Are you a “bricklayer” or an art director? Chris Do explains.

Earlier this month, the video above made the rounds on social media, ruffling feathers and triggering debates in its wake.

In it, Chris Do, owner of 20-year old studio Blind and co-founder of The Skool, talks with Art Center instructors Allison Goodman and Petrula Vrontikis about what he sees as fundamental problems facing contemporary design education.

Chris tackles a lot of topics, but we wanted to zero in on some of the more controversial assertions he made, giving him a chance to clarify his position.

Let’s talk about the idea of an “art director.” Don’t you think that the best art directors are those that have actually logged several years as makers, too?

Not necessarily. It does seem to work out that the people who have lots of hands on experience tend to become art directors. But I don’t think age, experience or years doing something are indicators that someone is qualified to be an art director.

To me, an art director has the very difficult task of (working either directly with a client or a creative director) to decipher the needs of a client. This could be going through a script, brief or conversation to understand what the design and communication objectives are. They have to relay this to the client, gain their trust and win the job in a competitive pitch situation.

There are a lot of interpersonal or “soft skills” needed to do this. They have to demonstrate an ability to ask great questions, remain objective, listen intently, parse wants from needs and convert vague language (e.g. “cool,” “organic,” “epic”) into a shared visual language. This is the first challenge and not everyone is cut out to do this.

I don’t think age, experience or years doing something are indicators that someone is qualified to be an art director.

Secondly, an art director has to determine the best team of designers and animators that are best suited to execute the job given a specific budget and schedule. They need to communicate the objective to their team, redirect them when they veer off course, manage personalities and morale and keep the project on track. At times, they need to coach their team and help them get over creative blocks.

Lastly, they have to be able to break down difficult tasks into more manageable chunks and divide the work up so that team members can contribute and share the workload.

Just like age is not an indicator of maturity, I don’t think years doing something makes one more capable than another in terms of being a great art director. It’s an entirely different skill set. It’s also why some of the best coaches aren’t the best retired athletes.

I’d like to ask you the same question. Does having more or less experience as a designer or animator make you more or less qualified to run the number one site for motion graphics?

Not sure if that’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll take the bait.

I think the fact that I’ve spent 15 years making stuff hands-on (continuing to this day) has definitely had a positive impact on Motionographer.

As a maker (albeit a mediocre one), I have a genuine love for the craft. Every piece we don’t post pains me, because I know how much talent and effort goes into even the simplest creations. That sustained empathy, I think, is what separates Motionographer from other sites.

Back to the video: About 8 minutes in, you compare designer/makers to bricklayers. The term “bricklayer” upset some people on social media. Why do you think that was?

I would not have said that if I thought it was so offensive. I was trying to make a point.

My best guess as to why people are upset is because they draw a distinction between the artistry, thinking, training, etc. of being a professional designer/artist and that of a tradesperson (a mason). I don’t.

Back in the 90s, when I went to school, my fellow classmates would often refer to design school as being an over-glorified trade school. I was not offended by this comment as it was rather commonplace to hear it. We weren’t being delusional about what we were learning and doing.

I’ve never seen myself as an artist. I draw a sharp distinction between being a designer creating work for hire and creating art as a means of self expression. I personally don’t see much distinction between one set of creative professionals versus another.

I’m interested in solving other kinds of problems, not just graphic ones. I’m growing my business by helping other businesses grow.

A bricklayer, cabinet maker, chef, glass blower and designer are all the same to me. They all require years of practice, learning and craftsmanship to become an artisan of a particular trade. When I’m making something, I don’t see myself any differently. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just not for me.

I’m interested in solving other kinds of problems, not just graphic ones. I’m growing my business by helping other businesses grow.

So I have to give up the making part and focus on the things that no one else in the company can do, which includes: business development, closing jobs, public speaking, writing and planning for the future.

If I squint my eyes a bit, in the video it sounds like what you’re saying is that there be an additional educational option for people that focuses on entrepreneurship.

But the way you actually put it, it sounds like that educational option is supposed to be instead of learning how to make things. 

My point was/is that we should create space for divergent thinking in design education.

What’s the point of having every instructor have the same philosophy and approach to teaching and the application of design? How has our educational system adapted to the changing needs of the world? What responsibility do instructors and the schools themselves have to students in preparing them for a long, sustainable creative life? Are we being realistic about a students ability to pay off their loans given the current market for designers?

I was making a passionate plea to anyone that was listening and in a position to affect change, to arm the students of tomorrow with as many tools to make them competitive in the 21st century, global market place.

If there’s a student who exhibits particular strengths that seem out of the norm, shouldn’t we find a way to help this student versus punishing him? Shouldn’t we hone what he’s good at as opposed to telling him to work on his weaknesses?

If you’re asking me, I object to that kind of thinking. I’m a big believer in “go all in on your strengths and forget about your weaknesses.” As a well-respected, creative institution, shouldn’t we be pioneering and include courses on leadership, management, business theory, rhetoric and design thinking? The world has changed, but have we changed to meet it?

Anything else you’d like to add?

Some people are really upset. I understand why.

We seem to be on precipice of the decline of motion design. Jobs are fewer and smaller. Our clients ask for more but have 25% of the budget from just a few years ago. The leverage seems to be on their side because supply and demand are out of balance.

I’m proposing that we design our own solution to the problem.

We can complain about it. We can try to double down on the same strategies. We can look for new niche markets to apply our talent to.

But I’m proposing that we design our own solution to the problem. Can we apply the same creative thinking that we sell to our clients and apply it to ourselves and our industry? I think so.

The answer varies depending on the individual, but my answer is to encourage everyone to think more on an entrepreneurial level. Stop looking for a job and create one. Build an audience around common beliefs, shared values and leverage that to create your financial future.

Use all of your skill, talent and creativity to make something that helps, entertain or move others.

You can follow Chris Do on Twitter and subscribe to The Skool’s YouTube channel

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About the author

Justin Cone

Together with Carlos El Asmar, Justin co-founded Motionographer, F5 and The Motion Awards. He currently lives in Austin, Texas with is wife, son and fluffball of a dog. Before taking on Motionographer full-time, Justin worked in various capacities at Psyop, NBC-Universal, Apple, Adobe and SCAD.


Justin Younger

No one was offended by the term bricklayer, we know our careers can often be just that. But its more how you said it with complete disdain.

Chris Do

Thanks for clarifying Justin. I got caught up in the heated discussion.

Heather Crank


Joe Donaldson

This is a great example of the importance of tone. The article brings to light some very important and valid points that will do nothing but empower us as a whole but the video/in the moment conversation was a bit dismissive.


I personally find my temperment more on the artist side than the design or business side of things so I always encourage developing craft skills (particularly as a way of thinking through a problem). Despite this, I do think that Chris has a really great point about teaching art direction skills (though for futurist ideals rather than practical business concerns)

Machine learning AIs are already writing stories, animating dances, and painting pictures. Mostly curiousities, but it won’t be long before they are radically better. Training and guiding these AIs will be an important part of the making process in the next 10 years. I’d recommend reading Kevin Kelly’s “The Inevitable” or listening to his talk if you’re curious.

Chris Do

I’ll have to check out th video. Thanks.


I agree with a lot of what he’s saying except for the role of the Art Director. My very first experience in this industry involved some incredibly incompetent art directors who had no idea what it took to make things(or even understood basic processes like rendering). This caused deadlines to be unrealistic, late nights, and low morale.

How can you possibly direct people when you have no idea about the process? You don’t have to be Van Gogh but you should at-least know about the canvas and paints…

Chris Do

You can’t direct someone if you have no idea about the process. Not sure that’s what I was saying. Is that what you heard Dave?


The AD problem is two-fold; the dearth of available training to become one and the direct correlation of financial gain ascribed to the role. There are a lot of great artists pressured to become ADs with little desire to dive into the role BUT no other financial pathway upwards. And there are a lot of brand new artists graduating out of school who want it immediately as a status symbol.

I’ve seen it cause stress and grief at all levels — students overreaching their roles and losing gigs and long-time artists getting burned out because they don’t have the tools or temperament to transition to an AD.

Joe Donaldson

The problem stems from the way studios are structured and in a way capitalism as a whole. Society tells you to climb the ladder at all costs, even when it doesn’t make sense for either party. The vertical hierarchy is a flawed system for what we do given the multitude of skill sets and strengths. More often than not, people simply want the titles to justify the raise and for their efforts to be validated. Financial compensation and validation needs come from more than just titles.


