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Hiring Animation Designers - a definitive guide

Anudeep Rastogi

Animation is the combined use of art and technology to create images that move on a screen. The two major types of animation are 2-D and 3-D. 2-D animation consists of flat graphics and text usually seen in cartoons or advertisements while 3-D animation uses computer-generated images (CGI) to create a more realistic look.

Graphic animation exists in a variety of industries, from film and television to social media and advertisement. The job duties can differ depending on which industry an animation designer is working in and who they are working for. Generally, animation designers work with clients to create 2-D and 3-D images. These images can be texts, characters, logos, or objects. The key component is that these images move on the screen.

This blog post covers the basics of animation designers and how to find and recruit them!

What is the difference between Multimedia Designer, Animation Designer and Graphics Designer?

Credit: Inspiria

Multimedia refers to the integration of various forms of media such as text, images, audio, and video to convey information or tell a story. It encompasses a wide range of digital mediums including websites, video games, presentations, and interactive installations.

Animation, on the other hand, is a subset of multimedia that focuses on the creation of moving images and simulations. It involves using techniques such as key-framing, motion graphics, and stop-motion to bring still illustrations to life.

Graphic design is a discipline concerned with the visual representation of information and ideas. It involves the use of typography, color, imagery, and other elements to create aesthetically appealing and effective visual communications. Graphic design is often used in branding, advertising, packaging, and other forms of visual communication.
In conclusion, while multimedia, animation, and graphic design all involve the creation of visual content, they each have their unique focus and applications. Multimedia combines various forms of media, animation brings illustrations to life, and graphic design focuses on the visual representation of information and ideas.

What do Animation Designers do?

Credit: vocbio
An animation designer is an artist who specializes in creating animated characters and objects.

They most often work on visual media projects, like films and television, but many animation designers also work in video game design. These professionals typically collaborate often with other animation designers and animators to develop visually exciting characters and items that move smoothly, such as trees that blow in the wind and characters that jump or show different facial expressions. As animation designers work frequently with technology, they usually have great computer skills.

Animation designers work with many different types of people, including clients, graphic designers, other animators, photographers, audio and video producers, and art and creative directors. Work is often in a team environment. Even if a designer works from home, they will have to communicate and collaborate with others. Designers can freelance or work for companies in offices. Depending on the job, they may perform other duties such as creating storyboards, writing scripts, creating websites, and editing videos.

What are the roles and responsibilities of Animation Designers?

Here are some of the most common job duties for an animation designer:

  • Meeting with production teams to discuss specifications for new characters and animations
  • Choosing color schemes for characters and settings
  • Developing storyboards to showcase how each animation can work after rendering
  • Drawing illustrations by hand to create basic designs for new characters or scenery
  • Creating 2D and 3D models using computer programs to display how characters might move once animated
  • Scanning hand-drawn images into computer programs to add animation
  • Using computer programs to create 2D and 3D designs and images digitally
  • Developing designs to use in marketing campaigns to advertise new projects

What skills do Animation Designers have?

Animation designers are often responsible for a broad set of tasks, hence they must possess an array of hard skills and soft skills which can be quite wide-ranging.  Here are some fundamental competencies an animation designer should possess:

  • User research: All good design starts with user research, so an understanding of user research techniques is key. Even if they are not leading the user research, it’s important that they understand the audience for whom they are designing
  • Interaction design: When designing for any kind of digital experience, it’s essential to understand how a user will interact with the product. This means getting to grips with core interactive design principles, such as consistency, cognitive load, and affordance.
  • 3D modeling/CGI: This involves manipulating vertices in a digital 2D environment to form a “mesh,” which will ultimately become the computer-generated imagery (CGI) 3D object
  • Editing/writing: Crafting and editing content for scripts, narrations, or voiceovers (especially if they will be using their animation skills in the context of advertising, gaming, or movies)
  • Prototyping: Transitioning a concept from brainstorming to the first stage of “life,” often by creating a very rough approximation of the final product. 
  • UI design: Focusing on a user’s visual experience with a digital product.
  • UX wireframes and storyboarding: Visually documenting the entire experience a user can expect when engaging with a product. A wireframe sets out the bare bones of a digital product, while a storyboard visualizes each individual frame that makes up an overall sequence or motion
  • Graphic design: Creating images using computer software
  • Animation: Transforming a host of single frames into an animated video (and editing it) using animation software

