’ll need to be a creative thinker and know the principles of motion graphics and animation.

It’s essential to master design programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects. While technical skills are necessary, it helps to have traditional art skills to brainstorm ideas on paper. 

Good communication skills are essential not only for talking to clients, coworkers, and employers but you’ll want for discussing your designs in a manner that the general public can understand.

Possible work environments for motion graphics designers

As a motion graphics designer, you can choose to be self-employed or work for a company. As do technical and scientific agencies, advertising and public relations agencies hire motion graphics designers. The motion picture and video industries offer job opportunities, and software publishers and computer-related industries need motion graphic designers.

Positions are typically available in the entertainment and non-entertainment fields, and more than half of motion graphics designers are self-employed [1].

Motion graphics vs. animation: What’s the difference? 

Motion graphics is a type of animation, but there’s usually no storytelling or narrative. It uses self-contained animation to convey information or emotion. Motion graphics are used for a movie’s opening title, kinetic typography, onboarding animation, and social media GIFs. 

Conversely, animation is a broad field that many types of moving design fall under, such as stop motion, cartoons, and claymation. It's comprised of cinematic effects and storytelling techniques. Animation generally involves a talking and moving character or characters that tell a story.

Salary and career outlook for motion graphics designers  

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for special effects artists and animators is $78,790 as of October  2022 [2]. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $46,000, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $131,370.

The BLS projects motion graphics design jobs to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031 [3], which is as fast as the average for all occupations. Approximately 6,700 openings are projected each year over the decade. Many of these openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who leave the profession for other careers or exit the labor force. Attrition due to retirement and the economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession are also factors. 

As consumer demand for video games and more sophisticated television and movie special effects grows, the need for motion graphic designers will likely grow. The increase in smartphone and app use may also positively impact the motion design industry.

How to become a motion graphics designer 

To work as a motion graphics designer, you’ll typically earn a bachelor’s degree, be skilled in animation and the programs used to create it, gain work experience, build a portfolio, and continue to expand your skills.

Earn your bachelor’s degree.

According to Zippia, 74 percent of graphic designers hold a bachelor’s degree, and 12 percent earn an associate degree. Less than 10 percent have a master’s degree [4].

Read more: Your Guide to Graphic Design Degrees

Build your portfolio.

A portfolio of your best work allows you to show prospective employers and clients your talent and graphic skills.  You can show your animation portfolio on a personal website or blog, and your resume should include a working link to your portfolio. 

Your portfolio can include work from your education and client experience. If you don’t have enough content, you can design mock-ups of fictitious projects. 

Develop key skills in animation.

Keeping your skills fresh and up-to-date is vital in the quickly-changing world of motion graphics design. Because it’s a relatively new field, you’ll want to keep up with the latest technology and design concepts. Practice using the tools of the trade, and be sure to update your software regularly and keep apprised of any fixes to graphic design programs. Networking with other professionals can help you stay current with industry trends.

Develop new skills or strengthen your existing skills with courses. Learn about game design with a Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization offered by Calarts on Coursera or Getting Started with Adobe Spark.

Gain work experience 

One way to gain experience in motion graphic design without a job is by volunteering your service to a business or organization. Offer an animated logo or other relevant artwork and add it to your portfolio and resume. 

You can also find internships at design companies, banks, and movie studios. If you’re a college student, you may find an internship program on campus or through your school’s resource center.

Joining organizations such as the Graphic Artists Guild can provide insightful information for gaining work experience. You might also consider attending a Mograph meet-up, where you can network with others in the field.  

Take advantage of social media too. Set up a professional page on Facebook or Instagram and post new designs, and don’t be shy about self-promotion. A social media page can generate clients and introduce you to other motion graphic designers.

Continue to expand your skills and knowledge.

Technology constantly evolves, and graphic design programs update and change as new versions are released. As a motion graphics designer, you’ll want to keep up with the changes and take additional courses or training when needed. Tutorials are available online, and you can take advantage of any continuing education opportunities. 

For example, Canva is a design platform that offers hundreds of templates that can be animated and fine-tuned for different social media websites. You can find an advanced-level Canva course on Coursera.

Next steps

A career in motion graphics design can be rewarding and fun. Once you’ve decided to follow your passion for graphic design, you’ll want to decide what educational path you prefer. You might consider starting by learning the Fundamentals of Graphic Design before enrolling in a four-year degree program. 

Talk to others in motion graphics design, and don’t be shy about asking questions. Many artists enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Special Effects Artists and Animators, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm#tab-3." Accessed June 16, 2022.

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