In Motion With…. Renee Jacobi, Senior Animator at Daylight

4 weeks ago by

The In motion with series shines a light on some of the people who breathe life and action into design, Aotearoa NZ’s motion designers.

This week we sat down with Renee Jacobi of Daylight who shares a bit about her non-linear career journey, a recent favourite project she’s worked on, and tips for anyone considering diving down the motion design career path.

Brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Motion Designers Guild of Aotearoa


Can you tell us a bit about your career journey? Where did you start out and what was it about motion design that drew you in?

I studied fine art and quickly realised I was an illustrator. I spent a lot of time in Melbourne as a freelance illustrator but wasn’t getting the work I wanted, so I completed a diploma of Graphic Design at RMIT, which hugely helped my illustration practice. I also took HTML/CSS night classes and worked on a few digital projects, but it was a bit too intense for me. Finally, I started adding small elements of motion to my illustration in Photoshop and discovered how valuable that was. I went deep into online courses, mainly from Motion Design School and spent hours creating fake projects in my spare time.

From there, my animation career took off. I started working almost solely on illustration/animation projects, and after a long time of not quite feeling like I had nailed what I wanted to do with my life, it was lovely to realise that a career doesn’t have to be linear. If I didn’t take all of these little side steps along the way, I don’t think I would be the animator I am today.

Now I’m a Senior Animator at Daylight, where I work on all sorts of projects, from ads to science education!

I was drawn into the storytelling aspect of Motion Design; you can convey a really complex or unsettling idea easily that you don’t always have the freedom within other formats.

What are your favourite types of motion design projects to work on?

I feel very lucky to have started my career in this field as a concept artist, illustrator, animation director and animator all in one. It’s meant that I’ve had a lot of creative control over the projects I work on.

My favourite types of projects are the ones where I’m involved right from the get-go. I think it’s super valuable to have the animator/motion designer involved at the start so they can highlight ways to add moments of quirk or storytelling that someone who doesn’t have that inside knowledge would be able to see.

Is there a notable project you’re especially proud of?

Daylight recently worked with Auckland Council to create a multimedia platform, Auckland Forever, that helps locals of Tāmaki Makaurau understand what’s being done to reduce our emissions as a city and prepare for climate changes in the future. Our amazing creative team developed a design ecosystem for the project, and from there, I created an illustration style and type-led animation that brought to life the main points of the plan and told its realities in a really human way.

The best part of this project for me was collaborating. After working as a freelancer for so long, it was such a beautiful process that elevated the craft of the animation entirely. Having art directors, designers, and fellow illustrators to call upon was super refreshing for me.

What software do you use to create your work and how is technology transforming the industry and the way you work?

Because my focus is 2D, I predominantly use After Effects with a splash of frame-by-frame created in either Rough Animator or Animate CC. I think something I learned early on is that no matter what software you use, if you don’t understand the fundamentals of animation, then your work won’t excel.

I think motion design is one of those fields where you can easily get left behind because it’s ever-changing. I can only really speak for the 2D landscape, but the biggest thing I see with technology is how it can speed up workflow; there are so many amazing plugins that help you do things quickly and easily, and I’m sure they’ll just keep coming.

Is there an awesome plugin or tool that you have found recently that you would recommend?

I don’t think it’s that new, but I’ve recently started using Ray Dynamic Textures — a very cool plugin where you can load a library of textures, static or animated, and with a click of a button, they’re applied to shape layers. Using texture in Affect Effects can be a time-consuming process, so anything to make it easier is welcomed by me.

In your opinion, what makes a good motion designer and do you have any advice around what makes someone excel in the industry?

I think it’s a combination of things. Learning the fundamentals is key (a good book to read is ‘The Animator’s Survival Guide’ by Richard Williams), as well as being self-driven and creating a routine with time for upskilling. I also think organisation skills go a long way too; being able to plan a project and manage it for a client has really helped in my career. A lot of companies — especially smaller ones — don’t know much about animation, and the more you can guide them through that process, the better.

What sort of advice would you share to anyone just starting out in their motion design career?

Make work you want to be doing. If you can showcase work that goes down the path you want to be on — those are the jobs you’ll get.

Lastly, where can we follow along with your work?

You can find me on Instagram @renee.jacobi

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