Posted 02 February 2021
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Introduction by Siham Ali

The labour you provide should always be compensated: Motion and 3D designer TR Bennett

Multidisciplinary motion designer TR Bennett is the first to admit that, starting out, it can be tough to adjust to taking on client work that doesn’t represent your interests as a creative. Instead, for TR, it’s all about finding a balance; taking on work that allows you to make what you’re passionate about in the long run. As a graduate of Kingston University’s graphic design course, their career started out with a two-year stint at brand consultancy, Wolff Olins, before later going freelance. From the importance of chasing up emails, saying ‘no’ to unpaid work and using social media as an additional reference in interviews, TR shares the finer details of what's needed to pursue a career in motion and 3D design.

TR Bennett

TR Bennett

Job Title

Freelance Motion and 3D Designer
Multidisciplinary artist




Spice Girls, MTV, Intermission

Previous Employment

Designer, Wolff Olins


BA Graphic Design, Kingston University (2012–2016


Social Media

What I do

How would you describe what you do?
I’m a motion and 3D designer, I’m generally either making stuff move or making them 3D.
In my spare time, I practice woodblock printmaking.

If you could sum up your job in an image or meme what would it be and why?
I think this (below, left) speaks for itself.

What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
A fun pen holder made by my pal Jules Zuckerberg (below, right). It’s the first one they did and they now do them as commissions!

TR’s chosen meme
Pen holder made by Jules Zuckerbeg on TR’s desk

What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
Stylish, techy, pop culture stuff like Wipeout (the PS1 game, not the game show), Jet Set Radio, and Evangelion. I love anything with a strong, characterful motion to it, so this got me wanting to look and explore graphics and motion design.

Later I got into more conceptual and critical applications of film and graphics, mostly from (Dutch design studio) Metahaven and the documentary work of Adam Curtis. Nowadays, I have a healthy mix of both. I keep up with the theory (both design and political) while also allowing myself to indulge my pulpier interests.

What’s been your favourite project to work on, from the past year, and why?
The last big project I worked on before COVID hit was the MTV EMAs, where I got to fly out to Seville with Studio Moross. It was a great place to be, even if most of it was spent working inside a shipping container. In a way, it was good prep for working in a singular room for long periods. I was working with a very small team, so while the pressure was very much on, communication was very easy.

A snippet from the MTV EMAs in Seville
A still from the Spice World 2019 tour. TR worked on stage visuals with a team at Studio Moross. Photograph by Timmsy

How I got here

Would you say you need any specific training for what you do?
I’ve always loved animation, so I’ve been familiar with the key principles for a while, but a lot of the finer details are things I’ve worked out along the way.

The work requires knowledge of animation principles, shot composition, 3D software, typography principles, and some knowledge of what file types work with each other. There’s a lot of numbers involved in all of this, but as someone who barely scraped a C in GCSE maths, I can confidently say that you don’t need to be a mathematician to do what I do.

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
Something I will say is that financial and educational privilege did a lot of the legwork in getting me going. I was able to land a graphic design job that paid 28k a year straight out of uni and a lot of that came down to being nominated by tutors at Kingston. It wasn’t as simple as going to uni and working hard; I was afforded the luxury of time, and I just happen to be one of the people it worked out for.

That being said, there were things I found difficult about starting ‘real world’ work. The biggest one was the switch from idealistic conceptual university work that was heavily theoretical, to a world where the client is front and centre. It can be difficult to emotionally divorce yourself from work that you may not feel represents you and just get on with it. As time went on, I found ways to see the less fitting projects as ways to fund the work I wanted to do at a later date.

Logo animation for Intermission, a new coffee company in Hampstead Heath. Original static illustration by Tomi Um

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be, and why?
The first is a book called Against Creativity by Oli Mould. The title sounds like the last thing a designer should want to read, but it offers a great insight into what I mentioned above; examining the meaning of creative thought and the way it has been co-opted to generate social and literal capital. It’s part of the job, but it’s worth recognising and being critical about.

