Learning Motion Design vs. Learning Motion Graphics

It’s a common question to pop up in forums. Should I go to college to learn motion design? Without a doubt, there is a large cache of tutorials online, free and paid, that can point you in the right direction. But is learning motion design just about taking animation and design courses? What can you learn by just diving in and learning as you go? You could rifle through a bunch of syllabi online for art courses offered at universities around the world to create your own curriculum to follow, but how do you know you are fully comprehending what you are studying?

I wouldn’t recommend somebody go to traditional four year college and pay to learn motion design. You can do most of it online for free or a nominal cost. If you are going to spend money on college, learn something more substantial that you can apply to the field of motion design… and you’ll have something to fall back on should the industry go to shit at some point. If I were going to enroll into a university today, it would be either Computer Science or Web Development.


I sincerely believe education should be free. I’ve always hated the idea of being limited to resources or learning because of money. I know that sounds like BS, but some people just don’t have the money for college so I hope little Summits might help someone along the way or help them find something they’re interested in. So for me, the videos are the smallest way to “give back” to the community that helped me learn to begin with.
— Matt Jylkka, Mt. Mograph

Remember, motion design isn’t just learning about what to press in After Effects. You need to know Photoshop and Illustrator as well. Many would argue that you should learn Photoshop first. Also, learning After Effects/ Motion/ Cinema 4D is not necessarily learning “motion design”. Motion Design is a cross section of multiple disciplines, not just learning software.

Today, you have Vimeo, Youtube, Lynda, Udemy, MoGraph Mentor, School of Motion, and Mt. MoGraph to learn everything you ever want to know about After Effects, Cinema 4D, and beyond. I see no reason why you just don’t use those resources, free and inexpensive as they are, to learn about motion design and motion graphics. 

Check out my Introduction to Adobe Illustrator for Motion Graphics Artists.

Matt Jylkka of Mt. Mograph has a huge library of motion graphics tutorials.  Appropriately, the first two he ever produced are an Introduction to Motion Graphics series. He covers how to create basic motion graphics in After Effects in a this button does that fashion. Part 1 dealing with squash and stretch animation theories and simple morphs. Part 2 tackles more exciting motion graphics techniques using shape layers. The rest of his YouTube tutorials cover all aspects of creative motion graphics. These are a definite watch even for the seasoned Motion Designer.

What has been lacking in e-learning up to this point is an Introduction to Motion Design. 

A leader in the e-learning community for motion design is Michael Jones. I asked him a few questions about MoGraph Mentor and his new course MOD 101, and how it fits into the current landscape of online learning for motion design. Althrough not free, it's a low cost option that is focused on it's topic and delivery. 


The the foundational disciplines matter. They matter a lot. There is an urge to want to jump into After Effects or Cinema 4D and shatter something or do some dynamics, but without any real training in the core disciplines, you’re just pressing buttons.
— Michael Jones, MoGraph Mentor


You recently launched MOD 101. Who is the audience for this class?

MJ: This was created for anyone who wants a broad overview of the disciplines that comprise Motion Design. There are many great resources online to learn software or technique specific topics. I haven't seen anyone apply the basic fundamentals, the stuff they make you learn in Art School put together in a single E-Course. So I wanted to help fill that gap with this resource. 

Is MOD 101 a perquisite for somebody who is interested in MoGraph Mentor?

MJ: It’s not required for a MoGraph Mentor applicant, but it was created with them in mind. We were seeing many students come in, lacking some foundational context, about design, animation and process.  Although MoGraph Mentor addresses these topics, I thought it was best to create a low cost option to let people test the waters and do it on their own time with this E-Course before diving full into MoGraph Mentor. 

What was the number one thing you wanted to make sure you communicated to the viewer by the time they finished all the modules?

MJ: That the foundational disciplines matter. That they matter a lot. There is an urge to want to jump into After Effects or Cinema 4D and shatter something or do some dynamics, but without any real training in the core disciplines, you're just pressing buttons. 

Design is about solving problems, and that process requires asking the right questions and approaching problems in a specific order (process). So I hope this course can provide some context that gives people the right tools to use the software in a way that helps them create effective work, not just pretty work.  Being an effective motion designer (communicator) is a lot different than being a competent technician with software.  

How does MOD 101 and MoGraph Mentor differ than say, going to a university to learn about motion graphics?

MJ: Universities have been selling their value to students based on 4 core promises. Access (to top talent and minds/instructors), Information (telling you what to study), Facilities (space to learn) & Connections (career development). 

I believe MoGraph Mentor offers three of those and lacks facilities. If people can create their own space and environment to learn we provide the other 3, at a fraction of the cost. 

We have top talent with our mentors, a curriculum that rivals any art school and make connections to help people pursue their careers. 

Would you recommend somebody go to college for a degree in motion design? Why or why not?

I'd say listen to my podcast with Joey Korenman, who taught at Ringling, one of the finest art schools in America. His experience speaks to this issue in a big way. 

If my children asked me, "Should I go to Art School to become a Motion Designer?" My resounding answer would be, "Absolutely not."

Higher education has created a debt bubble where it is now acceptable to spend $200K on a four year degree. 

Thanks to easy loans from the Federal Government traditional universities now routinely raise the tuition to increasing numbers year after year. These 18 year old kids who sign on the dotted line and think this level of debt is normal, are in for a serious wake up call when they owe $1K a month, or more, for the next 30 years. So I would be very weary of telling anyone to take on those levels of debt. 


I recently got a chance to preview MOD 101 from Michael Jones. Here is my review.

MOD 101

MOD 101, a newly launched motion design course by Michael Jones of MoGraph Mentor, offers an introductory course in motion design. The course is essentially a basic course you might take at a local community college. It takes a lot of concepts from many books and condenses it down into one intro course to prep you on your journey to becoming a Junior Motion Designer. He urges you to take your time through the modules and perform the assignments to better understand the concepts

If you are interested at all in motion design and want a primer, look into taking this online class. If you have any experience in the motion design field, you won’t get much out of the course except for a few tips here and there. Your time might be better spent at the library looking at art and design books. Did I just recommend going to the library????

MOD 101 syllabus is strong. He did his homework creating this course. Based on modules format, Michael discusses:

  • Foundations
  • What is Motion Design
  • Visual Communication
  • Design Principles
  • Theory
  • Animation
  • Process

Michael’s teaching approach is lectures, workshops and case studies. He only scratches the surface of design concepts so you will have to seek out more on your own. My only concern for people who are interested in motion design is that he spends a lot of time in the Adobe Suite and assumes you have a basic knowledge of the programs he’s working with. If you have no experience in those programs you might be lost with questions of how he’s doing what he’s doing. Keep in mind, “this button does that” is not the approach to this course. 

Technically speaking, the videos are top notch. A lot of time and effort was put into the production of the the course. You won't be distracted by choppy audio or pixelated pictures. Michael works in the industry and is well suited to teach the principles of motion design to curious minds.

Support a member of the MoGraph Community and purchase his course. It'll be worth it.

Article written by Dan Conrad of www.mograpcandy.com