Here are some of the top soft skills hiring managers should take into account for hiring the best talent:

  • Creativity: As an animation designer, people will constantly look to them to provide all types of innovative, engaging content.
  • Collaboration and communication: Animation designers work as part of a team; as such, they need to be willing to compromise, support other members, communicate clearly and promptly, and never lose sight of what will help the team (not just them personally) succeed.
  • Organization and project management: Juggling concurrent projects and varied tasks takes discipline and organizational skills to stay on top of priorities.
  • Time management: Animation designers, like everyone else on their team, are often under strict deadlines, necessitating an almost obsessive dedication to time management.
  • Attention to detail: To create flawless animations, surface typos in scripts, and consistently perform at the high level required by the job, attention to detail is a must-have skill.
  • Ability to take feedback and criticism: The ability to put the team’s success before your ego is perhaps one of the most undervalued soft skills an animation designer can possess.
Overall, animation designers must have a strong combination of technical expertise and artistic vision to bring animated projects to life.

What tools and technologies do Animation Designers use?

Proficient Animation Designers have sound knowledge of the following:

  • Physical Spaces/Tools
  • Inertial and Optical Motion Capture Suit 
  • Animation software
  • Sound Editing or Music Creation

Physical Spaces/Tools

  • 3D Fabrication Studio - A 3D fabrication studio contains all the machines, tools, and resources necessary to create 3D art. An example of a device that produces 3D art is a 3D printer. 
  • Fabrication Studio - A 3D Fabrication Studio is a system that involves people, hardware, and software working in sequential order to complete a 3D animation project. This ensures that the production team meets project deadlines. 
  • Green Screen - A green screen is a solid neon green background placed behind a subject during film production. This bright screen provides high contrast and makes it possible for creators to replace the green screen with another background. In other words, the video with the actor in front of the green screen and the video of the desired background are digitally assembled together through the learned skill of compositing. 

Inertial and Optical Motion Capture Suit 

An actual suit that people wear, motion capture suits record the wearer’s movements and apply those movements to a 3D character. There are two motion capture techniques: Optical Motion Capture and Inertial Motion Capture. Inertial Motion Capture suits use built-in sensors, while Optical Motion Capture suits use reflective markers and cameras surrounding the person wearing the suit.  


  • Adobe Substance Painter - Adobe Substance Painter is a collection of apps that includes Painter, Designer, Sampler, and Stager. With these apps, you can paint and texture 3D models, create patterns and materials, and build realistic 3D scenes 
  • Houdini - Houdini is a software program that makes it possible for you to create 3D animations and visual effects (VFX). Without writing any code, you can make immersive worlds, powerful motion graphics, and cinematic experiences. 
  • Maya - Used by top feature film animation studios like Blue Sky Studios, Maya is a 3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering software. With Maya, you can create realistic visual effects—from simulated clothing to explosions. 
  • Nuke - Nuke is a visual effects software program that people use to composite images, build models, and more. Its powerful, cutting-edge toolset makes it possible for teams to collaborate easily, side-by-side, or around the globe. Leading studios have used Nuke to create visual effects for popular films and television shows such as Game of Thrones and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  
  • Photoshop - Adobe Photoshop is a computer application. Its large selection of brushes and tools helps artists create digital drawings, paintings, and 3D objects. Game artists must know Photoshop. 
  • Unreal Engine - Developed by the video game company Epic Games, Unreal Engine is a popular digital software program that creators use to build video games. It can create various virtual reality (VR), 2D, and 3D game styles and allow for development across multiple platforms—from computers to consoles. 
  • ZBrush - ZBrush is a digital 3D sculpting tool that mimics traditional sculpting techniques in a digital environment. With its award-winning technology, you can use customizable brushes to shape, texture, and paint virtual clay in real-time. 

