Key Careers in Art, Animation, and Design: A Beginner’s Guide
Published on May 6, 2022 by Abby Stassen
If you’d like to turn your passion for art and technology into a rewarding career, digital artistry might be a perfect fit. With the right training, you can turn character sketches into animated characters for video games, build two-dimensional animations for advertising campaigns, combine live-action footage with computer-generated images for movies, and much more. This guide will introduce you to just a few of the artistic careers you can pursue in the video game, computer animation, film, marketing, web design, and graphic design industries.
Video Game and Animation Art Jobs
Lighting artists use light to set the tone for video games, movies, television shows, and more. They work on manmade lighting elements (like lamps), natural light sources (like sunlight), and atmospheric elements (like fog) to convey emotion, time of day, and mood. Lighting artists also consider technical needs, like how lighting will affect the frame rate in a video game, and they make sure that viewers or players can see everything onscreen.
Technical artists have a combination of technical skills and artistic understanding. They make sure that a project’s artists have all of the software and tools they need to create visual components. They might also build new tools to help the artists throughout the production pipeline.
Animators use programming skills to add movement to the objects and characters designed by a project’s artists. They create emotive, realistic movements for characters in games, movies, and more. They might also work on elements like vehicles. Animators need to have a deep understanding about how their animations will translate to onscreen movements.
3D Generalist/3D Artist
3D generalists are the jacks-of-all-trades of an animation project. Sometimes called 3D artists, they can work on different elements of a design or production. They might use their artistic eye and technical skills to help out with digital painting, sculpting, modeling, rigging, and more. Sometimes artists become generalists to sharpen their skills before they move on to specialized work, like rigging or environments.
3D modelers build three-dimensional characters, environments, and other objects from two-dimensional concept art. They are responsible for creating materials and textures to paint on wireframes.
Environment artists turn concept art for video games, movies, and other projects into immersive worlds. They use their skills in modeling, sculpting, textures, and lighting to create elements like trees, sky, grass, water, buildings, and more. Since they are responsible for such a large portion of project’s visuals, they need to consider artistic needs, like making an environment work with a movie’s tone, as well as technical requirements, like making an environment compatible with a video game’s frame rate.
Character riggers create digital skeletons for animators, who will then move the character based on the needs of the shot. They need to have a strong understanding of physics and anatomy to create realistic movements that express a character’s attitude and mood. Rigging artists work with the modeling department to make sure their work’s geometry is correct.
Graphic Design & Digital Arts Jobs
Graphic designers create visual assets that match a brand’s identity. They communicate information about a brand by designing logos and choosing appropriate typography and color palettes. They might create physical designs for packaging and signage, build layouts for print and web ads, digitally retouch photos, develop visual elements for marketing campaigns, and more.
Illustrators, sometimes called 2D artists, create two-dimensional animations for a brand or client. They work with a team of artists, writers, and directors to determine the animation’s style, build storyboards, and design characters, backgrounds, and other elements. They need to have a firm grasp of digital sketching and design software.
Production artists take the raw materials from concept art and prepare it to be used in different formats, like billboards, social media posts, brochures, packaging, and other display or advertising products. They might create and manipulate graphics, or process and proof graphics from other members of a design team. They are responsible for getting design deliverables to the right place at the right time.
Social Media Designer
Social media designers create designs that match the unique parameters of social media platforms. They design and post original content that will attract their client’s target demographic on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Social media designers need to understand what kinds of designs are the most visually appealing to social media users.
Creative director is a senior-level role for designers with years of experience. The creative director is responsible for determining a brand’s style and how that style is presented across digital and physical mediums, like websites, magazine ads, and product packaging. They develop creative projects and oversee those projects from start to finish. They also act as a manager for the entire creative team.
Art director is a senior-level role for experienced designers. The art director leads a team of artists and designers who are tasked with executing the vision of the creative director. Art directors determine what kinds of visual elements will be used in a project; review designs, copy, and photography; and develop project budgets and timelines.
Motion Graphics Animator
Motion graphics animators animate elements like logos, words, and numbers for media projects like movies, commercials, and television shows. They might animate movie credits or give movement to business logos that are displayed during commercials. Motion graphics animators need to understand how to effectively combine graphic design principles and animation techniques to create engaging animations.
Compositors take all of the digital materials required for a shot, like live-action footage, computer generated images, and matte paintings, and combine them for a cohesive final product. They tweak the design elements as they combine them to make them look seamless. They might relight images to make them easier on the eyes or do chroma keying, which involves layering multiple images together based on their color hues.
Video editors produce and edit videos for multiple platforms. They work on video content from start to finish: They might develop storyboards and scripts, source or create sounds and music, add special effects, and use video editing software like Adobe Final Cut or Premiere Pro to complete the video’s finishing touches. Video editors need to have strong storytelling skills and they need to work well with other members of their creative team.
Brand designers and managers help develop the images and messaging associated with a company. They might work with clients to create new brands from the ground up, give an existing brand a total facelift, or tweak specific elements of a brand to improve how it looks and performs. Brand designers and managers need to understand how to interpret client briefs that line up with the client’s expectations, conceptualize branding elements across different platforms, and design instantly recognizable logos and visuals that line up with a brand’s tone.
Package designers use their artistic skills to create packaging materials for a client. They develop initial concepts and choose shapes, colors, graphics, and fonts that match the client’s branding. They also make sure that the final product looks consistent across a variety of packaging materials, like boxes, stickers, bags, and more.
Advertising designers create artwork and graphics for advertising products and services. That might include brochures, web ads, print ads, and other mediums. They need to create visually appealing advertisements that reach a client’s target demographic and persuades them to make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, make an appointment, or take another action that contributes to the client’s bottom line. Ad designers need to understand graphic design principles as well as marketing and promotional best practices.
Web Content Designer
Web content designers help users find the written, audio, or video content they need in the most intuitive way possible. Web content designers use a combination of artistic skills and information architecture best practices to make attractive, organized sites that function in a logical way.
User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) designers make sure that websites, apps, and other digital products function in a way that serves the user. They work on interactive elements, like the buttons you click on to advance through a payment form. They also help build the structure behind those interactive elements to make sure that they function logically. User interface and user experience designers need to combine design skills with an understanding of user psychology to turn first-time users into repeat users.
Information design is a subset of graphic design that focuses on presenting information in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand; it uses data visualization techniques to help audiences find the information they need. Information designers might work on content for broad audiences, like menus or packaging inserts, or specific audiences, like personalized receipts. They need to consider design elements like color theory and typography to create designs that are simple, effective, and easy to read.