I will say, Chris gave just about the most comprehensive and accurate definition of the role of an Art Director that I’ve ever read — it’s hard to comprehend how different the role is from being a designer until you’ve had to do it day-to-day.

Chris Do

Thanks Ryan. I think having a title, wanting it and doing it are entirely different things. So many people like the idea of telling other people what to do but truly lack the skills necessary. That could be ego, insecurity or financially driven.

So in those cases, I say that’s a wannabe art director that doesn’t have the skills to make or manage. Worse possible combo.


Great post! The conversation that Chris has started is awesome, controversy included. I think it’s really important to be pragmatic when talking about Design education and Design careers… and I think that Chris is 100% right when he says that we should focus on helping students find and exploit their strengths as much as possible. Even at the best Design schools in the world it’s clear that some students just aren’t cut out to be really great Designers but might be amazing Producers or Art Directors.

I do think that even for someone who would make a great Art Director (or Producer, for that matter) a background in “making” is invaluable simply because it means you can speak the same language as the artists you’re managing. It doesn’t sound like Chris is implying that you can just take a good manager with zero Design knowledge and ask them to Art Direct… but a C- Designer might make an A+ Art Director.

The one thing I do disagree with is this: “We seem to be on precipice of the decline of motion design.”

I think it’s clear that the traditional business model for Motion Design studios is being disrupted by shrinking budgets and the trend to build in-house capabilities at ad agencies and networks… but that’s really only a problem from the perspective of the top shops out there that depend on large-budget work to pay the bills. For young artists, freelancers, and “collectives” of artists who are using a leaner operating model there are almost an infinite number of opportunities out there with more popping up every day. It’s harder to get a client to pay $100,000 for a project, but it’s easier than ever to find work at lower budgets that make sense if you don’t have the massive overhead of a full-studio.

Great read Justin & Chris! Love it.


Esp agree with Joey’s comment on the precipice — the mid-sized design shop is getting crunched from above and below. Big VFX studios stealing away the 2-3 whales that a mid-sized design shop would catch and 2-3 person shops rocking Octane with no overhead stealing away those smaller, yet life-giving, gigs. There’s not a lot of oxygen left for established shops with larger, institutional overhead; might be why you’re seeing a lot of turnover at those shops recently as well.

Chris Do

Joey, thanks for keeping an open mind and not fire bombing me for my point of view. You were able to articulate what I was unable to do in the video.

The shrinking of the marketplace should concern even smaller shops and freelancers. If the industry were healthy there would be a clear migration path from freelancer to small Indy shop to med sized agency.

Just take a look at what’s going on the VFX industry. Sure a few guys in a studio could do great work but the big opportunities are sent to large shops who are able to have work produced overseas.


I get really scared when we look to the VFX industry for equivalencies — most people come to mograph to solve a problem of messaging and some sort of partnership in that challenge. Most VFX is bought off a menu like it’s lunch.

Chris Do

Yeah. I think that’s frightening. I’m pretty sure if you asked VFX artists, I don’t they would describe what they do as that simple either. The fact is, the trend of motion studios getting leaner isn’t one of choice. It’s one of economy. The budgets no longer support the kind of staff and overhead that it once did.


The interesting thing is there’s slowly becoming a clear migration path, but it’s the reverse of going bigger — it’s getting smaller, leaner, and finding a way to put technique and technology on slightly closer ground to design. Never eclipsing, but many mid-sized shops are missing the technology curve and relying on old ways to try and stay competitive. Tech isn’t a cure-all, and focusing on it in spite of design will lead to commoditization, but it can’t be ignored either.

Chris Bjerre

I think Chris is right in the sense that Art schools need to have a focus on the entrepreneurial aspects of the industry and teach students to most effectively communicate and sell their ideas.

On the other hand Art direction/Ideation can only exist with the art behind it, without one of the two you have nothing.
Seems like in an ideal world you would try to find a balance between the two.

The beauty of artschool is that you get to experiment and develop your own style, and have peers to bounce the experiments off. The tools to develop a craft you can find online and is available to anyone. But figuring out what good and bad art is is harder to learn on your own.
So if you are not creating your own art in Art-school you are robbing yourself of the experience.
And maybe business school is a better choice.

Another question is wether it is healthy for the motion industry to adopt the roles of the Agency world and wether they translate or just help create similar problems to a world where you have lots of redundancy and waste.

Chris Do

Good point Chris. Stanford has the D-school for business people. Shouldn’t art schools have the B-school as a compliment to what we learn?

Chris Bjerre

Yes that would certainly help. I would say that Art-schools in general could do a better job of preparing people for the real world.

Joel Pilger

Great article, Chris. I think this thread really nails the elephant in the room: as the motion design industry continues to evolve towards many more, smaller niche studios, it’s becoming commoditized. And that is a business problem, not a creative problem.

So people may not like it but in order to survive in this industry, the vast majority of designers, animators and art directors will need to become savvy in business. And you and I both know (from decades of hard fought experience!) that “wearing lots of hats” is not the solution. That is short-sighted thinking.

Sadly, when it comes to teaching business, the design schools are way behind! I guess teaching business doesn’t much attract creatives (and their tuition dollars)…


So it seems like what most people were reacting to was when Chris compared makers to being ditch diggers and then he said that he would rather be a “thinker” which would imply that the maker side of what we do is mindless monkey work. I can accept his taking that back. I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way because it’s so obviously wrong. I think he was just being overly dramatic and he went too far. I also agree with teaching art direction in school, but only as an accompaniment to the rest of it. Its a great idea. Part of the reason that I think it’s easy to have understanding and give Chris the benefit of the doubt is because of what he’s done with The Skool. I’m really just talking about the free stuff that I’ve seen, but it’s super cool that he’s put that out there for motion designers… I would still love to read the secret freelancer forum that he mentioned ;)

Chris Do

Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. Maybe someone here will tell you about the secret group. Maybe there’s a handshake or password.


I think a large portion of studios don’t have the luxury to assign one person to solely Art Direct or solely “lay bricks”. Especially if studio sizes are in fact shrinking, and like any smaller business, you will inevitably wear more hats. If that is the current landscape, smaller studios with less specialized roles, then I would say there is some real value in even the most adept Art Director to also have some “brick laying” skills.

Chris Do

Yep. There’s value in both, and in situations, being able to swing from one role to another.

Ruoyu Li

This is a poor argument for neglecting real technical skills. There is no short cut to being good. and you cant be a good art director without being a good artist. This means hands on skills and a long history of practicing your craft. An Art director position is not a privilege to be clueless of the process. if anything art directors should be the best “brick layer” and would be able to pick tools and do it on a short notice. I think Chris Do’s ideas comes from an environment where we slot people in a production pipeline with distinct responsibilities and roles. However if you ever talk to any well known studio you will see that the art directors hired there are some of the most technically skilled “brick layers” . Chris Do may have a success doing what he does, but try and talk to some of the actual art directors that are leading the teams producing amazing work.

jumping outside of our field for example, some of the most innovating minds such as Elon Musk, are famous for their hands on knowledge of the field they are working in. Elon musk was a developer himself, and picked up rocket science through hands on training. at space x and tesla he is known to roll up his sleeve at his company and sitting down to solve difficult technical problems that his employees don’t know how to do. It takes lots of skills be a brick layer, and it takes even more brick laying to be a great art director

Chris Do

Ruoyu, it’s clear that I wasn’t clear based on your comment. I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong) that you can be a great anything if you don’t have any skill. Period.

But let me just challenge you with one thought. Does being a great athlete make you a great coach? Are the greatest coaches the best former athletes?

Ruoyu Li

I think the issue is that you encourage the idea that you can “buy” your way out a problem, which to be honest doesn’t take real creativity or skill. What you are really advocating is the job of a producers with a slight overlap of a art director. Producers are important people during a production, but you can’t produce winning results without actual talent on your team. To answer your challenge with an example in sports. Great athlete can make Excellent coaches. CAVS won and beat the historically brilliant golden state warriors on the back of the most athletic Basketball player/coach we’ve ever seen. LEBRON. ::::::::DROP MIC:::::::

Joe Clay

Wayne Gretzky holds so many records in the NHL, including the record for the most records. He has the most 200 point seasons (4) and is the only player to even have a 200 point season. He won 4 Stanley Cups. He won zero as a coach. He had a losing record of 143-161-24 as a coach. Unlike basketball, it’s hard to argue that (even with the rules changes) he wasn’t the greatest of all time. His nickname is “The Great One” but not behind the bench! ;) Sorry, I had to.

