Are we upon the age of the Generalist?


I also fall into this generalist role, but the even greater problem with this i see is that employers think that if joe blow can do 5 different design jobs then the single jobs aren’t worth as much. Or think your an expert at all programs because you know your way around them.


Interesting Thread!

I myself am in a small shop, 3 guys and the boss! and we do a bit of everything!

I find it better than doing something i don’t like doing all the time, but it would be better if i could do something i like doing all the time :smiley:

That said i feel that i am spread too thin which is the main problem with being a jack of all trades master of none! although similar jobs seem to have similar requirements so maybe its just me moaning.

On the other hand maybe we are seeing a convergence of computer graphics in the same way you get convergence of technology! this is being exasperated by the likes of adobe who are selling the creative suits that are filled with powerful “complicated” professional packages with single seat licenses. to learn all the applications in there biggest bundle would take like 3 years.

You get a Desktop Publishing package, vector-art package, raster-based package, vector animation package, composting package, effects package …!
not to mention almost all the packages have multiple uses

This is a very young industry and to make things harder it gets reborn ever 2-3 years with something “New and Revolutionary”, just keeping up is seen as a “Key Skill”


I think being a generalist is more fun, when i finnish a model i always like to see it move so i try to animate it, I usually fail in doing anything good, because i never put enough time into it with it but i have alot of fun trying.

I think there is a special joy in taking part of all aspects of a project from designing to animation and rendering.


I also have to agree that it seems artists at small shops have always needed to wear multiple hats -to be CG “generalists”.

However, If anything has changed over the years, I think the bar for “quality” images and animation has obviously gone up substantially. Perhaps project timelines are shorter?

Either way, producing higher quality or faster results requires learning and using a broader array of more specialized toolsets than before. Where somebody might have done EVERYTHING in 3DSMAX or Maya before, now they are using additional specialized tools for particles, tracking, compositing, etc… Not to mention, having an artist who can develop scripts and write shaders is becoming essential for any small facility that needs to maximize efficiency.

This requires more knowledge from the “generalist” and means that he or she must work harder to learn more tools and workflow processes.

Am I off base here?


It’s not just a trend in CG. At the office, we used to look for “driver guys”, or “middleware guys”, or “A/V guys”, or “UI guys”. Now, you’d better know 3-4 programming languages, at least one scripting language, and be able to work on 2-3 layers (and understand all the others) before you even get an in-person interview!

I know why we’re doing it - money. If we can get one guy that’s good at 2-3 different areas, we save personnel costs (and people costs are typically the biggest expense, it is for us).

I can understand a small operation wanting to keep costs under control AND be more flexible, so a decent generalist or three would certainy be A Good Thing™.


I’ve always been more of a generalist, but that mostly comes from not ever having the opportunity to specialize. So I can’t really say that I enjoy being a generalist more since I haven’t been on the other side of the fence, but I can say that I love getting to put everything together. The biggest downside I’ve found I think has been mentioned here before, where because people see that you can do a little bit of everything it makes it tough because they all of a sudden assume you are a master at everything. When in reality, you’re a master at nothing. :slight_smile:


I work for a small studio and almost everyone on our team take a generalist role in order for our projects to be completed on time and on budget. For instance, I would consider myself a specialist in modeling and texturing but much of my time is spent setting up scenes, lighting, animating, post, etc. I have also done graphic design work for brochures, tradeshow graphics, dvd covers, as well as web development, dvd menus, flash video etc.

I would prefer to be a specialist but when one works for a small studio I believe that becoming a generalist is a necessary evil. Lucky we have a very talented team so the quality of work doesn’t really suffer.


Seems a bit strange to do this, almost going against the grain. What happened to structure in firms / studios? The whole horizontal format thing doesn’t work in my opinion. You end up with too many chiefs and not enough indians.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic to know a bunch of programs rather than one, or be good at a bunch of things but I do think it helps to have specialists do what they are good at in order to get a quality product.


but I do think it helps to have specialists do what they are good at in order to get a quality product.

A generalist can be a specialist. A specialist can be a generalist. From getting a job point of view, it’s about how you can market your skills.

An artist with experience and portfolio can market themselves either way, whatever’s the most beneficial for them. Why focus one’s job hunt on dwindling and super competitive animation jobs when (if you have the chops) apply for other roles/positions too.

Having said that…

A game generalist artist doesn’t have exactly the same role and responsibilites as a film/tv vfx generalist artist have. Example, on location camera and lighting data gathering, setting up where greenscreen and markers go, etc.


