Jorge Canedo Estrada on the Motion Graphics Industry & What’s Shaped his Career

Motion Design 04/06/2019 9 min read

Jorge Canedo Estrada is one of our favorite motion designers around. He’s prolific, motivated, and super talented. You may recognize his name from our own blog where we featured him in our post on 10 Mo-Graph Artists To Follow On Twitter, or from his Vimeo channel Wine after Coffee which we featured in the post Vimeo Channels For Motion Graphics Inspiration. We even did an industry spotlight on Giant Ant, where Canedo worked for 4 years.

So….. we like the guy. But it’s not just because he’s a nice guy (which we are sure he is). It’s because he consistently puts out beautiful and thoughtful animation pieces that are delightful to watch and make us all think a little more about the work we are doing ourselves.

We are very excited to be able to share this interview that we recently did with Jorge, where he gave us some great insights to how he found himself in the motion graphics industry and where he’s going now, as well as some wonderful advice for artists of all levels looking to make the most of their craft.

Jorge Canedo Estrada Shares His Motion Design Insights

Tell us a little about your background, what you were like as a kid, and how you think it has affected where you currently are in life and your career.

Well, I was born and raised in Cochabamba, a small city in Bolivia. My mom tells me that I was a very curious and observant kid, that I would stare at a given thing for a long time and, after a few minutes of silence, would shout out loud how I thought something worked or what it was for. I wasn’t always right in my assessment, however: when I first saw snow, I yelled, “It’s not sugar, it’s shampoo!”

In any case, I think that curiosity is what led me to what I do:

“When I saw something that I liked or thought it was interesting, I wanted to know how it worked and how to do it.”

In my case, that looked a lot like seeing what my childhood hero would do and copying it, so when my brother got into film, I did too. When he wrote, I did too. When he edited something, I did too, and once I discovered that—well, that’s the answer to the next question.

How did you get started in motion graphics, what was your path like?

My brother and I got into filming all sorts of stuff with our parent’s Sony Handycam Digital8, including what we called Chuckimation (“Action League Now!” or early “Chucky” movies anyone?) and hundreds of films, one which almost blew the camera into pieces. Next, we had to find a way to edit them, right?

So we started playing with iMovie and I loved it, so much that I would make stop-motion movies with all my toys and couldn’t wait to edit them. Around the same time, a school friend who also was into computers showed me a cool software called Macromedia Flash, and I saw that you could do frame-by-frame animation using that.

I also discovered that the awesome Xiao Xiao animations were done in Flash, so I started to create my own little stick figure animations and began to fall in love with smooth animations, which led me to learn the basics of web design using Flash. I made a lot of personal sites that (thankfully) never saw the light of day.

I was always following awesome flash sites (those preloaders!) posted on sites like theFWA which somehow led me to animated videos and eventually motionographer. Once I saw motion graphics, I just knew that was it, so I learned After Effects, partly by watching some tutorials (Andrew Kramer, of course), but mostly just by clicking around to see how things could work.

After that, we moved to Mexico, I finished high school, packed groceries at a supermarket, worked at a game center/cyber-cafe, and pretended I knew what I was doing when my mom got me my first animated job for a friend of hers. (Thanks, mom!). During that time, there was a VFS/YouTube scholarship competition that I made a video for. I did not expect to make it to the semifinals, let alone be one of the three winners. It really was a true blessing from God. So I moved to Vancouver for a year, had an amazing group of talented classmates which I learned so much from and spent almost my entire year inside the classrooms, animating!

One of the animations I made, Crazy Enough, got me an email from Buck to do an internship in Los Angeles. 

“I was hesitant (or maybe just afraid) but I said yes.”

After a couple of months of interning I was offered a full-time job there as an animator and designer, so I stayed for a year. After that, I came back to Vancouver to be with my now-wife, but I needed a job, so I emailed the awesome people at Giant Ant and Jay & Leah were crazy enough to take me in!

I started there as an animator and later on became an associate creative director. And now, after over four and a half years at that amazing company, I’ve now taken the intimidating leap to go solo and follow new dreams.

Who are some of the inspiring mo-graph artists that you look up to and why?

Some of my first heroes (which are still my heroes today). Adam Gault’s reel of 2007 blew my mind and made me want to do stuff like that, his sense of rhythm and smooth animation made me absolutely hate my work! He’s now Creative Director at Block & Tackle.

Chris Kelly – his videos showed me that abstract animation could go a long way, he was one of the best back then, and he’s definitely one of the best today. Today, he is one of the main heads at Oddfellows.

So so many more! Phil Borst, Marcus Eckert and how could I skip older heroes that I wish I knew when I started, particularly Oskar Fischinger!

I feel like there are more and more amazing motion designers I look up to every day, everybody keeps getting better and it’s kinda terrifying! But also super awesome!

If you could go back and tell a younger version of yourself to do 3 things that would help your motion design career, what would those three things be and why?

Remind me that there’s not always a “right” way of doing something. I felt like sometimes I got caught up with the limitations of the software or being stuck on something, thinking “If I only knew how to do it the right way.”

There are a million ways of doing something, especially in our field, so don’t let that limit your ideas. I’d like to say this: 

“Acknowledge your limitations but don’t conform to them.”

