How to get better

Posted 10 Apr 2021, Updated on 13 Apr 2021


What's the best way to improve as a motion designer?

The best way to improve as a Motion Designer is your way.

There is no shortage of online advice from successful Motion Designers telling you the same things over and over: Do personal projects, put yourself out there, create and post something daily, or collaborate with people. Apparently, something is not working. The problem is that we have a septic focus on "becoming better" when we do not really know what better even means, or how does one measure that type of success. The real question to ask is what kind of Motion Designer do you want to become? How do you position yourself to differentiate yourself from others? One that specializes in After Effects expression/scripting? Or someone who makes beautiful Cinema 4D Octane renders? Or are you known for a certain type of aesthetic or style? I wrote a brief guide on how I positioned myself for success in my Medium article, do check it out for my in-depth thoughts.

Everything begins with your intentions. The strategy is to niche down to your strengths and interests, and manifest those two things into your career or work. Take a look at Ordinary Folk, Vucko, Peter Clark, GMUNK, or any other successful artists. Think about what makes them outstanding, and how you can incorporate that into your career. One introspective framework to use the Japanese concept of "Ikigai" which translates to "a reason for being." To break it down simply, it is a compass of your soul that will bring you to where you need and want to be. A strong Ikigai lasts a lifetime, and you will never be lost because you know where you are walking. Once you identify what sort of designer or animator you want to become, start creating works that echo that identity. Personally, I positioned myself as an educator; someone who loves to teach and wants to develop a teaching career in the future. I demonstrate that through my YouTube tutorials and doing software workshops for students in school, it is as simple as that.

As for a surefire way to get better at motion design skills (eg. design, animating, expressions), I realized that teaching is the best and fastest way. As the Physicist Richard Feynman said: "If you want to master something, teach it." Teaching is a way to translate the external knowledge you gained into something of your own. It crystallizes competency and expertise, allowing you to challenge what you think you know. Many of you reading this now will think to yourself: "But I'm not good enough" or "I'm not a master so I cannot teach". Personally, I believe that mastery is an act or behavior, not a role or label. You do not need to be a famed motion designer like Ben Mariott or JR Canest to teach. You demonstrate mastery by teaching even if you are just teaching a beginner how to use the pen tool in After Effects. Whether you do that via Instagram carousel posts, YouTube tutorials, or blogging, it is up to you. Find out what works best for you.

Understanding Intentions

// opening / self-portrait
tell me about yourself
What do you need help with 
what's on your mind 

// intentions 
What is your goal?
Why do you want to get better?
What does better means to you?
How do you think you get better?
When do you want to get better?

What's holding you back
    what are you afraid of?

// identity
what kind of motion designer do you want to become? eg. attitude / vibe / voice

what are you working on now?
    why do I need to do this?
    what is stopping you from doing it?
    when will start working on it?

	what do you intend to do with your life?
	what are your goals?

  What are you expecting/ trying to gain from this project?
  Are your expectations realistic?
	why do you have such high expectations?
	do you know your limits?

	why do you feel low when you don't do enough
	what is enough? do you want more ?
	how much more 
	lack of internal goals

Learning to learn 🧠

Level 1: Absorbing information faster - discovery

Application: Learn subject faster / master a software quicker

Skimming. Double the playback speed or the highest you can comprehend when watching YouTube tutorials, or download them if possible and do the same with VLC player. This is similar to speed-reading technique where you get a quick overview of what you are going to read, and the second time reading at a regular speed will help your brain . Just copy whatever is being taught even if you do not understand. Your brain will make sense of everything as you progresses, and what was unknown to you seems pretty apparent.

  1. Sourcing videos with ClipGrab or youtube-dl

  2. Youtube-dl can help you download videos automatically from a youtube playlist or a vimeo profile. This way you can speed watch or analyze a particular artist or a subject matter efficiently.

