Becoming a Creative Creator – My Journey Through School and Into A Job. Q&A

April 14, 2009 - By 

The number one question that I get asked is “How did you get into Motion Graphics?” More specifically, people want to know the steps to take to get into a creative industry.

I got a set of questions from a student named Izzy about this topic. He wanted to know what school I went to and how I ended up at Digital Kitchen. I decided to answer these questions on video so that I could share the answers with everybody.


  • How did you get started in animation??
  • Where did you go to college??
  • Was it worth it??
  • What were your first thought when graduated??
  • Did you have any idea where you were going when you got out of college??
  • Is it any surprise to you that you are where you are now??
  • Do you like where you are now??
  • You seem to have alotta time to experiment, how much of that is at work or directly related??
  • How much time do you usually put in at work per week??
  • How do you keep from getting burned out??
  • When you are looking to hire do you do that per project??
  • Do you look for people who are specialized in one area? Or do you find generalists to fit the bill??
  • Does it really come down to working really hard and applying for jobs and getting them eventually over time??

The Movie that Got Me Into Motion Graphics: MK12 – Man Of Action
Trust me, this shit was HOT in 2000!

Please leave your questions, if you have them, in the comments and I can answer them in a future GSG Cast.

Make sure to check out “How to be Creative and Get Paid” for a less scatterbrained look at how to become a creative and creator.

  • Especially the “i love work” part is so true. I never met anyone in the industry who was like “oh no – it´s monday morning – i don´t wanna go to work!”.

  • So True! Everything sounds soooo familiar!
    Good video!

  • Hi Nick,

    Can I first say that I love your work and blog and really look up to you and hope to have your knowledge and skills someday. I am a seventeen year old student living In London, halfway through my A level courses and it is becoming the time when I have to start thinking about University. I know I really want to do something to do with motion graphics / video editing as it is the only thing I really enjoy doing and learning about.

    I have not studied it at all at school despite doing Photography and ICT for my A levels and mainly try to self teach my self round programmes such as After Effects, Sony Vegas and 3D studio max in my spare time. My question is to you what courses would you recommend doing ? What are the names and the most Important things to take note off when looking at University’s offering these courses ? I am really asking this as I do not know any one in England that is interested or knows about this subject and thought maybe you could help me.

    I really hope you can help me and keep up the amazing work with your blog.

    Harry Mitchell

    P.S : Sorry for all the English phrases to do with schooling e.g. A levels, University but I do not know the equivalent in America 🙁

  • Harry, one pretty quick piece of advice – there’s a great magazine in UK called Computer Arts – I read about UK design schools and stuff like that in it….maybe could be worth reading a few issues for you…

  • Thanks for the help Vit! Good idea.

    Harry, I would always look at how good the design and typography courses are in any school you were thinking of attending. There is so much great information online to learn software like After Effects. Design, however, is much more tedious to learn and is best learned in a classroom setting with critique and feedback every day.

  • great cast nick! awesome tips and advice…no more being weird in my basement for me…

  • Thanks a lot for the help guys, I will check out the magazine next time I am in a newsagents. Nick what was the actual name of the course you did ? I find there are sooo many courses ofering simular things it is very hard to choose one.

  • Thanks man. I really appreciate what you are doing on this site. Hard to find people talking about relative stuff in the industry. It’s a nice contrast to all the tutorial sites you can find. Always good to hear what people in the industry think. Wish there was something like this when i was in school, probably would have helped steer me in the right direction. Keep up the good work.

  • Hey Nick,

    i wrote a email to you and a message on facebook, i am currently in Chicago. Check your facebook!!!!!

    Hope to hear from you!

  • Best post yet. Thanks Izzy for the questions and thanks Nick for answering. Nick, I suggested in one of your previous posts about discussing the process of a project coming through digital kitchen. For example, does a company (like nike, gatorade, cheerios, or whatever) contact you and say make us a commercial? Or do find out they have a campaign coming up and make a bid on the project and make storyboards and compete against other creative agencies? Anywho, after that, do you guys (dk) sit down at a table together and throw ideas around about the look, feel and style to meet the clients needs? I work for a law firm and I am kind of a one man show for their multimedia needs. I am slowly realizing that I need to and would like to work in a team environment. I wish I had others to bounce ideas off of and work with. So in general, I am just curios as to the workflow of a project on a large scale and the roles that each member takes from start to finish. Not necessarily the technical side, but more theory. I hope what I am asking is making sense. Thanks again for the inspiring site you have.


