Career Day: Jordan Lyle
What Does A Motion Graphic Designer Do? Jordan Lyle Is Glad You Asked.
Name : Jordan Lyle
Age : 25
Birthplace : Kingston, Jamaica
Current location : Los Angeles, California
Title/Occupation : Art Director at Gentleman Scholar
For those who don’t know, what does a motion designer do?
Motion design is a fairly young industry, so the range of things a motion designer does is still expanding, but essentially the job combines the sensibilities of graphic design, film and animation in 2D or 3D to create a moving image for different screens, mediums and platforms. At the core, a motion designer takes a static, designed concept, like a script for an animated commercial, and breathes life into the design and story it tells. Motion design is everywhere—the opening titles for a movie, the way the interface on your mobile device animates when you interact with it, even down to the loading bar on a webpage sometimes.
What led you down this career path?
To be honest, I really stumbled upon it. Before my second year at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), I had absolutely no idea it was even possible to do these things, much less do them as a fulfilling career. At the time, as far as I knew, animation was exclusive to working for Disney or making a cartoon, and that aspect of animation is not exactly motion design. I was completely familiar with the product of motion design, but much like anybody who had ever seen a commercial with some moving graphics, or the title sequence for a movie, you just see it and admire it, but never really think about how it gets made or who is even making it.
Before SCAD I was toying with the idea of being an anthropologist or maybe something in the medical field—something that at least gave the notion of prestige.
"A career in the creative field wasn’t necessarily frowned upon in my home, but it wasn’t jumping out as a front runner or something that would dictate how I would spend my adult life."
There had to be more than just a technical component, and the motion design industry is so malleable that you can really carve out a space for yourself and what you want to achieve.
Did you have any mentors who helped you as you built your career?
There are a few names that come to mind that I have definitely been able to absorb from and tap into their wealth of knowledge that has now become part of my own. Guys like William Campbell, Will Johnson and Simon Clowes have been personally influential in how I perceive this field and function within it. But to be really fair, I think as I have grown as a designer, animator and art director, I have virtually been mentored by this entire industry as a collective of inspiring artists.
I had been steadily observing and more or less studying all the other designers who were better than me, doing the things I wanted to do, and getting the recognition that I one day hoped to get. I feel as though I inadvertently became their silent mentee in the process of trying to follow and emulate their path. I heard something like this recently and adapted the meaning for myself, “The mentors you acquire, don’t have to know that they are your mentors in order to guide you.” I actually prefer learning from my own distance more than being hand held. It keeps exchanges with the people you look towards honest and organic. It allows me to shape my own understanding of the why and how things should operate in this arena.
You’ve spoken to the fact that there are not a lot of people who look like you in your field. What has been your experience as a Black male pursuing this career?
Right now, I’m currently the only “melanin-wealthy” person working full-time alongside the other talented folks at my studio, and I feel like it’s a microcosm that speaks to the industry at large. You will most likely find yourself being that one guy, or one of two people working at a studio, and if there are three or more, the stars have somehow aligned in order for that to happen.
As a Black person, specifically one not from this country, my experience navigating this field, thankfully, has never really been challenging as a result of my skin color. The lack of Black men and women in this industry could easily go unnoticed, unless you’re Black, and then that becomes the first thing you notice. Naturally, I can only speak for myself and my individual experience, but I don’t think I’ve ever been made to feel a particular way, positive or negative, for being one of the few Black people working in the motion graphics industry.
I’ve typically been that one Black guy, or Jamaican guy, in the room, and have always been proud to represent in that way because I offer a presence that often isn’t felt. As one of the younger art directors in the commercial motion design industry, I have had the privilege of collaborating with teams of wonderfully talented individuals to create content for clients under the scope of my vision of problem solving. That’s a huge deal for me as a person who left his own country to pursue this career.
You’ve also been candid about how important it is for you to make a name for yourself as a leader in your field. What steps have you taken to brand yourself as a motion graphic designer?
In every setting it’s important for me to work towards leaving some mark or legacy on the communities that I involve myself in, particularly the design and creative communities, within and beyond the specifics of motion graphics. Here’s where being that one Black guy from Jamaica has probably worked in my favor as part of my brand. My appearance and nationality have become inseparable from my brand because the combination is uniquely me in this field, setting me far apart from the kind of person who tends to subscribe to this career path. It’s easy to pick me out of a crowd, dreadlocks and all, and that might just be enough to engage someone in striking up a conversation.
I am definitely an active member in communicating and interacting with other motion designers, and that in itself has forged part of my brand voice, just because my name pops up in different scenarios. I am also very active on Instagram (@jamdownflava) and within the Instagram community as well, which speaks to branding myself as a more rounded creative thinker, curator and photographer. I am an art director at a motion design studio, but I have far more to offer than just that specific set of skills and ways of thinking. I’m currently on a photography kick in my career and really trying to explore myself and create a voice through the still image.
What has been the most challenging part of building your career?
The most challenging part in the process of building this career was moving out to Los Angeles, even further away from my family in Jamaica, and all my closest friends, who ended up moving to New York to pursue their design careers. When I moved to LA, I came specifically to work with this company and really had few ties to the city before that, not to mention I didn’t have a car for the first six months. That was hard. But the lesson I learned from being so removed from my usual framework and diving fresh into a new environment is that you can really shape and mold the person you want to be in your field, because that’s really all that you have to focus on when you’re trying to make a good, lasting first impression.
Conversely, what has been the most rewarding part of your career?
One of the most rewarding things for me has been becoming an art director so early on in my career, at age 24. Being in a position where I can influence the thinking and reason behind the larger picture, dictating the look and style of a project and not just pushing pixels has always been my goal; being given that opportunity has validated my creative voice and ability to deliver something worthwhile—not only to myself, but to the people I collaborate with. It’s nice to know that what you bring to the table can actually translate to something larger that will affect people in some way.
What plans do you have for yourself and your career?
The more I grow in this field, the more I think about needing to do something purposeful and long lasting using the skills and way of thinking I’ve cultivated over the years, particularly in the realm of creative consulting for brands. So the idea of working on projects surrounding noble causes, or even developing design systems that create some legacy, are very intriguing to me.
I would love to find a way to factor traveling into my career opportunities. I recently went to Rio de Janeiro, and it was such a fulfilling experience that I’m almost mad at myself for not making travel a higher priority. As I mentioned before, being able to have some sort of effect on the communities I’m a part of is really important for me—whatever avenues allow me to contribute, in whatever capacity I can, I am all for them. I think I’m just willing to keep growing as a creative person and seeing how that continues to shape and direct my creative career.