The second is a printmaker called Dave Bull. He’s got a YouTube channel where he talks about the history of Mokuhanga [traditional water-based printing technique] and shares his tips. He has a big Bob Ross vibe, so while inspiring me to do more slow, physical print work as an antidote to my screen-based day job, he’s also great to listen to while working.

Lastly, being friends with a lot of very talented people has been useful. Whether they’re friends I’ve met through work, people I’ve met through similar artistic interests, or people I play Dungeons & Dragons with, knowing so many people that are talented and interested in various things has been great.

“The social pressures that come from working in a business can be very daunting.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Probably the realisation that the industry is, well... an industry. The social pressures that come from working in a business can be very daunting. You’re not just working for yourself: people are paying you for that work and whatever is made at the end of the project goes out into the real world.

The way I got over this was to remember that you’re not solely responsible for the work: most of the time you’ll be working with a group of people, so being open to critique and discussion helps to relieve that pressure.

Print work by TR, print work, made to try out printing with separate blocks and registration marks

How important would you say social media and self-promotion are to your work? Do you have any advice or learnings to share?
I rarely get a job specifically from social media, but it’s a good place to put any tests or sketches that wouldn’t work in a portfolio, so I often bring it up as a supplementary reference in interviews. I also keep up with people I’ve worked with at other studios on there.

The downside of this is the mental health effects that social media can have. We all know the tropes by now: only seeing the best parts of people’s lives, waiting anxiously for likes, seeing work by peers that seems impossible to achieve yourself. I don’t have an answer to this, because I don’t think anyone does yet.

The most helpful I’ve found social media is with my work for (Queer direct-action group) Voices4, as it’s a great tool for disseminating information on pressing issues, but even then, the sheer saturation of online content can easily drown that out.

“The most important thing for any creative to realise is that you provide labour that should always be compensated by your employer.”

GIF made for a Voices4 post on queer mental health

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
The most important thing for any creative to realise is that you provide labour that should always, and I mean always be compensated by your employer. That means no unpaid internships, no “for-exposure” work, and no unpaid overtime. People hire you to produce work that will make them a profit, so any attempt to deny you that is exploitation. It can sometimes be difficult to assert yourself, as it’s become normal for people to expect artists to work ‘for the passion’, but that passion is for the work you want to create, not an excuse for someone not to pay you.

My exception to this is my volunteer work with Voices4, as it’s a non-profit group that I co-run with other contributors for the sake of amplifying issues we feel are important.

How did you go about landing your first commissions?
Before and during university, I made money doing illustration commissions online. This gave me a bit of advanced experience in charging and making clients aware of that upfront. I did some design commissions while at university, which was hard to juggle as the course already had me putting in work on evenings and weekends. I completely burnt myself out a few times, which was a harsh learning curve. I realised breaks and downtime are crucial in any line of work, even if it’s something you’re very driven by.

I worked full-time for two years after uni, so when that job ended and no full-time positions were going, I used the experience I already had to go freelance, which gave me more spare time to take breaks and work on personal work.

TR’s workspace

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Chase up emails! There have been so many times where I haven’t got a reply for an application, sent a follow-up email, and then got the booking. People in HR positions are swamped with emails, and some just slip through the net. I sometimes miss emails myself, and people are generally very understanding.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role to you?
If you want to learn 3D, get Blender. It’s 100% free and it’s open-source with thousands of custom plugins and user forums. I taught myself how to use it for some projects at uni and since then I’ve used it on nearly every professional job.

At some point, you’ll probably have to learn C4D because most studios use that in their work pipeline by default, but the skills are mostly transferrable (Blender is much better for modelling, whereas C4D has better render output options).

Stock up on references of all kinds. While I mostly work in motion graphics, I take inspiration from traditional animation, character and concept design, games, even just observing movement in everyday life.

Lastly, have something else outside of work. As your favourite pastime becomes a career, the fun can be drained as income and client expectations take precedent over personal vision. Having something outside of this framework allows you to keep that self-driven part of you going.

Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Introduction by Siham Ali