  • hey gorilla,
    based on what you know/heard from people at dk, do you think it is easier to find work as a freelancer or staff (or they’re about the same?)…

    thanks again for all your help so far 🙂

  • Hi Nick,

    In this post you talked a lot about general design classes (typography, color theory, ect.) and critique. Did these courses, and the critique that went along with them, relate to animation or were they more general? Did you have a class with critique of your motion design work? I ask this because the college I’m going to next year has general design courses but nothing motion related.

    Thanks for these kind of posts; this kind of info is way harder to come by than after effects/ training tutorials.

  • OMG I <3 MK12’s WORK! I remember seeing the video the first time and being blown away back in 2002 (or 03)! I love what they’ve done recently from the titles in Stranger Than Fiction to their newest short film “The History of America”

  • Haha, ‘Don’t be weird in the basement’.

    I’ll keep that in mind.

    Here’s a funny story, how I got my first job in the industry.
    I went out on a friday night and met this random guy in the queue to a club, we were both drunk and we started to talk about what we do. He was an intern for a film company, so I asked him, if I maybe could stop by and ask them if they would also have an intern position for me.

    Well, a few weeks later I was an intern and half a year after that, I was fully employed.

    That’s how it can happen sometimes. But that doesn’t mean anyone should get drunk now and try to make random contacts on friday nights I guess… Not for career purposes at least. 😉

    Great post, I really like where you are taking this blog, I find it very helpful and inspiring.

  • This was a pretty timely cast, seeing as how I’m about to graduate from NYU in a few weeks and willl be out in the job market looking for a motion graphics job.

  • Thanks Nick! That cleared up a lot of questions I had.
    I do have another one, however. I’m still in High School, so what should I do to prepare a portfolio for college apps?

  • Whoa!, i loved it, thanks so much izzy for asking, and nick for answering, such great advice, i studied animation and i’m working freelance now, i’m not great, but i always get to look at nice stuff over the net, and i’ve always thought i should do a course on typography and design, wich i think is my biggest weakness… where do you think is a good place to take a course like this in a short time and with hopefully little amounts of money?…
    by the way here is my reel if you want to check it out and give me some advice, i understand if u dont have the time 😀
    thanks again nick, been following gsg not for too long, but since i read some articles, i couldn’t stop checking it out!

  • Thanks a lot for share this Nick! it was really really helpfull for me.

  • Thanks for taking the time to do this. Its always nice to see genuine people trying to help others out. As much as it may seem revealing of your work and how you get things, I almost feel it pushes you in a new direction. Its almost like your constantly reviewing yourself and progressing that way…

    anyway thanks a ton Nick 🙂

  • This was great Nick. I do motion graphics at a television station and I have to say that although I love my job and what I do, I get frustrated when the boss comes up and says that he just wants me to slam something together really quickly and doesn’t really care what it looks like. I pride myself in being better than that because I know that EVERY piece of work that I do is a reflection on my skills as a motion graphics artist. That is why it sounds to me as though you have a better gig with people who understand the craft… what I would consider to be the dream job.

    I’m a completely self taught graphics guy who got into this after needing a change of pace. I have a degree in emergency medicine and seeing too much trauma caused me to need an outlet, so I chose motion graphics.

  • I have a short question; related to the amount of free time you spent on self-study/experimentation.

    Do you have a wife/girlfriend, and/or children?

  • I mean that in a good and non-offensive way ofcourse 😉

  • Thanks for all the great comments!

    Nice Reel Luciano: I would concintrate on lighting a bit more. Also, any community college would have some basic design courses. That might be an inexpensive way to learn.

    I have a very forgiving girlfriend Stan. 🙂 However, I doesn’t matter how much free time you think you have, if you don’t MAKE time for yourself, you won’t improve. Stop watching LOST or playing Halo and get down to it. (not directed towards you Stan. hehe 🙂

  • Hi Rick,

    When it comes to making great work, the best way to make it exactly what you want is to do it for yourself. Clients are paying big bucks and they want it done THEIR way and as FAST as you can. There are ways to make their way better though. It usually means doing it their way and doing the way you think it should be done and showing them both.