Ruoyu Li

I think sports is an excellent analogy for the topic. You can have a great coach but you still can’t win without great talents. Take Lebron for example, he literally fired his coach this year and beat the GSW which had the “coach of the year” steve kerr. Perhaps the emphasis should be on the actual talent who are in the game than those who are on the sidelines.

Joe Clay

Very true. The best coach can’t take a bad team to the playoffs. And maybe GSW’s real talent was mostly Curry. :)

Justin Cone

I think the argument is that experience as an athlete/maker is necessary — *but not sufficient* — for being a good coach/art director. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s an essential element.

And being a *great* athlete/maker is also beside the point. It’s really just about getting enough experience that you truly understand what you’re asking of your team.

The Wayne Gretzky example is responding to the idea that great talent is both necessary and sufficient for being a great coach. But no one actually proposed that as an argument. So it’s a bit of a non sequitur.

Joe Clay

Just saw this. I still don’t know why I’m not getting disqus notifications. :/

I was just throwing it out there that not all great players make great coaches (and some make up the worst). I know the argument wasn’t made that it was a requirement for a great coach to have also been a great player.

Chris Do

Thanks Joe. I’m not great with sports history so appreciate you dropping some knowledge.

Ruoyu Li

not to completely dismiss all your points. I do get that a percentage of the roles are getting shipped out over seas, which makes some roles in our industry seemly to be expandable. It would make perfect sense, if all the jobs that are left in the states are only for art directors. Then yes by all means, go be an art director. Coordinate with india china and which every country you prefer and make those animation/vfx/video projects happen. If are you are worried about simply being employed yes. Those are the options. However I want to challenge you with the following quesiton, between two candidates, both are good art directors, but one has the technical skills to solve “additional” creative problems who are you gonna goto battle with?

Chris Do

No brainier. All things being equal I pick the person with the greatest capacity to learn and grow.

Ruoyu Li

And that’s my point, if you want to give advice to those aspiring art directors out there. There are only a few positions out there relative to the many more “brick laying” positions available. If you want to get those art director jobs, you better be on top of your game, you better know what you are talking about, you better have an understanding of the process, and most of all you better know how to do much of it yourself. Only then can you emerge as a leader. And to bring back your point about whether great athelets being great coaches. The Greatest coach in NBA is by all consensus is phil jackson, he happens to have won multiple championships with the knicks and is by no coincidence a great athlete during his prime., Jerry west the FACE of the NBA logo and the president of the golden state warriors was a NBA champion and an annual finals contender during his time as a player. and is arguably one of the greatest player to have ever played. The evidence is there, you do need to have real chops to succeed, esp in our line of work where the majority of the work is behind a computer screen. You can’t lead if you havent done anything

Chris Do


Ruoyu Li

#Round2? Putting your challenge aside. I think you raise an interesting issue as far as how our industry view ourselves. I think the core of your argument stems from your own view about being an artist. which is that you aren’t one. I have also experienced this notion having gone to an elite art school myself, The painters, sculptors and photographers and even some professors often saw the design students as lesser artists because we worked with computers. our work didn’t seen as valuable because it was replicable and therefore cheap. I would argue these are old ways of thinking and is a symptomatic of a fast growing young industry with only few leaders and representative in the education system. In other words, people who are in charge in the schools don’t know what we are really doing. The industry is moving so fast that new technique and softwares are constantly surfacing and its challenging to even design a course for it, nevermind having a real dialogue about the unqiue space its occupying in our world.
I challenge the notion that design isn’t art because we simply haven’t had a time span long enough to even account for the entire body of work for a generation of motion graphics artists. Perhaps you view art more traditionally as one that is created with a more personal purpose. I would caution thats a old and increasingly narrow definition of art. That’s fine, but I don’t think that’s a feeling shared by everyone.

Chris Do

I hope you are right Ruoyu. I really do. I hope that one day, the world wakes up and decides that what motion designers do is considered art on the same level that Warhol, Hirst, Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Magritte and even Jay-Z. We can then sit back and have a good laugh at how wrong I am and how right you are.

Graphic design as a profession has been around since the 1920s and I guess designers are still waiting around to be considered artist. To date, there are only a handful who have crossed over into the “artist” realm. Saul Bass died as one of the most influential and pioneering designers in main title design. I guess he didn’t live long enough.

I’m not asking for everyone to have the same point of view. It’s the whole point of the video. I’m advocating for the antithesis of this mono culture and am encouraging unpopular, divergent (even if it’s wrong) point of view. I respect your point of view. I’m just sharing mine.

Ruoyu Li

I remember from years back (2009?) on motionographer during a discussion for the unionlization of our industry, Justin cone had a poignant assessment about how designers/vfx artists should view themselves when it came to assigning our own worth. He said we should look at our profession akin to that of a rockstar/musican/actor beacuse our work is so influential when it comes to the continual evolution of story telling and aesthetics. Personally I think history will look back kindly on motion/designers/vfx artist as we have contributed the greatest amount to the visual vocabulary of the past 20 years. People will realize the importance and the profound influence it serves in shaping our aesthetics. I think any educator will do the students a disservice if he/she starts off their lecture with the notion we are anything less then real artists

Chris Do

Just wanted to thank Justin for posting this and giving me the opportunity to expand on this subject, and to everyone else commenting and keeping an open mind.

David Pienaar

This was a great discussion. Chris you made great points that I agree with. Unfortunately, I would categorize myself as a bricklayer, because I do the work. I’m not offended by this, I don’t like it, but I’m not offended. I also am an Art Director, because I work with the clients directly and discover the problem and work through the solution with the clients. I do want to add in agreement that the creative process isn’t so much the craft or trade, but rather the cognitive process. That is where the value is, and is what’s transferable across most mediums. Keep up with the tough questions.

Chris Do

“the cognitive process. That is where the value is.” Great! Thanks David.

I’ve been a brick layer for more years than I’ve been paid to think. I’m proud of my abilities to craft really strong designs. But I know it’s production work. It’s highly paid, creatively satisfying, sometimes award winning work. I’m also proud to have some of the best designers working at Blind. I do everything that I can to make sure that the people that work here have 1) a job to go to everyday, 2) growth opportunities and 3) balanced life.

Part of that means that I have to be out front looking for the icebergs and helping to navigate whenever a disruption appears. I see one now for companies of our size and skill level. Time will only tell if we made the right choice for the kind of company we are.

Chris Do

I see what you did there. Clever play on words in both cases. I don’t recall ever saying one should not learn design or craftsmanship. The context is- you’re already in design school. In addition to what you learn, shouldn’t we encourage those that want to take a leadership role? That’s it.

Jordan Lyle

I think those leaders naturally emerge from their own volition once they enter the working world. I certainly understand that it might be good to recognize those kinds of character traits that student might have, but to encourage a student who is still in the process of learning the basics (because we can all agree that by the time you leave school, there is far more to learn technically and professionally), to already start relying on the abilities of others I think is a little dangerous. This is a super interesting conversation for me, I’m glad people are talking about things like this.

Chris Do

Jordan, I think we are being Draconian by deciding when/where someone is ready for something by artificially suppressing those that have a desire or curiosity about business, entrepreneurship, management, etc… In the 21st century, you watch/listen to what you want when you want. We are now learning across geographic/time based boundaries. This is the present/ future isn’t it?

In more diverse instituions, as long as you meet the prerequisites, you’re allowed to take any class as an elective even it’s outside your major. Why should this be so different? Why are we being so protective of how/when someone can be when it comes to design/art? Can someone not finish school or go to school for that matter and become a successful fine artist without having first to follow a “traditional” path of school, apprenticeship, years of grinding it out first?

When I went to Art Center, I wanted to learn 3d modeling/animation (not popular and not practical at that time, 1994, but I was able to take it despite that friends literally mocked me). They stopped laughing a few years later. I also took film theory courses and VisComm (a drawing class that was way more advanced than my abilities/training). Some classes worked out, others I dropped. But the choice was mine.

I’m not sure why some feel it’s so important to determine what’s right for others and that you must learn through the school of hard knocks first before even being allowed to explore “art direction” as a possible course.

Glad to have you participating in the dialogue.

