Animation and Civil Engineering: The Similarities and the Differences

As you may (or may not have noticed), I am not an animator. Never have and have never really had any desire to be one either. Why I have such a deep passion for animation is still beyond me. I suppose my response to the question why cartoons has always been the same as Frederator’s: "Because we like cartoons. They’re fun." They are fun and I like fun things, so that makes perfect sense.

Not being an animator means I must be something else. Which is true. I am in fact, a civil engineer by trade. Do you know a civil engineer? I doubt it. We can be a very boring bunch at times, in fact civil engineering has been considered the most boring of the engineering professions. So I guess that’s the first difference between animation and civil engineering: only one is exciting!

I suppose another difference is that animation allows folks to work on personal projects in their spare time. Sure a couple of my lecturer’s in college did some moonlighting on the side, but for the most part civil engineers don’t do much civil engineering outside of work. Animators on the other hand are more than able to indulge in personal projects after hours. As I’ve mentioned before, animators can do much more than just animation and I certainly admire them for that. I on the other hand can’t exactly go out and design my own road or bridge or whatever late at night and show off to the public upon completion!

The other difference is that civil engineers generally become professional. In other words, they’re skills are recognized by a professional organization. Besides, it’s required in just about every country around the world that as an engineer, you must pass a proficiency test to ensure that you know what you are doing. We’ve had enough examples of engineering oopsies with the likes of Tacoma Narrows. Of course, those were signed off on by a registered engineer, not a guy barely three years out of school! Animation on the other hand, has no such professional recognitions. Sure the union may recognize experience in their pay scale, and promotion to a more senior position is surely a sign of your talents. But there is no yardstick by which these skills are measured. This is surely because as an artform, animation skills vary greatly between individuals. Some may get it right straight out of school, such as Pendleton Ward with Adventure Time. Others can take a couple of years to get there such as Larry Huber with ChalkZone. Yeah I know, he isn’t an animator, but the same logic applies.

There is not much point in focusing too much on the differences. Both professions after all allow folks to earn a living and pursue a rewarding career. So what are the similarities? Well, I’m going out on a limb here, so if you see any mistakes, please feel free to comment.

The first is school. Many students study animation not so much to learn the necessary skills, but to learn how to use them effectively. School plays a very important role, in fact a necessary one for civil engineers. The days of getting hired and working your way up are practically over. Today, a Bachelors degree is a key requirement to getting hired. Animation is similar for the most part. A degree in animation can certainly help you land a job and schools more often than not give students the resources to create their own projects in addition to their schoolwork. I have seen a good few examples of student’s schoolwork helping them launch a career for themselves afterward. In fact, Cartoon Brew is currently holding their first ever student film festival and so far, the results have been fantastic.

Another similarity, is that both professions undertake paid work that is for other parties. In my case it is often for the state of federal government. I do the work, I get paid for it and they take the finished product and do what they need to do with it. Animation is very similar, especially if one works in a studio on a production either for the studio itself or its client. At the end of the day though, it is exciting for both to see the finished product, be it a TV show, feature film or the W-beam crash barrier you put in front of the light pole.

The most important similarity is networking. I can’t emphasize it enough. I know in civil engineering oyu can land a job based on your merits, but you stand a much, much better chance if you know somebody. Why this is, I cannot say. I kinda wish more was placed on what skills you have, but we are humans after all and as such we’re a very social, personal bunch. That’s not to say that you have to be part of an old boys club, oh no. As with animation, networking can open many opportunities that you otherwise would not have known about. Perhaps someone you know casually mentions that a position has opened up at their firm and they think you would be a good fit for the job. Or someone you know needs you to give them a reference or vice versa. In both civil engineering and animation, there are many events that you can meet new people. Professional organizations in both areas are a great starting point and also help you connect with people who have similar interests to yourself.

So there you have it. Civil engineering and animation. Two professions that may appear far apart at first, but actually have plenty in common.

2 thoughts on “Animation and Civil Engineering: The Similarities and the Differences

  • Hi Charles,

    I am in the same boat as your good self. I developed an interest in animation while doing a degree in Civil & Transportation Engineering. Because there was no work when I was leaving I decided to do a masters in Environmental Sustainability. While doing the masters I landed two jobs with engineering firms making 3D animations of there Steel buildings and renewable technology products.

    Its my opinion that companies now need to look more and more professional and more organised by using sucj means as 3D animations for tendering.

    Kind Regards,
    Jay Jay

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