5 Animation Courses That Will Help You Bring Design to Life

illustration of hands working with animation program on laptop

Animation design hits all the right notes for you. It’s creative, it’s technical, and it’s a chance to share an idea, a story or a message in a way that can delight and compel all kinds of audiences. Whether you prefer the sketchpad, the laptop or a bit of both—you think a career in animation could offer you the chance to make a living out of something you love.

But getting there is a less-straightforward story. How do you get from where you are to the confident, tool-savvy creator you dream of becoming? A formal education can certainly help, but what will you learn in those animation courses?

Rasmussen College students who enroll in the Graphic Design program with an Animation and Motion Graphics specialization can expect to learn intermediate theories of design, motion graphics, animation, project management and portfolio development. Their education involves creating and combining multiple forms of media to generate animation and motion-based projects involving graphic, video and audio assets.

This specialized graphic design track offers students a deeper dive into animation and motion graphics—leaving students with a portfolio that can demonstrate their skills in design, animation, video and motion graphics to show potential employers.

Read on to learn more about the animation courses you can expect when specializing in Animation and Motion Graphics in Rasmussen College’s Graphic Design Bachelor’s degree program.

5 Fascinating animation courses to look forward to

Get a sneak peek at some of the animation courses that will help equip you to launch a successful career as an animator. Here’s what you can expect to learn:

1. Advanced Motion Graphics

“For students interested in 2D motion design, our motion graphics courses develop skills in animating graphics and text using Adobe After Effects® software,” says Bill Sattelmeyer, department chair for the Rasmussen College School of Design.

He explains that students learn animation software skills and also study the basic principles of animation, like stretch-and-squash (deforming character volume to simulate acceleration and deceleration), overlapping action (simulating how body parts move at different speeds in relation to inertia) and staging (making actions or character moods perfectly clear for their environment).

The software is also an important addition to any animator’s skillset. Our analysis of over 8,000 job postings for multimedia designers and animators in the last year revealed Adobe AfterEffects® to be the 3rd most popular skill employers wanted to see on an applicant’s resume—behind only Photoshop and general animation skill.1

Motion graphics are everywhere on television, film and online, according to Sattelmeyer. “They are used to open news programs as network and station IDs, in title sequences, for weather reports and as graphic illustrations of complex topics,” Sattelmeyer says. “Motion graphics can clarify complex topics in tutorials and even museum exhibits.”

Social media is another common avenue for motion graphics designers to put their skills to work—engaging animated GIFs and splashy social media “story” animations help catch the eye of audiences whose attention is being pulled in several directions at once.

2. Advanced 3D Modeling

“For students interested in 3D animation, courses using Autodesk’s 3ds Max® help students build skills in modeling, lighting, texturing and animating,” Sattelmeyer says. “The student will also learn basic 3D character building skills and more in-depth character construction and rigging—a good start on developing characters for games.”

If you dream of working on video games, this course will be especially enjoyable. Games have come a long way graphically from the chunky, low-polygon models limited by hardware. Every object you see and interact in these 3D games requires a model with incredibly lifelike textures and detail. Students in 3D modeling courses start with creating simple objects and gradually work their way up to creating advanced models complete with realistic texturing.

3. 3D Lighting, Texturing, and Rendering

“This is one of the most intriguing courses we have,” Sattelmeyer says. “While creating 3D environments is interesting, adding textures and lights to a scene helps create a stronger sense of reality.”

3D models are created in a default grayscale. While these detailed models may look great, they don’t really come to life until lighting and texture is added to the scene. There’s a reason Hollywood studios care about things like set design and lighting—they help set the mood and enhance the ability to tell a story. Sattelmeyer gives an example of how a bright but undeveloped apartment scene is enhanced by these changes.

“With the addition of textures to the objects, the scene starts to look real,” Sattelmeyer says. “A table is now a highly-polished marble, the sofa is now leather, there’s an oriental rug on the floor, the pumpkin is now a rough-textured orange, and there is writing on the paper,” Sattelmeyer says. 

These texture additions plus lighting modifications to fit a dimly lit room on a foggy night transform what originally could pass for a dry architectural rendering of a room into a much more foreboding scene.

4. Advanced 3D Rigging

When watching professional quality 3D animation, you can’t help but notice how realistically character models move about the screen. No matter how strangely proportioned the character is, they move as if they have a fully-formed skeleton inside of them, guiding the limits of what their bodies do.

This is thanks to a technique called rigging, a process of giving 3D models an internal “skeleton” with interconnected pieces that dictate how a model moves and reacts to forces. These can range from setups as simple as stick figures to incredibly detailed systems needed for creating subtle and realistic facial expressions.

Rigging is one of the most challenging aspects of 3D animation. This course expands on students’ knowledge of 3D modeling and exposes them to advanced techniques like facial rigging, deformation rigging, musculature analysis and rigging for precision character movements.

5. Animation Capstone Project

This course comes near the end of the Bachelor’s degree program at Rasmussen College and is an opportunity for students to showcase everything they’ve learned by creating an original animated short. Animation and design is a field that relies heavily on showing and not telling employers that you know your stuff and can create professional quality work. This capstone project allows students to create a high-quality creative work to showcase their abilities. 

Get moving toward an animation and design career

Now that you’ve got a better idea of what to expect from the animation and motion graphics courses offered at Rasmussen College, are you ready to get started? Visit the Rasmussen College Graphic Design Bachelor’s degree page to learn more about how this program could fit into your life.

1Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 8,754 animation and multimedia design job postings, Sep. 01, 2018 – Aug. 31, 2019).

Adobe After Effects is a registered trademark of Adobe, Inc.
Autodesk 3ds Max is a registered trademark of Autodesk, Inc.

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