Jordan Lyle

I agree, I don’t necessarily think we should suppress anyone’s desire to explore their own education. Nor do I believe in ‘years of grinding it out’ before you are able to do something. Education is free, and years of experience is often overrated. However, just from how you framed the possibility for a student to take the path of “Art Director”, it seemed to present it in lieu of and bypassing certain fundamentals imo. I think in addition to a fundamental design education, fostering a supplementary, elective path for students to grow into ‘Art Director’ positions sounds completely exciting and viable. It’s the beginning of a converation. Check out CLC classes at SCAD that have already begun to implement that framework. But it certainly would be wise to equip those students with ALL the tools and competencies that can adequately support the position they desire, before they kinda jump too far ahead in a process. Not only for their success, but for the sanity of the people they direct lol.

In school, being an art director was my immediate goal and I expressed that early on. I became an art director rather quickly after a few years as designer and I can safely say I attribute it to supportive directors, my personality, drive, design competency and understanding of my craft and certain professional practices that I picked up along the way. Things that you cannot be ‘taught’ in school. Do I feel like I needed that path to be created for me in school, nah. Would it have helped, maybe, but I’m not sure I’m certain of that. I don’t see Art Director as a role that you can just claim after leaving school (based on the current roles and responsibilities attributed to art direction), I really do believe it is an evolution and specialization, to a degree, upon a solid foundation, but that’s just me and my experience. Without it, you have students placed on pedestals immediately as ‘leaders’ without them reaaalllly understanding the nuance of balancing the managerial and the design aspects.

I mean hey, at a base level… teachers create their curriculum because they feel and have determined it is important and ‘what is right’ for their students to absorb albeit creating their own shortcomings in the process. The kind of alternative you present, is just that… another approach to a curriculum (with awesome potential). I just think based on what and how it was said, persons were able to pinpoint some more immediately apparent shortcomings. BTW man, you’re doing a good job at responding to people, I totally didn’t expect a response… I would be exhausted LOL!

Chris Do

Hi Jordan. Thanks for pointing out that such a program exists at SCAD. That’s pretty awesome. So hell didn’t freeze over and everyone seemed okay with it?

Nothing about being an Art Director is claimed. You can have the title. You can feel entitled. But to me, you have to demonstrate the skills and that’s all that matters to me. I don’t care what school you went to, if you went to school, you either have the skills, can learn those skills or you are a poser calling yourself something that your incapable of doing.

If you check out our channel, I respond to most of the questions outside of the UX specific ones. Those are for my friend Jose Caballer to answer. So responding to these questions is no bigee for me considering the volume of questions I get on YouTube.

Joe Clay

Are we “artificially suppressing those that have a desire of curious it’s about business” though? I went to a public university with an art program. Motion graphics wasn’t even a term I heard there. The closest was, “here’s After Effects, play with it.” Other than selling art, nothing approached entrepreneurialism. But none of it was discouraged.

So, I learned on my own. And now I’ve run my own company for the last 5 years and I do all parts of it, even a lot of the accounting, and I love both sides. And when I work with others on projects I direct and make. Perhaps I’m not really representative and my education was certainly abnormal for this industry but I find it hard to believe there are people out there in design schools actively discouraging people from the business side.

Of course a valuable AD shouldn’t be pushing pixels. It doesn’t make sense financially. And yes, we should teach the business side. Honestly, principles of business should be taught to everyone in high school because most adults are clueless about it. But, and there’s a big but here, no matter how good an AD is at directing people, one who understands the process will get the best out of their team. Sure, there’s always room for natural ability without having ever picked up a pencil. But there’s a respect and a willingness to do battle for an AD who has been in the trenches. When I direct someone, I know what they’re capable of, I know how they feel about any part of it, and I can express clearly my vision and how to accomplish it. That is natural talent and a learned skill. If someone only has the talent they’re lacking in experience.

While you’re not saying that people should ignore learning the craft, it comes off like that when using a term like “bricklayer” and even mentioning people “filling tires.” It’s implying that makers are unthinking machines. And the reality is, the AD is a higher position on the totem because it’s specialized. Obviously then they are important and fewer, and that means that a lot of the actual art direction depends upon those makers—not in the “I couldn’t do my job without them” sense but in the “well, Chris said this, but maybe this works better so let’s try that and circle back with him when he’s back from his meeting.” Why? Because if the AD were available for the entirety of the project, we wouldn’t need makers.

Most projects, especially in mograph, don’t start with an AD decreeing, “I want this text transition to last 17 frames, it should be 32px Trade Gothic, and 240 grey.” So while it is a craft, the craft isn’t mindless, and it requires synergy and juxtaposition of various concepts as well.

Chris Do

Interesting. I think we are saying similar things. In your example of discovering motion while in the fine art program, imagine if someone, or in this case, everyone said, “you’re in the fine art program, it’s not appropriate for you to try motion. If you want to do motion, you should have chosen that as a major, which by the way, we don’t offer. Furthermore, we believe that you should complete your degree. Work as an artist for a few years, then learn motion on your own. Otherwise no one will respect you.

How would you feel? Then, to complete the comparison, one instructor stepped up and said, I don’t care what others tell you. You should do what’s right for you! You don’t have to follow any rules! Hell, creativity is about breaking the rules. I’ll support you. Now, I can’t guarantee you’ll do well. You’ll have to prove yourself just like everyone else.

You’ll have to hustle, be sensitive that others might feel resentful of you but you can pull it off. I believe you are capable of whatever you set your mind to.

Then, all these motion people come out of the woodwork and say “that’s not right. That’s not how I did it!! I met a fine artist who sucks at motion. They make terrible motion designers.”

I think, judging by the sensitivity of the word “art director”— many people have a very strong and negative association with some punk/jerk AD who they hated because the AD sucked.

So let’s change the term because that’s now how I or anyone on our team directs. Let’s dispose of the title and talk about the traits.

This person has to understand, atleast on a conceptual level, the process of making. They need to be clear about the objective/goal but not be prescriptive. They need to inspire the team, protect them from being overworked, treat the team with respect and be empathetic to the creative process, defend the work when clients are being judgemental or unfair. They also have to have understanding of art and design history.

So I’m sorry if you guys have been burned by bad experiences. I truly am.

Joe Clay

Hi, thank you for the reply. I’m sorry I was late to respond, I apparently need to turn on notifications for Disqus. Anyway, I get where you’re coming from. And I think we’ve all had experiences with both good and bad ADs. I agree that an AD that follows more of what you’ve outlined above is a better AD. And we’ve all run into ones that didn’t fit that mold.

I think your original statements, which were probably a lot more impromptu and deserve more leeway than you’re getting. But I also think that they didn’t put forth this outline. It sounded a lot more like people who bought their way in and were only good at the business of design rather than both sides, as a good AD needs to be.

That’s why the term bricklayer irked many people. It implies a relationship between the AD and the designer that they are completely separate, white collar vs blue collar, rather than working together to achieve a goal. So, as you’ve said before, perhaps it was a poor choice of words.

As for what you said about if people had prescribed a path for motion design and I wanted to break out but I had to follow their path—yes I totally agree that should not happen. I don’t think there should be a prescribed path. But I do think there are prerequisites for certain positions. As I would assume you would as well. But certainly there can be a good AD who can’t push pixels. I’d still say a better AD could do both, but there’s always someone better anyway.

Still, perhaps it’s my path being more open than the traditional design school, but I’m still not sure people are actively discouraged from finding their own path. Perhaps it’s not taught. But if it’s also not the likely path most people take, and you’re less likely to succeed, should it be taught?

I guess what I’m asking is, is it a case of, “You want to be an AD, you go do these things. Oh you don’t want to? You’ll never be an AD then.” Or is it more like, “Oh you don’t want to? Well you might not make it, but you can try to get there like that.” Or is it never even a question that’s asked?

Chris Do

Joe, I appreciate the thoughtful response. Well said.

You are right on several accounts. Everyone could be better if they knew more, were able to do more, had more experience and so on. That’s a very reasonable statement. True.

I’m not where I’m at because I took some short cuts, bought my way into it, or knew the right people. I worked every single job including messenger boy when it came to running our studio. I wasn’t above anything.

Having said that I also don’t feel the need to make someone go through what I did just to make sure they were cut out for it. Motion graphics (the industry and even the term hadn’t been coined yet) so forget about having proper instructors teach this stuff. We learned it by being in the field. Trying and failing. But looking forward to the future, it would be foolish selfish and borderline sadistic of me to see my students suffer by withholding what I learned just to see them fail.

I’m not suggesting that you’re saying that. But that would be the net result of how some on the forum would have it.

Take all the vitriolic points of view expressed here. Make them I charge of a design program. Can you imagine what that might be like? I’m just trying to be open to the strengths someone might have. I wish I could put that word “might” in big bold letters. I’m not saying that this person was qualified. But let’s see. Let’s not assume or jump to conclusion that he/she is a talentless, hack rich kid whose only skill in life is to pay people.