Some of the best projects I’ve worked on and the ones I’ve enjoyed the most have been the ones in which I recognized that I wouldn’t be the best fit to do everything all on my own. I’m not as good a designer as some amazing people I know, so sometimes it’s better for me to recognize my limits and work with someone that will absolutely kill it, and we can make something awesome together. That said, I also want to push my limits, so I try to learn more and more about everything, even the stuff I’m not the best at.

This takes time. I sometimes look back at the work I did when I was a teenager, and think oh man… it really really sucked. But one thing that helped me, and still does, was to always look for something better than my work. It helps me to set the bar so high that I will always have a long, long, long way to go, and that to get there will take a long time and a lot of work. (But don’t forget that the amount of work is not what really matters.)

Where do you look for design inspiration? 

Like I mentioned earlier, I need to set the bar really high so I look everywhere I can! These days it looks like following some amazing people on Vimeo and Pinterest and keeping everything that is awesome in the Wine after Coffee channel I created for that very purpose.

What other things inspire you outside of the design world?

Ah, so many things, my wife, playing with my son, amazing music, spending time just surrounded by nature, enjoying God’s blessings, riding my bike, a good glass of fresh orange juice…

Speaking of inspiration, what do you do if you’re stuck in a creative rut?

I talk with my amazing wife. She helps me see the bigger picture, she prays for me and makes me laugh. How awesome is that? I also watch my little son as he creates and just “is” without caring about the superficial things, and reminds me what the important things really are. It also helps to get away from the computer, which I like to do on Sundays.

“Another thing that helps is to just start putting down the first ideas that come to my head, then share it with someone else and hear what works or what does not.”

That said, this all comes after I’ve been feeling kinda miserable for a little while, thinking I suck at everything, then snapping out of it and trying to do one or all of the above.

You have a wide variety of work, but you also have a certain style that is reflected in your work. How did you develop your own voice as an artist?

I don’t know if I have my own voice; I find hard to believe that someone can completely “own” a style, and I often think most styles are just remixes of other styles!

All I can say is that I really do love abstract shapes, fluid animation, a close relation to audio and detail-oriented keyframing. I like to think that those things can be seen in my work and that it was developed by just doing what I love doing.

If someone told you they wanted to be a motion designer, where would you recommend they get their education? Art school? Online? Apprenticeship? And why?

I’ve encountered so many different paths in this industry that I don’t know if I have an answer that is for everybody. But I do think there’s something to be said about the great new online schools now; the quality and community you get in them are absolutely amazing.

I wish there were these courses when I started; I would explore them before any two or four year education. But I only went to college for six months before I went to VFS, so I don’t really know what I missed.

How about making their way in the industry? You recently struck out on your own. How did you make that decision and how can other artists follow in your footsteps?

I’ve had a dream of starting my own thing for many many years now, even before school, and I am so thankful that up to this point I’ve been able to work with some of the most talented people in the industry, in two of (what I would consider) the best studios for motion design. I like to think that I was able to have those opportunities, not because I was trying to do work I wanted them to see as interesting, but by just doing the work that inspired me and attempting to make pieces I would be proud of.

For me, it was just a matter of time before I took this scary new step. I’m just freelance at the moment, but by eventually starting a new studio, I want to help build whatever is next. I honestly have no idea what it’s going to look like, but I’m excited to find out and collaborate with as many amazing people out there as possible while I’m at it.

“Hopefully, after many years pass, I will be able to look back and not just consider the quality of the work that was done, but how it was done, with whom, for what, and how my work life helped me to enjoy the important things in life.”

What are some of your favorite and most used plugins/scripts in After Effects? And if you could change one thing about AE what would it be?

For many years I’ve been quite the purist when it comes to AE, not many plugins and basic scripts. I still am when it comes to keyframing and animation because I don’t think anything will beat that. Ever.

But I definitely use a lot of timesavers and scripts here and there. I also have this public google doc with the expressions I use most and some that people have added as well.

Of course, I also have a list of things that could change for AE, but that would be a whole different article! For now, I’ll just say that After Effects CC is still the best.

What are the biggest pains about being a mo-graph designer and animator?

I think being afraid, being afraid of not being good enough. Being afraid of not getting better or being stuck. Of starting because the project might not end up being what you want it to be. But it’s all part of it. And to be honest, interviews like this make me feel so undeserving, and that also can feed the fear, since I know so many far better motion designers than me. So I find it’s better to try not to give in to those fears, and instead to aim to do good work that I am happy with and to be okay knowing that might not happen, but that the process is what will help me to improve.

Where do you think the future of motion graphics is headed?

Eighty-five years ago, Fischinger was doing some stuff that we could see on Vimeo today. I think the heart of motion graphics won’t change much, but the overlap with other fields, the outputs, the tools that we use and the actual use of it will always be changing and evolving (thankfully).

Whether that’s exporting lines of code instead of a rendered video, 360 videos instead of 1920×1080, or whatever it is that we haven’t even invented yet. But I do think that animation is a part of our very beings, and that won’t go away. (It better not!)

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? What are you working on now, and how does it fit into your long-term goals?

For now, I’m just freelancing while I figure this whole new studio idea out. I’m also working with our amazing team, planning the next Blend. Like I said before, hopefully I’ll be able to look back to today and see that the risks taken were not in vain, that something new and awesome was created and that I’ve helped to shape the industry in a better way—but most importantly, that I’ve become a better husband, a better father and that I’ve been able to give the important things in life the time and love they deserve.

We are all looking forward to watching Canedo’s studio take shape in the coming years, and always looking forward to being inspired by the great work he puts out and everything he has a hand in.