    I couldn’t get your reel to play BTW…

  • It should be working. It is a wmv file and I had no problem seeing it after it loaded (that took a minute.) I need to make a better video file, but I’m very new to all of this website creation stuff. I built it with Expression Web 2 and getting video in there is a little bit of a hassle.

  • Thanks man.

    Did you have anything to do with the Dexter title sequence?

    So fresh man.

    Also the 08′ Sundance bumpers? Was that you?


    Been a fan of DK for a few years now, thanks for not being a snob.

    Bows to his Sensei.

    arigato gozaimasu.

  • Jeremy: Thanks! I helped layout a bit of Dexter. It was going on right when I got to DK. As for Sundance, I had a quick shot in there too, but nothing major. Thanks for watching!

  • Great video Nick, Everything sounds very familiar from my internship I’ve had in New York (UVPH) and now at Onesize in the Netherlands. It’s all about the atmosphere at work, and really, if you’re working with great talented people, it’s not bad at all to stay in the office till 10 pm. I have to say it’s a little bit bad for your social life, but hey, we’re young people, we can go out all night after that!
    I Experience in a smaller company (like onesize, it’s 5 guys) the atmosphere is even better. All the projects come down to open discussions and everyone is involved. That’s what I think is a great way to work in this industry.

  • so true! great post. but i have to say i´m not a big fan of staying late everyday… I love it to have a life besides motion/design, talking with people who are not in the industry or just go surfing/snowboarding with my homies. I also think traveling as much as possible is important to see things different 🙂

  • “There’s never an instance where you’re looking at someone and wondering why they think that’s good.”

    This struck me because I do look at half of my coworkers and think this all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Haha.

  • i mentioned above the magazine Computer Arts…just forgot to tell you guys that they have also some cool tutorials in it and after some time you can download them in PDF from magazine’s website…just to let you know 🙂

  • Great video! Really inspirational and encouraging. Thanks!

  • Hi Nick !
    I love this post. It’s inspirational and it gives practical informations !
    Love your blog!
    Love Jack Donaghy &30 rock!
    Keep up the good work !

  • Hi Nick.
    Greetings from Sweden.
    I just have to say that i like what you are doing.
    And i have just started with Motion Graphics, and i like your opinion about my first Showreel, theese works are done after my full-time job (on my freetime) and in 4-5 months.
    Thanks! Here is the link:

  • Great stuff Nick. As someone who’s already doing identity and interactive work, I’d love to hear your thoughts on moving from still to motion work, things like how the animation aspect of motion design plays into the design process in the initial steps of concept, layout and composition, etc. Thanks man, keep up the great work!

  • Hey Nick, great insights from someone who works at a bigger company. I used to have my own boutique motion design company and most of my work was for broadcast TV in the Netherlands. Usually, if we were lucky our budget would be €4000,– for a logo, the leader, bumpers, background loops and title bars. When I started working for a leading TV production company here, I found the budgets were the same if not less. So all in all one person had to create the entire package in two weeks. Forget shooting additional footage. Forget green screen. Make something with nothing.
    Could you tell us what your workflow is (as Matt Coughlin before me wondered), how many people are involved and what the time limit is on something similar in the States? I’m sure you can’t tell us the average budget. I always wondered why most of the time the work is so much better and I figure it has something to do with budget.

  • “Don’t be weird in the basement”

    It’s a funny line but also great advice.


  • This video is exactly what I needed to see today!

    I’m in the pre-execution phases of starting my education (acquiring funds, relocating, finding my focus…) and it’s really proving more complicated than I had foreseen. It’s always nice to see someone on the other side of the fence lend a sincere word of advice.

    Have to ask you one thing, though I’m sure this is too old of a post to still be monitored. If you had started straight away with the design classes, and took just bare bones software classes, are there any off topic subjects that you would find useful to you now in life? (social sciences, philosophy, marketing, business…)

    Thanks again for your generosity in contributing to the community.

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