Design should be taught in tandem with leadership skills. They should be exposed to much more than “maker” skills, or as my colleague would put it “manifesting” skills. They should be taught business principles, negotiations and communication tactics. They should be taught how and when to push back with clients, etc… Not everyone but for the ones who are hungry and cut out for it.

Thanks for your reply.

Joe Clay

I really need to look into these notifications. Anyway, I don’t disagree with any of that.

Chris Do

Thank you.

Chris Do

Fair. I’m not advocating for everyone to become art directors so we aren’t on two sides of the debate.

It’s not a mandate. It’s not even right for most creatives. I know that I’ve struggled learning how to talk to clients for a long time. I struggled with providing direction to the team out of fear, respect and poor communication skills. I personally didn’t have a mentor on how to do this. It’s a downfall of starting a company so early.

I just wished I had learned it a different way other than through trial and error.


It’s definitely interesting and from a leadership side I see a lot of the point. But it’s the same with any industry, the foreman would have no job if it wasn’t for the actual bricklayers.

It sounds more like, this should have been labeled something more about money or business and less about design and art directing. I fully get, if you are running ‘Blind’ for example, you have no time nor desire to get in there and ‘push the pixels’ as you said. You definitely *need* other people for that, but without them you have nothing, unless you can do it yourself.

It may have been the tone it was delivered, but, it’s interesting that on the first headline is ‘Show Me The Work’ … makes me think laying bricks is pretty important, even to you.

Chris Do

Josh, thanks for pointing that out about the Blind site. Our former EP with the insistence of our reps, said that a client once told them, “just show me the work!” and he wasn’t polite about it. What you see is the result of that. Before, we talked more about our process up front because we believe the work is a byproduct of our approach and philosophy. Stay tuned for the next iteration and you might see something totally different.


I really enjoyed the video, it’s kinda odd – it first hit me kinda sharp. To be honest, I immediately felt defensive, but it got me thinking about a lot of things – which is great and thanks a lot of for talking about these things.

Chris Do

Thanks Josh. There a TED talk on the idea that our brain runs in 2 states— autopilot and emergency brake. When something profound happens, we snap out of the autopilot mode (which is akin to dogma, that this is the way things are and it will never change).

I’m not saying that this is that kind of moment but it’s nice to have a discussion and question “is this the way it always will be?”


Thanks Chris, Blind was a HUGE inspiration for me in the early 2000s when i was really ramping into motion. Gooooooood STuffff!!!!

Chris Do

Thanks Mastabingus.

Chris Do

Thanks Mastabingus!


If you want to be a Graphic Designer, go to school for Graphic Design. If you want to be an Art Director, go to school for Advertising. They’re two different things when you’re talking about EDUCATION. Whatever you do with your education when you graduate is on you. I mean yeah, I wish I didn’t have to do all the trial and error either, but a lot of things are better learned then taught. Chances are if you were taught those things they wouldn’t have stuck. And as for the term “brick layer”, it’s a tad harsh, but it’s a good word to use to evoke an emotion to those who are, and get the conversation started.

You can be an amazing Art Director without ever touching a computer just as easy as you can be a horrible one with 20 years of design experience. It would be nice to know what you’re getting into when you go to school, but a lot of us are unclear when we apply. Not much you can do about that. Only reason I call myself an AD now is because I don’t like people asking me to make them websites.

If you’re going to school specifically for design, you should not get rewarded for paying someone else to do your work for you. That’s obnoxious. It’s no different then going through design annuals and copying someones work (someone did that in my class all the time). Again, it’s fine if you’re your and ad major.

Chris Do

Fair point Dan. You are probably right about things not sticking. I remember not paying attention to certain things that I wasn’t ready to hear at the time. But for the rare few are seeking… maybe they are ready to learn it. This also doesn’t mean that these skills are easy to teach or learn. So no guarantees there.


We are talking about a college program. So something to consider is, do you run the risk of alienating others by teaching some design students to direct and some to design? It is unfair to those who are there to learn design. Like you said, they’re paying for this degree. I’ve always thought the best educators are the ones that can make everyone as comfortable as possible so it doesn’t get in the way of learning.

Regardless of all of this, you can’t reward someone for paying others to do their work for them. It’s similar to how people got in trouble for paying others to work for them in a Co-op. It goes against the purpose of the whole thing.

I suppose one approach that might make more sense, is to create an exercise where everyone trades off roles, the same way film students do. Within that, they can hire and fire how they see fit. Although, I’d have to say that 90% of the film students I know say they felt like film school was a waste of time and they would’ve been better off just working in a production company from the start. :D

Chris Do

I think most would agree. Go to work and learn on the job is preferred to paying money to learn a skill only to go to work. That sounds like a reasonably accurate assumption.

Fernando Bittar

I can definitely see where he’s coming from. Being an independent professional or studio owner forces you to look at the business from all angles. Money making is still very taboo in the art / design world and I don’t see it as a bad thing, really.

I think there are still makers that can stand out from the crowd by delivering a project that is not only technically better than average but also by being aware of all other aspects of the profession like how to talk to clients, how to deal with revisions, team members, etc. I think that comes with time and it’s a very valuable skill set you will charge for because it makes such a difference in the process.

I don’t agree 100% when Chris talks about educating thinkers who can stand out from global competition though. I’m not american and I see that difference between makers and managers all the time here too and it’s really clear that you don’t have to be good in one to do the other. I also don’t think that entrepreneurship is a new idea as well but I think that in our field it depends on talent and that comes and goes all the time. And that has to be well managed if you want to stay relevant. How many studios are now closed or forgotten because they couldn’t keep up with quality anymore?

Chris Do

Thanks Fernando.

Just want to point out that R&H and DD both did top level work and went bankrupt. Does that suck? Yes. Was it fair that they were filing for bankruptcy as the Life of Pi was getting an academy award? No.

Dorca Musseb

I do agree that the majority of people graduating right now have no idea the business side of our work. I had to learn it the hard way myself and I spent many years trying to figure it out. I wished I’d had at least some basic knowledge to begin with.

Chris Do

Thanks Dorca.

Chris Do

I think you just coined a new term #MultiSpecialization.

Billy Pennington

Quite an interesting discussion. I’ve always had Chris’ sort of view on this subject. I of course am a brick layer. Though, I do think that some brick layers become so desired in their particular niche that they can slowly evolve into some sort of entrepreneur.

Chris Do

Hi Billy. If you endeavor to create a business around your skill/passion I’d love to chat. Maybe I can be of assistance.

Chris Do

You bet Scott. I’m not hiding or running away from this rather polarizing point of view.

Chris Do

Thank you.

Daniel Christian

Hey Chris, great video; it spoke directly to me. I have thought a lot about this issue and my question is this: Considering that Art Directors and Designers require different types of skills, what avenues are there for people with Art Director skills to get into Art Director positions if they are not great designers? I liken it to professional sports: the best players do not make for great coaches. In fact the best coaches were often bench/utility players; they have enough skill as a player to be in the game but their strengths are more focused towards game planning and player personality management rather than physical tools. Michael Jordan is the GOAT but a shitty manager/coach. Phil Jackson was a bench warmer as a player, but arguably the greatest coach of all time. In basketball, there are ways for coaches to move up the ladder without having been a great player. IMO, in the design industry we are only promoting great basketball players to coaching positions and leaving potentially great coaches out of the mix because they can’t dunk the ball. Sorry for the long post!


“Only promoting great basketball players to coaching positions and leaving potentially great coaches out of the mix because they can’t dunk the ball. Sorry for the long post!”

I don’t think this is true at all. I think what most people in the comments are saying(Including Chris Do) is that an Art Director needs to understand the process… meaning being taught the same skills as a designer and have an understanding/empathy of what it takes to create. He/she doesn’t need to be Lebron James but they should have an understanding of the game. Best way to learn the game is to have played it.

Chris Do is just suggesting another avenue for people to learn about Art Directing… Similar to film-school which often offer classes in lighting, post, directing, and producing… which is incredibly useful because you get a business aspect to your education.

I think at this point we are regurgitating what’s been said already. Joe Clay, Ruoyu Li , Chris Do, and Justin Cone already had the “athlete analogy” discussion above our own here.

Chris Do

Daniel. Your knowledge of sports is superior to mine. Thank you for drawing the comparison that I wasn’t able to do.