My experience has been that the larger companies (not just in the CGI industry) are organised by HR people who like specialists because they are easy to categorize to meet headcount requirements.

I think when shops are tight for budget - as we’re seeing now - they will always prefer to have less people be capable of more.

I think Its encouraging for both parties to have a working knowledge of what each other does. They dont necessarily need to know it enoug to help in a crunch, but enough to be able to share ideas at the same level and know each others’ requirements/constraints.


Yea, I don’t doubt that, but just like talking on your cell phone and driving your car. It’s probably best to focus on one thing at a time to do it to the best of your ability. Just my opinion though.


I don’t disagree.

Just saying too that one can have a generalist day job, under the all-in-one title of “3d artist” and for a side job/ freelance, work or get gigs as a specialist (model for a service bureau or outsourcing company for example).

In other words, in a recession having more skills = more opportunities to acquire jobs for yourself.


I’ve always felt like a generalist, but I think it’s still important to have one area where you aim to excel… like others have said. I think that probably works in a lot of cases… you sketch something, you model it, texture it, light it, render it, heck, maybe even throw it on a website, but really, you may feel like your best at modeling, okay in texturing, and a bit weak in lighting.

Beyond that sort of pipeline- sketching idea to final render- when employers start wanting more, it gets a bit ridiculous. When they start wanting multiple programming languages, flash experience, hardcore web design, photography, knowledge about setting up networks, creating plugins, etc. etc- all of that on top of the standard skillset is just a company pipe dream. It’s like saying, “I want you to be a doctor that specializes in cancer, neurology, and immunology, but I also want you to be a dentist and a plumber, too.” It’s just too much.

I can understand it, though. It’s a lot more expensive to hire a programmer, a 3D arist, a web designer, and a IT guy, than it is to try and get one person do to all those things. In the end, I think it only hurts themselves (the company)… there just aren’t enough hours in a lifetime to become good, let alone masterful in every single discipline. If a company hires someone that claims they can do all those things, that employee is bound to have lackluster results in at least one or more areas.

Anyways, just my thoughts on the matter.


Interesting. I’ve worked in several small shops and i’ve had different experiences. I’ve had to specialize and work in one area(animation) at some, and i’ve had to be a generalist at others. So I guess my perspective is that this hasn’t changed.


This makes no sense.


so far this year i’ve been hired as a freelance retoucher, photographer, animator(3d), compositor and my current gig is as a matte-painter. i’ve stopped categorizing myself.
i just say i manipulate images, still or moving, nowadays. and charge ridiculous amounts of money… ha! (what recession?)


I think this is a misperception Roberto, that you have to be a “master” of all. “Huge number of skils”? Gaaawd man :slight_smile:

Maybe this is why it scares long time one role guys from simply brushing up on other areas of the production. What, people are scared of unwrapping or rigging from scratch? Do they think it will make them rusty with their main skill?

A lot of lead artist and cg director positions are basically generalist roles (or grounded in multi-disciplines) if you think about it.


I agree.

Human Resources departments often don’t understand the position. A good HR person will at least try to, but most don’t understand the technical requirements. Thats why you get a lot of “superhero” requirements on job listings as Kdubayoo spoke of. They do that to discourage grossly unqualified people, reducing the number of submissions and make their job easier. Otherwise, they look for keywords only pertaining to the position they are trying to fill. They might frown upon someone with more diverse experience becaus they are “not as focused”. In the end it all depends on who is reviewing the resumes.

It is a really screwed up way to hire. All the more reason why networking is the best way to go.


I don’t think much has changed. If you’re a Problem Solver - you’re a generalist.
If you run a small shop or take on jobs others have dropped, you need to wear multiple hats.
If there’s going to be a problem it’s going to be a demand in proficiency (Hello 2009).
People and/or companies having to do more with less - for less.

Then there’s also a big difference between “wanting to” learn more and “having to” learn more.


It’s really good to have generalist skills, because you leave job market open for you. I also believe that except extremely talented borderline geniuses, most of fresh people should do a generalist job for a year or so, just to learn how different things work together. All these fresh out of school animators who will never touch the rigging or even simple rendering… well… good luck.

Personally (despite my current job where I animate only), I always liked to be generalist, but with strong emphasis on thhings I like the most. I’d never touch anything outside pure 3D tho, no html, no flash coding, no graphic design. It’s like asking a vet to cure a human or something…
Did the market change? I don’t think so, it’s always been like that.