Sound Editing or Music Creation

  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) - Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) are software applications specifically used to record, edit, and produce audio. 
  • Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) - Musical Instrument Digital Interfaces (MIDI)  is a communication protocol that enables musicians to “play” virtual instruments. When you “play” a virtual instrument (like a keyboard connected to your computer or a simulated synthesizer), that digital device sends data to your computer. This data, MIDI messages, is a language that lets your computer know how you want to create a sound, for example, what note you played and how long you played it. 
  • Foley Recording - Foley sound production is associated with recording live sounds using a variety of props and materials to create new sound effects. Traditionally done in real-time in synchronization to a projected film, the term comes from the name of Jack Foley who pioneered methods for performing sounds live in synchrony with a film in the early days of film production when sound was incorporated into movies. 
  • Synthesis and Sampling - Synthesized sounds are generated using electronic and digital tools which can be physical instruments or virtual software-based instruments. Sampling involves digital recordings of sounds that can then be used to create virtual instruments for music production or sound-effects.  
  • Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR) - Automated Dialog Replacement, also known as looping, is the process of re-recording the original dialogue of an actor. This process mostly happens in the post-production phase of filmmaking when the original audio of a scene has undesired background noise, or there is a change to the script. 

In summary, animation designers typically use the following tools and technologies to accomplish their tasks in the above categories:

  1. Animation software: Adobe After Effects, Autodesk Maya, Blender, Toon Boom Harmony, etc.
  2. Drawing and painting tools: Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, Procreate, etc.
  3. Motion graphics software: Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, etc.
  4. 3D modeling and rendering software: Autodesk 3ds Max, Blender, etc.
  5. Special effects software: Houdini, Nuke, etc.
  6. Audio editing and mixing software: Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, etc.
  7. Project management tools: Trello, Asana, etc.
  8. Communication and collaboration tools: Slack, Google Hangouts, etc.

Note: The specific tools and technologies used may vary depending on the project requirements and the individual animation designer's preferences and expertise.

Which companies are really well known for Animation Designs?

There are many companies that are well-known for animation design, here are some of the most prominent ones:

  1. Pixar Animation Studios: Known for creating some of the most beloved and successful animated films of all time, including "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," and "Up."
  2. DreamWorks Animation: One of the largest and most successful animation studios, known for producing blockbuster franchises such as "Shrek" and "Madagascar."
  3. Disney Animation Studios: The studio behind many of Disney's classic animated films, including "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Frozen."
  4. Studio Ghibli: A Japanese animation studio known for its critically acclaimed and visually stunning films, including "Spirited Away," "My Neighbor Totoro," and "Princess Mononoke."
  5. Illumination: An American animation studio that produces films such as "Despicable Me" and "The Secret Life of Pets."
  6. Blue Sky Studios: An unfortunate ending to a great American computer animation film studio that produced films such as "Ice Age" and "Rio."
  7. Aardman Animations: A British animation studio known for its stop-motion animation, including "Wallace & Gromit" and "Chicken Run."
  8. Laika: An Indie-American stop-motion animation studio known for its imaginative and visually stunning films, including "Coraline" and "ParaNorman."

These are just a few examples of the many talented and innovative companies in the animation industry.

What's a good boolean search for finding Animation Designers?

Boolean search is a method of using operators such as AND, OR, and NOT to refine search results and find specific information more effectively. In the case of animation designers, a Boolean search might look like this:

"animation designer" AND (2D OR 3D) NOT (game OR web)

This search query would return results for animation designers who specialize in either 2D or 3D animation, but exclude results for those who primarily work in game or web animation. By using Boolean operators, the search results can be narrowed down to only the most relevant information for the specific job role being sought.

A generic boolean search string around terms looks like:

  • -job -jobs -sample -examples, to exclude irrelevant results
  • (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) to discover candidates’ online resumes or CVs
  • (“animation designer” OR “visual designer”) to cover variations of the same job title

Here’s an example of a simple string to find resumes:

(intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) (“motion graphic designer” OR “animation designer”) -job -jobs -sample -templates

With this search string, the words “resume” or “CV” have to appear in the page title. Adding variations of designer job roles provides a larger number of relevant results. And, excluding more terms will reduce false positives.

Another example of a Boolean search for animation designers might be:

"animation designer" AND (motion graphics animator OR character animation) AND (Adobe OR Autodesk)

Now we search for profiles and portfolios on specific social networks using Boolean search in Google by including the site: operator and terms found exclusively on member profiles. For example:

  • “summary” “animation designer”
  • “animator” “shots” -jobs
  • “animation designer” “project views” chicago

Add more criteria in your Boolean search string for visual designers to find profiles that better match your requirements.