I think there should be a place for people who are okay at design but have other soft skills like: reasoning, management, writing/thinking, analytical/research/strategic, sketching and problem solving.

A former student of mine was able to land an incredible job at Google because he was extremely bright and was able to demonstrate enough of his making skills. Was he the best designer? No. But it didn’t matter. He was able to demonstrate and document his thinking skills with prototypes and conceptual sketches. He did this on his own as I don’t think there were any specific courses that prepared him for this.

Ruoyu Li

the side effect of being the greatest GOAT is that you are being emulated by others who wants to be like you. Michael Jordan didn’t need to be a coach because he changed the game. He taught the game by simply playing. Ask any number of NBA players and ask them how many are influenced by watching micheal as a player? Jordan has changed the game and thus has been the greatest teacher of all time as a result of it.


A few words on the brick-layer topic.
Just consider this: how is the next 3d artist, 2d animator, designer going to feel working for you knowing what you think about them? Also, at this point don’t expect more from them than just sit and do strictly what they are supposed to do, since they are “just* bricklayers. In other words: how to get as less as possible from someone you hire. As a Director, Owner or World Changer, that was bad played.

What interests me is the part about changing the world, there’s no bait here, I’m really not clear on that.
The reason why I’m puzzled is, on one side it seems there’s an ideal of changing the world, an idea to do something bigger (not just design), on the other side what I hear is a concept of growing by applying the same old principles that are causing so many issue nowadays, that is based on the value of money.
In fact, my takeaway from the conversation is that the idea of Art Director is someone who is clever enough to connect the dots, that is client’s needs, references and the team. Now, from my point of view I wouldn’t think to this as an Art Director figure, but more of a strategic marketing guy, an handy filter to have between the client and the team in order to make your work easier, to get the job done and to get as much money as possible. This has nothing to do with creativity, it’s more like a business position.

Lastly, this really sounds like an old idea for a company structure, where we have the owner at the top, directors and then the “makers”. There are some risks with this model.
1. The team is disconnected, there are steps in between and filters, and when that happens what initially was a lemon turns out to be an orange, or better a “lemorange”.
2. There’s no innovation. A place where there are different structural levels, the communication flow diminish, chances to find inspiration coming from different experiences, cultures, knowledge reduce to a very small percentage. Meetings don’t help either. It’s a general philosophy that actually makes the difference, not some meetings (which turns out to worsen the situation).
3. People feel disconnected, hence the general vibe suffer and the dedication as well.
4. It’s a small world, voice spread around quickly.
5. You’re getting far from changing the world as the very environment you live in suffer of an old paradigm which, being old, is thus not even close to have a chance to change anything.
6. But, yes, something it is changing and keeping the company model as you’re doing eventually may hurt your business.

In the short term you’ll probably keep making money. I’m not sure about the long term.

I also heard a few words about comparing our job to Art. I hoped this old, wrong assumption would be over by now, but it seems is not. That is because our education didn’t prepare us in that regard, but for sure motion graphics is not art. What we do is based on the principle of communication. What we do is making a message clear, is serving a commercial cause in order to reach the target. Art has nothing to do with this. Art can be egocentric, egoistic, solipsistic; can be a dialogue with themselves; can be wrong; doesn’t need to find answers to problems; doesn’t need to sell; can be obscure and unintelligible; can be offensive. You can’t find motion graphics lying in any of these definitions.
The reason why we like thinking of ourselves as artists is because we want to believe we’re doing something special. We are not. We’re mercenary, and our first customer is money (that is pretty clear from your very conversation). In other words, we are all bricklayers.

P.S. Do you want to change the world? Build an environment where money is secondary. Now, that would be a change.

Chris Do

Array, seems like we agree and disagree on certain points.

If people interpret what I said as dismissive to designers and animators that we regularly hire then I suppose they won’t come in or they’ll phone it in when they work for us. That’ll be a shame as that was never the intent. I said in the video, that I respect and treat the creatives that work for me really well. We have a thriving creative culture. Just ask anyone who’s ever worked for Blind. I’m sure that there will be some bad experiences. It’s unavoidable. But I think the vast majority will be positive.

Do you know anyone personally that’s worked for us before? So the counter to this statement is that perhaps I’ve changed recently which I assure you I have not. I’ve grown and learned new skills but I haven’t fundamentally changed who I am or my beliefs. I think that the potential for creatives is much greater than what they’re being exposed to in school. I hope that’s the one thing you can take away from the discussion vs what seems to be resonating in the comments section.

I do whatever I can as a business owner to protect our most valuable resources— our people. We routinely decline to pitch on jobs that don’t meet our vetting process. We don’t work on weekends (unless it’s an absolute emergency). We mandate break periods to encourage social interaction. We try to maintain an 8 hour work day and are firm believers in the adage “your poor planning doesn’t constitute an emergency on our part.”

To date, we’ve recorded over 130 videos on YouTube to teach business and design principles. I’ve written a half dozen articles, some on freelancing tips to help people not get taken advantaged of. I’ve lectured all over the world to help their that can’t come to La or go to a fancy art school. In case you are wondering, I don’t do “check out our great portfolio” lecture.

I’ve been teaching design, story boarding, main title design classss and workshops for over 15 years. To which, I make less money than I pay my own freelancers.

I’ve volunteered my time to serve on the board of the AIGA, SMC, Otis and EMMYs.

Is this about money? Is this about becoming a soulless business person? Ask a former student, employee, freelancer, intern, attendee. Ask before you cast judgement and make accusations about who I am and what I’m saying.

I coach over 100 people in my network. Many of which have seen double digit growth in their business. They have people counting on them to get it right including staff, friends and most importantly family members. If it’s evil to learn the business of design because you want to support and take care of your family? If so, then I think we need to reexamine some definitions.

Hope you are well. Glad to have this dialogue with you.



First off, thanks for keeping the conversation going.

Now, let me clarify some points.
I didn’t mean people who came to work for you had found what you said dismissive, if you read what I wrote I was referring to the next designers, animators. That is, *after* the video, not prior to it.
And of course I’m not saying you’re not treating them well, it seems you’re misunderstanding my point. I’m saying that what you stated in the video may have some consequences, and that has nothing to do with how good you are. Or, even better, maybe there are no consequences, only I think as an entrepreneur your statement was poorly played (although of course there’s the fuss..).

As for the accusation part, again there’s some misinterpretation. I can’t accuse you or judge you, I don’t know you personally, so how could I do that?
What I can do, and that’s what any viewer does, is to infer from what I’m listening to. In the video the topic was about business, not about volunteering and that’s what I based my thoughts on. So, just to be crystal clear, this is not about you, this is about what you said.

Lastly, I think there’s a flaw in the example you mentioned.
So, we have this guy who ended up paying in order to get the job done, which is not the situation of someone who wants to become a business man, it’s rather the case of a guy who is being sneaky to go around the problem.
Now, if you teach this guy the business, is not because that’s what he wanted to do in the first place. He did what he did not in the interest of any passion or engagement, he did it just to avoid the challenge (and having money makes him only poorer, as he’s avoiding the confrontation). I don’t know what you would expect from a person like this, but if he turns out to be a business man on those premises, well, that sounds quite concerning.

I’m glad to have this conversation with you too.

Chris Do

Ok. So in this situation of the student who hires someone else to do his work, I’m not judging him at all. I don’t see what he’s doing as sneaky because I don’t know his intent or motivation. All I can see are the actions taking place.

He hired someone to design for him. He was given an assignment (creative brief). He paid the student and turned in a great finished project.

All of the other stuff is just conjecture. I don’t see him as villain or hero but what he’s done is just like what every design shop I know. So why punish or judge him as being worthless, spoiled, talentless hack?

I don’t see it but I’m in the minority here.

Ruoyu Li

I agree with most of what you said but I also want to bring attention to the the argument of design as art. Motion graphics can be art, and it should be because its the graphic expression of our time. Design is the probably one of the most efficient communcation tools we have developed besides language and music. It evolved from painting and sculpture and closely related to film. It is a tool and a format. The content may or may not be art worthy based on subjectivity and context but its nature at the core is the same as any art form. The vintage definition of art in the modern world requires that it be an ever encompassing and fluid bubble that requires expansion, because the nature of creativity is complex by definition. Design can be wrong if your goal is to misinform the customer, design can be egocentric if your client is a egocentric automaker. design can be ironic if you pay attention to creatively done demo reels. The point is that If you look closely there is no real accurate definition at all. For all the adjectives that you attached to Art you forgot one very important thing. Art is also very commercial.You cannot be an prolific artist if you don’t have an patron or gallery rep in today’ world. This is not unlike the agency and studio model for the simple reasons that you cannot survive by making art for free. How often do you hear about collectors paying large sums of money for a rare piece from an prestigious artist? Have you ever visited Chelsea? These are rhetorical questions of course as every curator and artist already know, great art is intrinsically linked to great commodity not unlike that of a stock option. Prices for art can rise or it can explode, and more often than not, if an artist is exposed to over production or scandal, it can fall and bust. The very nature of art in today is identical to the work we do as designer/film maker. There is a market for everything and galleries work hard to “market” their rosters to collecting investors.
Just want to give my two cents.