  3. Speed-watching with YouTube Speed Controller Chrome Extension

  4. Taking notes with your repository or wiki

An artificial intelligence can be trained by giving a good dataset. This is no different from a human being, we go through training, classes and lessons, and put whatever we learnt into practice. Over time, this becomes experience and intuition or unconscious competency. The only difference is the speed and effort. A machine can be run perpetually and remembers all its data perfectly compared to our short working memory. That said, we still can leave from machine learning in its training model. We need to put our mind with the right type of data, a consistent set preferably. Hence, when you training your creativity, you hone in on a focus and watch tutorials maybe on Blender software only, and go deeper from there. The key is that deep consistency.

Level 2: Selective learning, focus, analysis

  1. Download the video you want to analyze

  2. Select a scene to focus on: I will bring my clip into AE and trim the composition to a segment

  3. Play it frame by frame: Slowing down the playback will help you catch details you would most often miss

  4. Make it grayscale: Sometimes there are just too many visual elements going on so remove distractions where you can

  5. Focus on one element

  6. Find patterns:There is usually a pattern behind the animations; nothing is truly random.

  7. Be patient: It took me 2 weeks to figure out the solution for animating the icons. I had to experiment alot and make mistakes

  8. Have fun: Don't lose of the fact that we design and animate because it brings us joy and value to our life so don't be so hard on yourself if you cannot figure something out.

Master Study 🦋


Our biggest thing to focus on is not on software skills or expressions but our eyes as designer as animator. Why do master studies? When I was working at WarnerMedia, most of my work was broadcast and I wanted to try something but it's hard to get out of our comfort zone and do something different. We have a finite amount of time to learn or get better at something, so the question is how do we effectively become better motion designer.

Would you do dailies which is a practice that you involves making a creation every single day and posting on social media like Beeple? But not many people have that much time and energy to dedicate one hour or two hours each day, even so the payout of doing dailies is somewhat of a lifelong process. You might have to stick it out for a year before you see great results. In addition, it's not that easy to just start doing dailies and committing to it, it requires discipline. It's like exercise, it's good to exercise every single day but would you do it?

Hence effectiveness and efficiency are both factors to consider: How do we get the best / most results from doing little. How do we optimize our learning

Keywords: How to learn better,

What is a Master Study

  • An investigation of what makes a successful piece of work, be it techniques, aesthetics, or concept.

  • Reverse-engineering how it was produced, but rather having a building your own framework to reach a high production quality work. — Expanding your comfort zone, upgrading your skillsets, making sense of things in your own sense

  • An exploration and discovery of ...

    • You breakdown and recreate your favorite motion graphics/animation/video frame by frame and analyse how a shot was crafted.That means reviewing frame-by -frame how a sequence work

Why should you do Masters Studies

  • Emulating our role models, when we look at a succesful motion designer or motion design work, we do not just marvel at how wonderful they are, but rather we see a piece of ourselves in them; a better version.

  • Lack of time, and not knowing what will work and will not. It's about failing faster. The more wrong we are, the more "correct" our next creation is..

How does the process of Masters Studies informs learning: Guided Imitation

Often we want to learn a new subject faster with comprehension and mastery. To learn software, your go-to method would probably be watching tutorials and following along. That may seem like a bore to some but there is a deep concept behind that process and that is call:

Guided Imitation

This is a concept used in language learning. Language learning is not an easy feat but its methods can be applied to just about anything when it comes to learning.

WIP: A strange thing to ask would be what is define what makes a learning/comprehension successful one - retention, ease of recall, application, remixing.

When materials has been developed to present Spanish as a spoken language, and the skills of understanding and speaking are accordingly emphasized. In order to understand the materials, one must first understand the method upon which they are built. This method is known as GUIDED IMITATION. Its goals is to teach one to speak easily, fluently with very little accent, and to do this without conscious effort, just as one speaks his own language without conscious effort. There are two very important aspects of this method.

First learning a relatively small body of material so well that it requires very little effort to produce it. This is OVERLEARNING. If a student over-learns every dialog and drill as he goes through this book, he will almost certainly experience rapid progress in learning the language.