 Skills and experience with specific software: 

  1. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “animation designer” 3D modeling -job -jobs -sample -templates
  2. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “animation designer” (Houdini OR Maya NOT Photoshop) -job -jobs -sample -templates

Work (or have worked) in senior roles

  1. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “animation designer” (“animation director” OR “creative director” OR senior) -job -jobs -sample -templates

Have experience in Sound Editing

  1. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “animation designer” (“Digital Audio Workstations” OR “Synthesis and Sampling”) -job -jobs -sample -templates

Are familiar with Wordpress

  1. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “animation designer” Wordpress -job -jobs -sample -templates

Can code

  1. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “visual designer” (HTML OR CSS) -job -jobs -sample -templates
  2. (intitle:resume OR intitle:cv) “visual designer” PHP -job -jobs -sample -templates

By using Boolean search as shown above in combination with other research methods, you can greatly increase your chances of finding the right animation designer for your organization.

What are some tips for recruiting Animation Designers

Looking for an animator for hire is a challenging task that requires you to be extra careful. You as a hiring manager must know what exactly to look for, or the animator you find isn’t the one suited to a project. The video, game, or app your organization wants to create must also reflect its business and brand. The right animator is a crucial factor in that. On that note, below are some tips that can help your search for a suitable freelance animator or animation studio.

  1. Take a look at their portfolio - If you want to see the quality of an animation expert’s work, look at their portfolio. A portfolio of the videos or animations they made for past clients can tell you if they did well. When you look at it, check if their previous works fit with your needs. Animators must be great storytellers, so take a look if their past works convey a good story.
  2. Check their completion rate - One factor that can tell you if an animator for hire is worth a shot is their project completion rate. It can’t trump skill, but experience tells you that the person you plan on hiring is truly an expert, especially if they have an excellent track record. A more experienced animator or animation studio is a more reliable option for your project.
  3. Examine their animation style - While you may not be a professional, you can still examine the animation style and see if it fits your needs. When you check the animator’s method of animation, ensure that it has comprehensible graphics that are original, modern, and pleasing to the eyes. Consistency is also crucial, not to mention it should accurately reflect the design of your brand.
  4. Analyze the quality of voice over - One of the essential parts of an animation is the voice-over, so examining the demo reel or past works’ voice-over quality helps you look for the best animator for hire. Listen to the voice-over, and you can tell if it is performed well. The best voice overs are clear, loud enough, not too fast nor too slow, and pronounced correctly in proper vocal tone.
  5. Seek client feedback - The feedback of a former client says a lot. It is one of the biggest clues that tell you if an animator or animation studio can deliver what you expect. With that said, don’t forget to scour through reviews, testimonials, and ratings online about a particular animator. You can also ask them for this information, which they would willingly give if they are reliable and trustworthy.
  6. Check their customer service - Creating an excellent animated video involves understanding the client’s vision. It’s impossible to do so without communication. This is where customer service comes into play, as it is the first thing that tells if you can truly work with an animator. Responsive customer service is already a good sign, but it’s still best to ask them if they can involve you in all stages of production.
  7. Ensure they have passion for their work - Someone who loves what they do is sure to create the most magical things. An animator who is passionate about creating animated videos will always give their 100% in any project as if it's theirs. If you want to work with a reliable animation expert, someone always eager to animate projects is the one you want to hire.
  8. Compare prices and check your budget - You already have an idea of which company or animator to hire, but can you afford them? Check your budget and compare it with their pricing to see if it works for you. Animation is not an easy task and involves rigorous work, whether by hand drawing or digital rendering. While some studios offer affordable prices, it might be a rip-off, so be extra cautious on who to hire.

In summary, apart from clearly defining the role, utilize animation-specific networks, offer a competitive salary and benefits, review portfolios, look for team players with strong communication skills, consider remote hires, and test their skills through a project or task. Good luck hiring!

About Rocket

Rocket pairs talented recruiters with advanced AI to help companies hit their hiring goals and knows technology recruiting inside out. Rocket is headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley but has recruiters all over the US & Canada serving the needs of our growing client base across engineering, product management, data science and more through a variety of offerings and solutions.

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