Things I wish I knew before working in design and animation

by Nov 13, 2020

As a past design student at UTS, I wish there were things people had told me earlier to make the transition from uni to the workplace smoother. From misunderstandings of the industry, to bad habits I picked up as a student, these are some things I wish I knew before I began working in animation.


Don’t get caught up perfectionism

It has taken me time after uni to unlearn some of my habits when it comes to perfectionism. The truth that nobody likes to talk about is that a fair chunk of the animation and design industry functions as a visual content machine, working within the parameters of tight deadlines, limited resources, and capped budgets. Particularly in the age of social media, visual content is prolific. Things get lost in endless feeds, our attention spans are shorter, and the immense quantity of stuff that exists everywhere means that the slightly off-centre text, rushed illustration, or simple animation that doesn’t showcase your true capabilities won’t draw criticism from those around you or destroy your credibility. It’s important to be mindful of the venn diagram for each job that involves not only your creativity, but money, and time. My approach to any quick-turnover job is to have fun, and try to learn at least one thing from doing the job – even if it’s just a keyboard shortcut that will be handy in the future.

Of course, sometimes you might be working on larger projects that require you to be more meticulous and considered when making creative decisions. In this case, it’s important to know where to direct your creative and mental energy. Be aware of which projects are showreel-worthy, and which projects may fall closer to the sidelines, and adjust your dedication to these projects accordingly so that your approach to work is organised and sustainable.

The most experienced people are still learning

It’s hard to deny that there is a glorified idea of the creative industry, and that this can often be a little intimidating at first. It’s important to remember that anyone who is working in their profession was once in a position where they were also first starting out in their career. The reality is that everyone is still learning as they go. With the development of new technology, software, trends, language and ideas to constantly keep up with, it’s highly likely that even the person with the most experience under their belt has some gaps in their knowledge. This is where you as a student or recent graduate with fresh knowledge and talent can come in to contribute your voice and ideas. Rather than focusing on what you don’t know, try to value the things that you do know. You will be surprised by what you have to offer.

Don’t let Instagram trick you

Scrolling through Instagram might plant the idea in your head that every creative person you follow is working for themselves, earning lots of money as a full-time artist, working exclusively on creatively fulfilling projects, all while relaxing on weekends. This isn’t true! Most people are working full-time for someone else, or juggling multiple jobs and making their own art during their free time (with the occasional commission). It is very common for people in the creative industry to have a day job (or what you call a bread-and-butter job) to pay for bills, rent, food, etc. and in their own time, build their own artistic portfolio. I myself have worked as a casual in hospitality, on top of a casual motion design job, while working on personal projects in my free time. This can be a lot of hard work, but if the juggle means you can pay bills, and squeeze in time during the evenings or weekends to do something you love, then the hard work is worth it!

Make sure your work doesn’t control your self-worth or how you live your life

Sometimes a creative job or project that used to be a hobby can start to feel like a chore. This is very common, and it doesn’t reflect your destiny, worth, or work ethic as a person. It is merely a sign that you might need a break, or shift your focus to something else. Rather than going on auto-pilot and focusing your day around work, reframe your day by focusing on the things you do outside work, like other hobbies, exercise, socialising, hanging out with pets, or resting. This might give you something to look forward to outside of your creative job or project, and eventually you can come back around to those tasks feeling refreshed and energised.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

By Steffie Yee

By Steffie Yee

Digital Content Creator

Steffie Yee is a freelance Animator, Illustrator, and a Digital Content Designer at UTS Careers.

You can find her work at or on Instagram @steffieyee