Welcome to ADC Member to Member! In this feature, we bring together talented ADC Members and turn them loose in spirited conversation. The end result could be an engaging interview where one Member opens up to the other, or it could be a two-way tête-à-tête where both chat about various aspects of their creative professions. In the end, the two Members leave the ADC community all the wiser… and perhaps establish a professional connection that will extend far beyond the last paragraph of the story.
For our most recent Member to Member, we introduce you to motion graphics designers Dorca Musseb and Rachel Nye Levine. Dorca and Rachel lent their animation talents to the Let’s Make The Industry 50/50 Initiative earlier this year. In this post, they discuss the challenges of working with clients, staying on top of technology… and just what exactly do they call what they do.
Rachel: How do you manage client expectations? I noticed some clients expect me to be a generalist and a specialist at the same time. How do you balance that need to be an expert at everything when talking with clients?
Dorca: I guess what it comes down to is having good communication with your client on what their expectations on the project will be. I think it’s best to be as clear as possible about what the project entitles and what their needs are from you as a designer and animator.
Having said that, I’d also add that because of how wide the field is — anything from keying live action shots to animating in 2D vector graphics — we do have to know at least the very basics on how to do a wide variety of things in very different programs. We also have to know how to work well with a team and how to translate what may already be done in boards as .psd or .ai files into animation. Sometimes, we’re asked to design from scratch, sometimes we’re asked to animate, and neither are easy feats since it really depends on how much experience the client and team you’re working with have with motion graphics. It’s a daunting task.
I’d say it comes down to just being honest about what your strengths are when talking to a client.
Rachel: Well, updating your skills should be a priority for all motion designers.
Dorca: It’s a lot of work to keep up with, and lots of tutorials to follow since programs are new every year. And a lot of work has to go into following up with technology on our part. “Keep up with the program” if you will. Ha! Oh, the punnery!
Rachel’s Motion Reel
Rachel: I find that is the easy part! I like learning new things, as well as the fact that our jobs keep us on our toes.
Dorca: I mean we do have to be magicians in many ways. We have to know how to design, animate, key, composite, and so on. I love that part of it because I’m never bored, but it does require for us to have a very wide set of skills
Rachel: When it comes to clients who maybe are not as familiar with motion design, I find part of my client management is to keep in mind that even if you don’t see a sample that follows the exact style they want, it doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t know the techniques or have the tools to do it. I find a lot of clients will show me a video and then they are like “can you do something like this?” and at times, it’s difficult to explain that I’m using the same techniques, it’s the look that changes.
Dorca: Right. I’ve gotten that.
Rachel: One way to think of it is that it’s not the hammer and the nails that design a house, it’s the architect. It’s sometimes difficult to explain that Photoshop, After Effects, Cinema 4D, all the programs are the tools and in the hands of capable designers and animators can be used to end up with really different looks using the same techniques.
“… it’s not the hammer and the nails that design a house, it’s the architect.”
Dorca: Very good analogy and a great point! I feel there has to be some trust from the client to begin with that we are professional designers and animators. Most of the time, what I’ll do is ask for a bit of time to show them that I can do what they’re asking. I’ve found that having them see the visual is the most powerful way of allaying their fears. At times, I’ll do it while they’re in the room so that they can see that they are the same technique, just different looks.
It’s not unheard of for clients to directly ask for me to do a sample animation before hiring me, especially when I was a younger new out of school designer.
Dorca’s Motion Reel
Rachel: I know when I work with clients who have experience with motion that there is this trust there and a sense of understanding and respect for the process we both have and it will cause for better products and more efficient work flows.
Dorca: I think it has to do with knowing what motion really is. Every time I say what I do for a living to anyone it’s like:
“Huh? What? You do 3D? Like in Pixar?”
“You animate like Disney?”
“Uh… Not really.”
“Oh you do green screen! Oh! Ok! My uncle’s neighbor who is friends with a cousin of mine has this amazing idea for a product”
“Every time I say what I do for a living to anyone it’s like: ‘Huh? What? You do 3D? Like in Pixar?'”
So I understand if a newer client doesn’t have a good general sense of knowing not just what we do but how the process works. We can help them through that. I feel as I said before, being really, really clear and communicating on both ends will alleviate this process greatly.
Rachel: I do find it is hard to describe our job. There are also so many titles for the same thing. Motion Design, Motion Graphics, Design/Animation, Motion Artist, V/FX Artist…
Dorca: Yeah, it’s hard to describe. It’s a really wide umbrella. Adobe Fan Fiction Writer, Avid Render Bar Watcher. I’d say we are Overall Badass.
Rachel: (laughs) The industry hasn’t picked just one name for what we do. It’s difficult to explain that we do way more than just one thing. I like to think we are the Jack of all Trades in the motion world!
I’ll also say the thing that always helps me with any kind of client relationship issues is having a great network of friends, and fellow freelancers to help from when I run into a new issue. I went to art school, not business school, so I find just asking for advice is the best way to manage clients.
Dorca: Yes! it is very much a tight knit network and I have gotten and given very good advice from fellow freelancers when I don’t know how to handle a situation, whether it is an “on-hold” kind of thing or just dealing with less experienced clients. I feel the best way to learn is to ask questions to your fellow freelancers.
Rachel: I know I would never be where I am today or have the wonderful clients I have had the pleasure of working with today if it wasn’t for the help of friends and my fellow experienced designers.
Dorca: Well, back to the grind, friend! Always good talking to you!
Rachel: Talk with you soon I am sure!