Neal Strydom, a Motion Designer in the Payfast Marketing team, shares his journey of how he transitioned from being a mechanic apprentice to following his dream of being a creative animator. He offers valuable advice to anyone wanting to establish themselves in the digital content production industry and how to grow one’s skillset.
I got into animation after my now-fiancé encouraged me to resign from my job as an apprentice at a diesel engineering workshop because she knew l would do better if I pursued a creative career. From there, I resigned on good terms and went on to complete a year at TouchVision, where we were taught quite a bit about the areas of animation and VFX. That one year of study opened a lot of doors for me thanks to the people I met and the support of the lecturers.
After that one year of college, I dropped out and started a job as a graphic designer where I learnt a lot on the job. I grew from there and stayed in the digital marketing and corporate space, doing a mix of graphic design and motion design, otherwise simply referred to as content creation. I then did a stint in advertising, where I experienced working on global brands. Then I went back into corporate, and I’ve been working as an in-house motion designer at Payfast ever since.
Working at Payfast
I currently work full-time for Payfast, an online payment gateway, and freelance in my spare time. The projects I work on are primarily featured around the very reason Adblockers are so successful – I make ads for a living and create content used in marketing campaigns to drive sales and product uptake within the business.
I enjoy working as part of Payfast’s marketing team because the team is great. Everyone I work with is supportive and we foster a spirit of collaboration, which helps make everyone feel valued. It also helps build self-confidence when your opinion and input are taken into consideration.
Advice for young motion designers
I have three pieces of advice that have been invaluable to my career growth as a motion designer:
Network, network, network
Build relationships early on and nurture those relationships. A lot of the work you receive will likely come from a referral through someone within your network or old colleagues you’ve worked with. This makes it crucial that you maintain a level of professionalism from an early stage and build a reputation as someone reliable and trustworthy.
The best results are often the simplest ones
Your skillset will grow as you grow, don’t worry about doing everything right away. Since I started out to this day, 99% of the time I use the Position, Scale and Opacity options in After Effects, and 0.5% of the time I use elaborate effects and setups. Usually, the best results are the simplest ones and the easiest to accomplish. Going for flashy and elaborate isn’t always the answer, yes, it is what you need sometimes, but I’ve never found it to be a need almost all the time.
Everything you do creatively, and I mean EVERYTHING, is linked
It may seem odd to take up a hobby in photography and to work as an animator, but the lessons you learn from animation will transfer into your photography, and vice versa. This is largely due to a system of shared fundamentals that almost all creative areas have in common. A good example of this is composition, rhythm, colour theory and values.
For anyone wanting to pursue a career as a motion designer, I would highly recommend it. It’s a rewarding career path and I genuinely appreciate all the connections I’ve made over the years, and of course here at Payfast.