Esra Ayhan Sagan

I think the student’s hiring someone for his/her design project and a good projects’ coming out can hardly be thought as entrepreneurship, unless that student earned the money he/she gave by him/herself and that student constantly brings good homeworks, and does make more than one designer to meet the needs of the brief. (that one hired designer could just be great to understand the brief even before the student’s trying to tell.)

Another thing. Design is designing a system to me. Work of color and typography musnt be thought as “the design” only, also not only as just polish materials. Because a product cannot be designed without the end look imagination in the beginning. A product cannot be the product without the final look. And in some cases final look can change the whole way of the system design. Thus system and color are blood friends ^^

Esra Ayhan Sagan

Plus i forgot to say, a product designer can shift to business design through graphics after learning how to build from nothing obvious. Designing stage must not be easily passed in schools, because it is actually the thing to learn connecting the dots. entrepreneurial approach can be good to make the student see why his/her design is beneficial, who is it beneficial for.

Sarah G

So he’s saying if you don’t do well in school you are a bricklayer, and the bricklayers are the makers. So much disrespect to the real creative community as well as bricklayers, and to those that he hires as his “makers”. You know the people that didn’t do well in school. I’m just gobsmacked by this.

Chris Do

Sarah. That’s exactly what I’m saying. If you’re not good you’re a brick layer.

Did you even watch the video? It has nothing to do with your skill level. I’m saying that in the world where design is facing downward pressure to compete on a global scale and he inevitable commoditization of our work, the way to increase your value is to move up the decision chain (not right for all but shouldn’t be excluded because of a dogmatic view that people aren’t ready for this. )

Personally, I’m sorry that you didn’t get the education you deserved.

Sarah G

I had watched the interview twice before I commented, and to give you the benefit of the doubt I watched it a third time. And you said exactly what I posted: your espousal that “if you don’t do well in school, you are going to become a bricklayer”; regarding design practice, that “the making…it’s all bricklaying to me”; and regarding the direction that ArtCenter should follow, “We have to teach them not to be makers”. I posted my comment so that designers who look to Motionographer for inspiration and fellowship would not take your proposed ideas about design practice as an insult. And your response? An insult. (And a personal one, at that.) Please know that the spirit of your message runs counter to the empathetic core of current design thinking, and despite the positive and uplifting messages from your guests, I will not be watching your episode a fourth time.

Chris Do

First off. Thanks for watching the video multiple times before commenting. I truly appreciate that.

I was using sarcasm because that’s not what I’m saying at all.

I should have said schools are overly emphasizing making while ignoring communication/leadership skills because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be valuable and competitive in the marketplace. I’m speaking from my own personal experience not some hypotethetical situation.

Making doesn’t not equal bad designer. Since art center produces many brilliant designers. This is the part that I think you were emphasizing in your opening comment and the part I found to be a “huh?” Moment.

Sarah G

whatever, dude.

Chris Do

Ok dude.

Chris Do

Sarah, would you like to come on our show and have a discussion about this topic? I’d be happy to talk to you vs typing comments in a forum.

Justin Blyth

I went to Art Center. I paid for my entire education through student loans and scholarships, and spent the next 10 years paying it off. During my education I was surrounded by wealthy students who were coddled through Art Center. Not only is art school very expensive, but you still have to keep up with living costs, bills, gas, and a lot of cash for art supplies, process materials, fees etc. Every day you can see the difference between those who are treading water to stay on top and those who can glide through without a care in the world. The funny thing is, from my perspective the wealthy students generally seemed to not apply themselves, challenge the work, or try very hard.

I learned a lot at that school, and even though it cost me a fortune, I’m thankful for my education as it’s led to a very rewarding career. I’m lucky enough to have traveled the world and become a Creative Director at a global advertising agency, through a lot of hard work, trial by fire, building organic relationships and working my way up. To say that those students with money should somehow be fast-tracked to art directors because they have money to outsource their assignments is absurd and upsetting. The reason you go to school is to learn the craft, and everyone in that classroom should have the same opportunities. Privilege and cash should not affect how good your reel and portfolio is the day you graduate art center. In fact it always will, but the faculty should certainly not be encouraging it.

On top of the moral and ethical issues, you’re doing those kids (and the creatives that will work under them) a disservice. Art directors need to spend some time as brick layers to be able to empathise, understand and articulate exactly what it is they need from the creatives working under them. It also leads to better working relationships without animosity.

Bottom line, if someone else does your homework and you get an A+ and a high five from your teacher, that’s called cheating.

Chris Do

Justin. I hear you. I barely made it through school myself living mostly on credit cards, hustling side jobs and working on campus.

I’m not advocating art direction as an area of study for rich or poor students. I’m not for that kind of class warfare.

It’s too bad that is what you heard.

Justin Blyth

I’ve followed Motionographer since it’s inception and this is my first comment. As you said in the video you were going to insult and offend a lot of creative types, and you definitely struck a nerve with me on one of your points…

Your quote was “If a student of mine hired somebody else to do the work and it was amazing and it fulfilled the brief, I would hug them and high five them like yo, if you have more money than time you hire everybody.” That student DOES have more money then their classmates, but they all have the same amount of time, and that inherently makes it an unfair equation supported by the instructor, and that sucks.

Regardless of the context I feel that as an instructor at the ultra-competitive, sleep deprived uneven playing field of an already charged environment that some can barely afford, that mentality teaches everyone the wrong lesson and sends the wrong message that those with money can outsource the job making them “art directors” (with a high five and hug from the instructor) while those without the cash to outsource have to do the work and be the “brick layers” which you went on to say is essentially blue collar work.

If you stand by your rhetoric, which it seems like you are, I think you have to be prepared to defend it when this starts playing out in your classroom and other classrooms at art center and across the country which I’m sure it already is. At the very least you owe your students an even playing field. When you assign those briefs, I hope you’re making it overtly clear that those with money can outsource and art direct the projects while those that can’t afford to should do the work themselves, and all the work will be reviewed evenly. AND that the ‘credits’ for who did what on each project should be made clear, as well as the role of the student, and what is is that they are actually doing to be critiqued by their classmates and graded by the instructor.

I won’t even go into the ethical ramifications of the fact that students submit their art school work every year to get their grants and sholarships, and you’re effectively encouraging those who have expendable income to submit work that they outsourced, possibly giving them a better shot at receiving more scholarship money because they had more resources. What’s to stop a wealthy student from turning around and hiring Rhythm & Hues to do his Motion 1 final project?

Chris Do

All good points. I’ve never encountered this situation personally. I’ve never given an assignment like this within the context of art center.

However, I am teaching business principles to creatives in workshops, lectured and YouTube.

If you’ve ever run a design studio or agency, what I’m saying is exactly what I’m doing.

We have a client hire us based on our: portfolio (to which I did not create), ability to demonstrate we understand the brief (through talking and presentation), bid and ability to assure them that we are the least risky option.

Once we are hired, my team brings on additional resources to help produce the job. Everybody is happy. This process has been in existence since the inception of our company.

Why then, wouldn’t I empathize with this one scenario of a student doing essentially the same thing?

Justin Blyth

Valid points for sure. Especially in the rapidly changing landscape of the creative industry. I’m outsourcing and managing every day but I’ve never had the responsibility of teaching the next generation and I’m sure that’s a challenge. Appreciate the responses.

Chris Do

Glad we had this convo and maintained respect for one another’s opinions. There’s room for divergent thinking in my book.



as a brazillian freelance motion graphic designer struggling to be fucking amazing in order to get some work; still living with my parents beacuse can’t afford my own life as a mographer; seeing new design students lost about design; and seeing all the older designers really not happy with anything or changing carreers completely…

THANK YOU. you said what I always say to my designers and animators friends…

Chris Do

Hey, that’s one in the agree column.