The second aspect is learning to authentically manipulate the sounds, sequences, and patterns of the language. The important implication here is the reality of both the model and the imitation. The model (teacher, recording, etc) must provide Spanish as people really speak it in actual conversations, and the student must be helped to an accurate imitation. Above all, the normal tempo of pronunciation must be the classroom standard; slowing down is, is this context distortion. —Excerpt from Foreign Service Institute. - Spanish Basic Course Volume 1 Student's Textbook

In short, MS is a form of self-guided imitation exercise. By not being guided by a person or a tutorial, you are left to formulate to your own thoughts and ideas which is one of the most difficult things to do in life. But just like any other skills, as you practice how to think for yourself, the process gets easier and more enjoyable.

How to do Master Studies

Level 1: Replication / Emulation

  • context

  • focus on replication, no need to be concerned about idea, design motion test

  • reverse engineering your success

  • empowering your identity

Level 1.5: Innovation / experiments

Level 2: Translation / Re-contextualizing

  • changing flavor or the subject matter

Level 3: Shared transformed vision

  • Explain clearly to your team

  • Creative confidence and flexibility to lead towards ②

  • explain 1️⃣ clearly to your team

  • creative confidence and flexibility towards 2️⃣

  • more rationalization, build expertise and mastery

How to select a master study project

Pick a studio or artist

  • Pick a work

  • Pick a shot

  • Pick a discipline

    • Design

      • niche: modeling, texturing,

    • Animate

      • niche

  • Select a deadline

  • Document your learning and present


The truth is that there is no shortcut to getting better at anything; time and effort will be always be a constant and the results that we developed might always seem invisible to us. What we can control is our lifestyle and behavior that brings us closer to our goals or success .


Mentoring 🪞

Why get mentoring or coaching?

I believe everyone has the answers and talents they are looking for in them already. They are just laying dormant and unrecognized. A mentor's roles are to:

  • Hold a mirror to your whole being, and bring to your attention what matters. This is crucial because a mentee has not been equipped with tools to think for themselves or deeper, or asking the right questions.

  • Organize your thoughts and feelings by guiding you from topic to topic, summarize and paraphrasing what you said

  • Asking the right questions and debunking myths

  • Hold you accountable for things you say are doing to do

What mentoring is not

  • Someone who gives you instructions to follow — because ultimately you should have more ownership of your growth and life, and learn to think for yourself and your future.

What you should aim to get out of mentoring

  • Discovering your Element

    • Everyone have different modes of learning; what works for a person might not work for you. You have to identify is your optimal way of learning. Is it through sheer practice and experimentation, or do you prefer analytical approach through deconstruction of an animation.

  • Unlearning

    • Alternatively learning something else might help with the subject better. eg learning Javascripting helped my comprehension of the procedural workflow of Houdini in terms of how data and attributes are translated and modulated to become a visuals.

Developing your creative practice ⭐️

What is a creative practice

It's about how you think for yourself and formulate your own thoughts based on informed decisions

  • an animation > reel > portfolio >career> creative practice>identity

  • methodologies and disciplines eg. pencil and paper, painting, writing, coding, live-action

  • subject matter

  • services: consultation

Compound effect

Documenting your experience

what is your goal
why do you want to do it?
what is holding you back?
what you are ignorant about

Documenting your procedures and methodologies

Why: rationalizing how we do the things we do, mapping what we know and what we are ignorant about that we

  • Frequency: once a week

  • Broad strokes: filter

    After Effects
        tips trick · cookbook - technique, procedures, the how-tos
        best practice - that that people should do 

Teaching to learn ❤️

If you want to master something, teach it. — Richard Feynman

Everyone is obsessed with being a master at their own domain and they believe that it's a title or role reserved for the elite few. The question to ask here are:

How do you know someone is a master?
What qualities makes a master
What actions or behaviours

// turning point
Do you think it's a question of role (master) or actions/behaviours (mastery)

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