Imposter Syndrome – You’re just making it up!

Learn about my journey into motion graphics and the imposter syndrome that came with it.

My transition to motion graphics.

After 19 years of working in graphic design and advertising, I felt like I’d seen it all. Every project, every client, and every campaign wasn’t anything that could shake me from my knowledge and confidence that I built up over those years of experience. Whatever came my way, I could handle.

But, seven years ago when I made the jump to working in motion graphics, I couldn’t shake this uneasy feeling that I was just winging it and at times felt lost. There was a voice in my head constantly saying, “You’re making it up! You’re making this all up!”

So, yeah – sounds like a classic case of imposter syndrome. But I have to say – it has helped me thrive as a motion graphics designer. Here’s how.

After studying typographic design during college, I was fortunate to work for some great companies who taught me everything you aren’t taught in college. I quickly got acclimated to the everyday tasks of working in advertising, and began my career as an artworker as I learned the ins and outs of the print industry.

After a few years, I moved to a larger London agency and experienced working for bigger, more well-known brands. While this was initially a daunting undertaking, I was confident in my experiences thus far, and felt prepared for the position. A number of promotions later I transitioned to being a department head, managing a team and a number of freelancers. I loved management, and the responsibilities that came with it, and felt like it was a great fit.

Eight years ago, I hit a creative slump. I felt creatively unfulfilled with the work I was taking on, and simultaneously experiencing a decline in the number of print jobs our agency was taking on. I needed a change – a big one.

I decided to take on a new skill, something I’d never tried before which lead to my introduction to motion design. I used every spare hour to teach myself how to build digital tablet magazines using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, something that was new, and incredibly rewarding as I started getting comfortable with the software. I wanted to put my new skill to a productive use. I developed a fully interactive iPad magazine for a large retail client I’d known for many years, just to see if I could do it. I worked for several months developing the magazine, interactive features and animations using Adobe Animate and After Effects, toying around until I had built a product that I was proud of, and ready to present to management and the client.

It took months of work and hours of labouring with software that I had never touched before. But, it fulfilled that creative energy that was missing in my current role, and gave me something to really focus and work hard on to get me out of that slump.

And, it worked. That project expanded into me being sent to training courses to develop my new skill set, and I got excited, for the first time in years, about my career. I’d gotten my first taste of motion design, and didn’t want to turn back. I felt like this was my new direction, and I wanted to keep on developing my skills and getting acclimated to this new environment.

Numerous training courses later, I started working on most of my agencies’ motion graphics projects. I took on a senior designer role, and worked on projects for clients including explainer videos, 3D animations using particle systems in Cinema 4D, animated GIF email headers and social media posts.

Then the imposter syndrome kicks in.

All of my previous experience in design, prior to this career change, was extremely structured and there were set workflows that I followed to a tee. There were always rules and guidelines for working with a range of tools, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and other Adobe Creative Cloud products. My work wasn’t free range – it was all done by the book, and it was a book I knew very well.

When I took on my role as a motion graphics designer, that’s where things started to evolve. The range of work, styles, techniques, software and plug-in options are vast and constantly evolving. What you know today could change tomorrow, based on new updates and new trends that you have to stay on top of. It was extremely daunting and challenging as I started out, and I was trying to adapt and figure out where I belonged. In my role, I had my hands in many different styles and formats across 2D and 3D, which meant that the work was ever-changing, and there was always something new to pick up on. It made me feel like a fraud, like I was just making things up as I went along. I had a significant case of imposter syndrome, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

My solution? I let that feeling drive me.

I let my imposter syndrome feeling help me thrive in my career. I’ve always loved learning new skills, software and platforms, and been excited at any opportunity to evolve my skillset and learn new techniques. I’m a problem solver – I love to fix things. I’ve taught myself a lot of what I need to know, and whenever I’m confronted with something new, I begin orienting myself with everything I need to know in order to complete the task at hand.

I still had that voice in my head saying, “But, you’re a fraud! You’re making it up!” But, of course I was making it up. I was learning these new skills, I was putting myself out on uncharted territory. But, that didn’t make me a fraud. I put in the effort to learn, develop and grow. Those late nights and long hours led me to many successes. I learned that I can do whatever I set out to achieve, in spite of what the voice in my head says.

The more motion designers I speak with, the more I find that imposter syndrome lives down deep in all of us. We’re often tasked to do incredible, new things that require us to problem solve and continually develop our skillsets in order to adapt to an ever-evolving field. We’re problem solvers, and being a problem solver is one of the best traits that a motion graphics designer can have. Thus, I’m thrilled with that voice in my head. Of course I’m making it up! And isn't all design made up anyway?

How you can develop your own skills.

I have used many valuable resources to help develop my skills. Here are some of my favourite online tutorial and educational sites, all of which have helped me greatly and hopefully they can help you too!

Mt. Mograph – Many free tutorials that will help you up your game in After Effects.

Videocopilot – Andrew Kramer, the king of visual effects has a ton of mind-blowing tutorials and products.

Greyscalegorilla – This is the place everyone goes to begin learning Cinema 4D. Once you’ve got the basics, take a look at some of the incredible plug-ins and assets they offer.

Eyedesyn – The one and only EJ Hassenfratz will help you learn a multitude of techniques in Cinema 4D.

School of Motion – You can find a number of free tutorials and many great resources here. But things get serious when you take their paid courses. Having taken their ‘Animation Bootcamp’ and 'Expression Session' courses I can’t recommend them enough. Just be prepared for an intense workload.

March 20, 2020
Ashley Hyatt