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Bringing Ideas to Life with Motion Graphics

By Jenny Carless

Animation captured the heart of motion graphics designer Dorca Musseb because of its potential for storytelling. Musseb loves to collaborate with other creatives to tell stories of all kinds—and she can’t resist a challenge.

If you’re looking for a motion graphics designer to take on a simple project, Dorca Musseb may not be the right person for the job. She prefers the tough assignments.

“I enjoy throwing myself in at the deep end and figuring it out,” she says. “It’s a puzzle for me—and it’s truly satisfying for both the client and me when it’s solved. I gain new skills, and they get great work. It’s a win-win.”

The most enjoyable part of her work is bringing ideas to life through animation.

Musseb worked on a series of network IDs for BET’s sister network Centric. This ID featuring moms and their daughters earned her a nomination for a 2016 PromaxBDA Award in the Best Art Direction/Design category (click on the image to watch). For more Centric IDs, visit Musseb’s Behance profile

“There’s something about animation that makes everyone so happy. It could be just a simple shape going across the screen, but the second it moves, it starts telling a story,” Musseb says. “That’s what has always fascinated me about animation and why I became not just a graphic designer but a motion graphics designer.”

TELLING STORIES

The New York City–based artist loves to learn new things and challenge herself, creatively and technically.

“Every new nugget of knowledge finds its way into my work at some point,” she says. “As a result, my work is continually evolving.”

Musseb worked on the opener for season two of the TV show Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution. She says, “I was given 3 musts: must have the VW Bug, must travel from point A to point B and lastly, must have his friend Martín included within the promo.” Click on the image to watch. 

For Comedy Central, Musseb created the show open for the second season of the TV show Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution (she shares her process on her website). The assignment: Create three different visuals of Iglesias going from point A to point B, because his show was moving from Arizona to Miami.

Storyboards and photo stills used in the creation of the show opener for Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution.

“This project was especially appealing because it told a little story,” she says. “We don’t often work with the talent, but I got to direct Gabriel. We had a lot of fun on set that day.”

Centric is another favorite client. Queen Boss was her first solo project there.

“I followed Centric’s look and feel but designed everything myself from scratch,” she explains. “It was visually and technically challenging, and I learned a lot.”

Anothert favorite project was 60 Days of Black Herstory, a combination of Black History Month and Women’s History Month that highlighted African American women who had changed history.

A selection of Musseb’s visual identity designs for the TV show Queen Boss, her first solo projectx for one of her favorite clients, Centric.

THE ART OF COLLABORATION

Motion graphics is inherently a collaborative affair, according to Musseb—and that’s just the ways she likes it.

“I love seeing how other creatives solve their parts of the puzzle,” she says. “I’m endlessly curious about how others think, work, and see the world.”

If she’s collaborating with other designers, everyone typically pitches one or two ideas to the group.

“One of the best experiences I’ve had in that kind of situation was designing for Showtime Network’s I’m Dying Up Here,” she says. “They asked me to work with the idea of a spotlight, and I developed three wildly different interpretations. It was challenging, surprising, and a ton of fun.”

When collaborating among animators, it’s essential to establish an animation language up front, Musseb says.

“We determine what movements should be like and what to stay away from,” she explains. “For example, we’ll agree to avoid flashes or abrupt scales, and use smooth movements and transitions instead. That’s how I collaborated with Rachel Collado on the Art Directors Club’s 50/50 Initiative piece.”

Musseb collaborated with Rachel Collado on this animation for the Art Directors Club’s 50/50 Initiative. Click on the image to watch. 

REFRAMING THE GENDER DYNAMIC

Musseb’s involvement with organizations where women support one another is another kind of collaboration—one she feels is important in a very male-dominated industry.

A 2017 School of Motion survey found that only 22 percent of motion graphics designers and animators are women,” she says. “Further, Women in Animation has highlighted a discrepancy between how many females are in school studying animation (60 percent) versus once they graduate and start work (20 to 40 percent).”

Musseb thinks the reason for the imbalance is multi-layered.

“The overall expectation in the industry seems to be that females aren’t technically proficient. Some places I’ve worked expected very little of me and were ‘surprised’ at my technical skills,” she says. “Also, confidence continues to be an issue for women. An interesting TED Talk from the founder of Girls who Code discusses how women expect perfection from themselves at a higher rate.”

Musseb wants women to reframe how they think of themselves.

“We continue to be underrepresented partly because we don’t show up,” she says. “We need to participate on panels, attend networking events, and accept speaking engagements—and encourage young women to stay in this wonderful field.”

She does see some movement: “More female motion graphics designers and animators are appearing in podcasts; it’s refreshing to hear their points of view,” she says.

Musseb encourages women in the field to join groups like Women in Animation, Ladies in Mograph, and Punanimation (she is involved in that organization’s New York City chapter).

IDEATION BEGINS WITH JOURNALING

Musseb starts a project by journaling—jotting down initial thoughts and a “do and don’t” list. Then she conducts visual research, including taking photographs for inspiration and gathering resources on a Pinterest board. As ideas take shape, she begins to sketch rough, but more focused, ideas in her journals.

Musseb recently began offering templates such as this one, for use in your motion graphics projects, on Adobe Stock. Click to watch. 

“I don’t usually go to the computer until I have a plan in mind,” she says. But once she has selected the ideas she thinks work best for the project, she uses Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe After Effects to create a rough animation for the client.

“I like to offer a variety of ideas. Unless the client has a specific look in mind, I keep things as broad as possible,” she says. “Once they choose a direction, I can narrow things down further.”

Sometimes, after client feedback, she goes back to her journals for more sketching before reworking things digitally.

LOOKING AHEAD

Currently, Musseb is working on an event at which women, trans, and non-binary designers and animators can network and showcase their work. Once she finishes a current School of Motion Cinema4D class and courses on After Effects Expressions, she plans to release more of her own work, and she is currently making motion graphics templates available as an Adobe Stock contributor.  

“Eventually, I want to direct my own animated shorts—and I’m looking forward to telling more personal stories,” she says.