Dream job: motion designer

Tobias Peil discovered his love for motion design during his studies at HMKW in Cologne and Berlin. In this interview he talks about his career start and tells us what he liked most about the study program B.A. Graphic Design and Visual Communication.

Tobias Peil works as a motion designer at the digital agency Aleks&Shantu that is based in Berlin.

Tobias Peil works as a motion designer at the digital agency Aleks&Shantu that is based in Berlin.

What comes to mind when you think about your studies at HMKW?

Looking back to my years of study, I think of HMKW as a private university that offers a supportive network and close relations between students and teachers.  One can profit from these benefits in the long term.

You acquired a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and Visual Communication at HMKW Berlin. What is your current job position?

Now I am working as a motion designer at Aleks&Shantu, a digital agency in Berlin. The job combines many different areas and is therefore exciting for me. Usually it is all about processing the client's content as animated video. With the right target group in mind, we write a script in which the product is put into a practical context and all the client's important content is mentioned. After that the graphics are created according to the standards of the corporate design guidelines. This is the moment when all elements come together and are brought to life. The visual images are often accompanied by voice-over and/or sound effects. According to this scheme, we create explanatory videos, product videos, logo animations, web animations or trade fair films. At the moment I am working as a freelancer with other agencies to realize animation projects. In the future I want to pursue this more intensively.


Did you get any further work experiences prior to your current position that you would like to share with us?

I was able to gain my first professional experience during my studies when one of my lecturers offered me a job in his production company Time:Code:Media. This enabled me to give up my cashier job and concentrate on a job that was relevant to my field of work. The new job gave me the chance to become familiar with creative production processes early on. My six-month internship at the Berlin design and animation studio Blokstudio began immediately afterwards. This is where I finally fell in love with the field of motion design. It was a very intensive time and I have learned an incredible amount about graphic and motion design. Afterwards I worked as a freelancer again and shortly after graduation I started a cooperation with StartUp Stayfilm from Miami, Florida. Here I was able to spend three months on location working with the creative team and developers to optimize the start-up’s app and expand its functionality.

When did you figure out your preferred career path? How much was your choice influenced by the compulsory internship?

During the second semester I came into contact with the fields of animation and motion graphics for the first time in the module "Time-based Media". I enjoyed the courses pretty much also because of the lecturers. We were all put under a lot of pressure and the time frames and deadlines were often very tight. In the meantime, however, I think that the courses were very practice-oriented. Through various exercises I got to know various areas of motion design: Frame by frame animation, 2D animation, compositing in After Effects and 3D modeling in 3dsMax.

This combination of creative, conceptional work and technical problem solving inspired me. As I have already said, I then did an internship in this area. Finally, I realized that I don’t want to be a classic designer anymore but that the mix of different disciplines was made for me.

Why did you decide to study “Graphic Design and Visual Communication”? And what made you choose HMKW Berlin?

At that time, I have already designed my own user interface for my first smartphone and created icons. I have experimented with Photoshop a lot. So, I had the feeling that I wanted to design something and with this study program I could find a creative outlet.

I got to know HMKW mainly by chance. However, the concept of small groups and practice-oriented courses had convinced me and my parents. I also benefited from the fact that HMKW has branches in Cologne and Berlin. So, I was able to change location during my studies and to continue my studies in Berlin.

Which contents of your studies are part of your current job? How do your studies help you in your work routine?

Key knowledge from the theory lessons can be transferred to almost all areas of design. Whether design theory, color theory, composition or typography: the study program provided me with all fundamental knowledge I need in my day-to- day work. The introduction to the programs was made easier by beginner courses that were offered in advance.

Having received a lot of feedback for my works during my studies, I was used to criticism and I learned how to deal with it. In the working world, sometimes you have to detach yourself personally from the results of your work in order to be able to talk and think about them objectively.   

During my studies I was also taught that it is important to experiment. And so today I still like to do visual experiments to try out styles or new techniques that I don't get to in my everyday work. In this way I continue to practice working more efficiently with software. Definitely I am able to broaden my horizon or in the long run I will find my own style.


What are your plans for the future?

I just want to create animations that people like to look at. Animations that are entertaining, inspiring and informing. At the end of the day I want to be proud of my work and that's what I strive for in every project. Even if it is sometimes difficult to keep motivated. Especially the motivation level drops during night shifts or when costumers are expression demanding correction requests that are not easy to satisfy.

I prefer to work on personal projects. Here I am my own boss and have artistic freedom. However, there is no deadline for that either, so that kind of work requires a lot of self-discipline. Next year I would like to create a artistically challenging short animation sequence, maybe as a music video. Professionally, I hope that I can also work as a freelancer with many interesting companies and artists, in a style that I can relate to.

What do you like most about your current job position? What is your biggest challenge?

Above all I like that my work is varied. There are so many different areas of application for animation that you don't want to be tied down and specialize.  

Whether series intros, explanatory videos, interface animations, car presentations, advertising screens in public spaces, trade fair videos, stage visualization or artistic installations: Every project has to be completely rethought, only rarely anything works straightforward. You always have to keep an eye on the whole result and rework every aspect again and again until it finally fits the brand or the customer.   

What I like, but at the same time it is also a big challenge, is the rapid development of technology. There are always new programs, new ways of doing things visually, and everything becomes more accessible, but at the same time more complex. 

Sometimes it is difficult to concentrate on the essentials and not to get lost in technical gadgets. Technical challenges are a daily occurrence in this profession. You have to prepare especially complex scenes well in order to be efficient and to be able to react flexibly to feedback later. But these are all things you grow with - and they probably never stop.


Could you tell us more about the application phase after your graduation?

I sent my applications for a permanent position from Miami by e-mail when I knew I was coming back to Berlin. Through ads and the classic Google keywords I searched for interesting employers. All potential employers were entered into a spreadsheet, including information about contact persons and email addresses, so I had a good overview of the application process. Not many people replied, but my current agency contacted me and organized a Skype call. During the conversation we agreed on a week of trial work.   

Two weeks later I was sitting in Berlin with the same people in the office and had to prove my skills in practice. During that time, I was tested with all kinds of tasks to see if I could fill the position successfully. However, I didn't have the feeling that it was a pressure situation, but I was very well received by all colleagues and already integrated into team events. So, it was also a good experience for me to find out whether the agency and the job suits me.

What would you tell fellow students that study at HMKW?

Try as much as you can. Pursue crazy ideas - don't be afraid of effort. Get on well with the lecturers and respect them. Get as much out of your studies as you put in. Work diligently on the things you like. Try to solve problems and not be too much of an artist. Go and have a beer with your fellow students from university now and then.

Which characteristics should students have that want to study „B.A. Graphic Design and Visual Communication“?

For the study program as such, you need creativity, the ability to be critical, initiative of one’s own and a passion for design. With a mixture of all of these, you can easily enter the course and learn a lot. If you also want to do animation and motion design, you should also have technical skills with software. A quick grasp will certainly help. Some programs are quite complex and the faster you get over this hurdle, the faster you can realize your creative ideas.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Selected projects and works can be found on my website tobiaspeil.myportfolio.com On my Instagram profile I also post further insights into my work.

Dear Mr. Peil, thank you very much for the many interesting insights into your professional life. We wish you a successful year and all the best for your professional future.