Rob Tyler (orb101)

I studied media production at university in the UK, finished and couldnt get a break in the industry. Abundant free time and a rough idea where I wanted to go as an alternative lead to learning after effects, and then Cinema4d, zbrush, the list goes on. I’ve never been to design school. Freelancing in London I hear stories like this all the time, and it’s the basis for a future that is as Chris says, happening right now. An abundance of skilled people who did it for themselves.

That point about downward pressure is one I can really relate to, I’ve been part of that at companies who have full time staff who specialise in one or two things. These guys are now flat out unable to compete with multi skilled motion graphics artists coming into the VFX space and at a relatively low price.
And here’s where we get down to it. On many levels I agree with Chris on that term ‘bricklayers’. I see people all the time who clock in, do 8 hours grinding in Maya or Nuke and go home, come back the next day and repeat. I’d agree those guys fall pretty neatly into that category, they’re in the VFX industry, they’ve worked at major studios. they got into 3D when XSI was the thing and they’re hired because that’s their thing.
Mograph guys on the other hand, I think they’re only in that bricklayer category some of the time, and increasingly less of the time. Technology is pulling more and more of us that freelance solo out of that deadlock and empowering us. GPU rendering is an absolute case in point.
Finding software online and learning through youtube lowers that cash entry bar to nothing provided you have the time, many of us are young enough, don’t have families and we’re pushing ahead with acquiring the knowledge.

I’d agree that there are bricklayers. I’d also agree that moving up to creative direction is where people should be striving to go.
Here’s where we differ. The view from the ground is that next generation bricklayers are specialising less, they can do the workload of three guys and in half the time thanks to the tech, they’re already pretty handy at creatively directing themselves, and the explosion of mograph on social media, behance etc shows people where they should be aiming. There’s more guidance.

So the difference between our visions of the future is this. In the future I see, there will be an abundance of makers who are multi skilled, multi disciplinary creatives who can direct and manage a project. That emphasis on managing is happening right now, small companies are losing out to one guy who can do it all, and undercut them, hired directly by an increasingly savvy client.

The future of the mid range mograph business is indeed more Chris Do’s, but I believe they’ll be ones who can do the making for themselves and who might only be directing themselves.

Chris Do

How about I rephrase this way. Would you be better off if you learned business concepts as a design student? Would you like that to be an option if that interested you? That’s it.

Fundamentally, do you think creatives are valued less or more today? Depending on your answer, and what you think the problem is will determine if we agree or not. If you think the problem is a bunch of untalented producers who are great at getting money from clients and then paying very little to have the work producer and hence ruining the industry then you will hate very thing I’m saying.

Chris Do

This is an open invitation. Anybody that wants to come on our show and debate this issue further is welcome to. Just let me know.

I’ve invited a few but so far no takers.


Late the comment board, but I’m really glad to see this much discussion around this topic. As someone who works predominantly in the product design and advertising world and not directly in animation, I see many corresponding arguments being made here.

Personally I have always struggled with growing trend of young art directors with little to no real world experience. I’m not speaking of the young, yet seasoned creatives out there who have the work to show for it, but the ones who come right out of school with only class projects to show and want to call themselves art directors and get paid big money. I’m not saying this is not possible, or that it doesn’t happen. But I do feel that the growing trend and assumption amongst students and young creatives is that they are the bees knees and deserve full creative direction, and will accept nothing less.

And this is what bothers me. This idea that anything less than being the ideas person or the one in charge is unacceptable. There is a lack of appreciation and respect these days for the ‘brick-layers’, the production people. As some commenters have said, design is not always art, it’s a craft, a skill set. A trade. Not everyone is meant to be an art-director and that’s ok. That does not mean these other ‘designers’ or production workers are less valuable, or that those positions should be less desirable. I think that schools and in some regards the industry itself sells this notion that the only thing to be is the top notch, original genius creative, and anything else is pointless. And the reality is, most of us are not that person. Most of us are not that super original ‘artist’ who has the vision and the ideas, and that’s ok. The majority of jobs in the creative world realistically fall into this ‘brick-layer’ category. They are still creative and fulfilling, but they do not put you in a position of absolute creative control. And yes, some of them even involve making other peoples stuff look good. But they are still great jobs that require great skill and craft, and deserve respect. I just think that this should be conveyed more in the industry, and especially in schools. And I imagine it would lead to more satisfied students and employees. The creative world and the production of creative ideas is not a one person job, it’s a team. And as teamwork goes, everyone’s role is important. Group effort. :)

Chris Do

I totally agree. We depend on highly skilled, passionate creatives to help realize an idea. I’m blown away by what they’re able to create.

I also respect the wood worker, cabinet maker, carpenter, or welder who spends the time to hone their craft. They all deserve respect. And the inverse is true as well right? Don’t the idea people, strategist, writers and producers deserve respect as well? Shouldn’t each person be encouraged to play to their strengths?


Yep, totally agree. It’s never a one person job, it’s a team of very talented people with different skill sets. And this is what makes good work, different talents working together. And let’s not even start the discussion of the criminally under-appreciated role of Producers and Project Managers. haha. Glad this kind of dialogue is happening. It will only make us better.


Hello, I’m late but I wanted to share my pov after 10 year as Art director, Motion Designer and Creative Director.
Chris talks a lot about money but I think personal creative acomplishment is a better objective if you pursue happyness.
Sure you can earn more money as a Creative Director (I am, in a big digital agency), but we all know great animators, great makers, that earned the title only to find themselve sad and bored to death, managing peoples, bowing before clients and organinzing things. They end up bein bad at their job. This is the Peter’s principle

Listing the tasks Chris talks about:
business development, closing jobs, public speaking, decipher the needs of a client, gaining the client’s trust, finding the right persons for the job, organizing things, dispatching tasks.
These are not what I call core design stuff and working for big agency you will find a specialized person for each of those task.
Sure some requires “Creative thinking” but let’s not call that Creation.
Now if what you like is designing, animating, creating visuals, all these sale dept. stuff, all those tasks traditionnaly handled by producers, do you really want to do that instead? Even if the salary is better?
On the design school matter i’d say:
Go to a design school to be a designer, use that time to work on design-driven project, to discover new things & art. Don’t start freelancing immediatly after, go to studio and agency instead, learn the way the industry work from the inside. Then decide what do you want next, taking additional classes if needed.
If you want to manage people, clients and numbers and don’t like “making”, go to a business school to be an entrepreneur or a producer.

Lastly, I think the title “Art Director” is often miss-used.
In advertisement for example it’s a the visual side of a 2 person team ( AD + copywriter ). It’s rarely a maker. You don’t go to design school for that job now.
In fashion industry, guys like Karl Lagerfeld are also Art Directors (and they know how to “make”, keep drawing and creating all sort of things, not only clothes)
In a lot of studios or agencies it’s just a title meaning “Lead” often offered instead of a rise…
I know a lot of Art Directors that still design web UI, push pixels, draw frame by frame animations…. And are perfectly happy to still doing it. That’s what really matter in the end.

Chris Do

It appears that this is a never ending thread Michael. Better late than never.

Thanks for your thoughtful response. It’s not about money for me. It’s about being more valuable and creating greater impact for the companies that choose to hire us.

I like to move where fewer people are. If an area gets crowded, it’s a good sign I need to move. Funny thing is, we just had a management meeting today and talked about how employees that don’t evolve at Blind, don’t last long. For us, to remain relevant, we have to constantly grow and change.

For all the people that enjoy making and aren’t attracted to learning the business end of things, I encourage them to continue refining their craft. Nothing wrong with that. We need people who know how to make things.

Dan Hoffman

As someone who has been a college professor, an art director, and a designer I will say that I think it is inappropriate for a student to hire someone else to do the work. In that context the student was there to learn how to do the work, not how to direct. That’s a totally different skill. I do agree that i wished I had business training while I was in school.

I totally disagree with the description of “bricklayer.” Often the designer has to make something from nothing before the art director has something to respond to. In this was the designer plays the role of architect and bricklayer while the art director plays the role of general contractor.


If communicating with the client, parsing a vague brief, finding appropriate references, and problem solving are worth lots of money, producers should get a big raise. They outsource all of the labor too. “Creatives” (new buzzword) try to sell this god-like, center of the universe thing to justify their pay, but it’s really all talk. I don’t disagree that it’s the way to make money, but it’s lame.

Chris Do

Fair enough. I have yet to meet a producer that does what you say. If they do then they’re a creative director to me. I try not to focus too much on backgrounds, education or training. If someone can do the job they deserve the credit.

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