Working on Your Own Stuff

This has been my internal battle since I got into design. When you clock up the hours of work that is for someone else, you slowly build up a longing to try something new.

When I get home, I tend to make sure that I've actually unwinded. After working solid hours, it's easy to try keep going but you have to try and switch off, or else it catches up with you. This was my issue at first, when I started in the industry. I would keep getting a lust for new things, whenever I seen projects on Behance. I then started planning out long projects, I would try and schedule in. This failed miserably. Instead of actually making any progress on them, I just hated myself. I would then feel guilty when I took time out, watching TV or just relaxing. I seen pass time activities as a digression from progress. It made me pretty ill a few times and I started getting into a place where I felt backed up against a wall.

So, after a few break down moments, it kept echoing in my head that I needed to slow the fuck down.

New years resolution; Stop caring. I took a couple of months off from doing any personal work. I just focused entirely on work at the agency; This was exactly what I needed. I left my work in the office and chilled at night. It was the perfect balance that put my mind at ease. I felt way more stress-free and started really enjoying time with friends and family.

After my little break from personal work, I slowly started getting back into it. A few start up projects burned and crashed quickly but the ones that did take off, were the ones that are quick, easy and satisfying. Thats when I started using Instagram as my go to place for sharing work. I moved away from Behance and started doing micro projects.

It occurred to me that the ideas I have, are just not feasible, unless you had dedicated time and money. Thats when we come back to client work.

I would rather develop my skills and try pitch these ideas to clients, instead of trying to execute it myself, with very limited time and money. In my ideal world, I would post work online, my colleagues or clients see this work and then I'm on the table for doing it professionally. It's really just showing your wares and making sure people know what you can do. That way, the work will come! 

This is my new profound meaning of life. I'm still working on big projects but they're more Edinburgh trams style work; slow and never gets done. But I'm okay with that. Because Im still sharing the work and even if it takes a year to make, it still gets done.

Short Animation - Falling

I started this concept pretty much a couple weeks back and it went from one little illustration, to a full moving animation.

I've always had a strange fascination of empty spaces. The idea of what what you can find in unknown places, if you embrace it. This animation touches on that subject. Following the linear path of one characters misplaced step into total darkness and what he finds along the way. Stylistically, it's similar to a lot of things I've done in the past and Cinema4d is just a new tool to explore that style. There is a lot of trial and error with this approach and it doesn't always work out great. However, I've managed to keep the look of it, clean and minimal (which makes it easier to render).

I feel like making something like this is almost more therapeutic, than about the portfolio. I love the feeling of putting something out there and getting a reaction.

Frustration is a Good Thing

When I was a student, I found myself on many occasions, frustrated, agitated and feeling like I was not trying hard enough. At the time, I blamed this on the course. Being given unrealistic deadlines and never fully feeling satisfied. However, it's coming up to 2 years now since my departure from the course and I've realised that this conditioning that I was put through, was exactly what I needed.

The last time I felt that frustrated, was when I was in a dead end job, which led me to joining college and building a portfolio. This frustration makes you act. If I was contempt with the way things are, I would never be in the place that I am now. And even as I work at my dream job, I am still constantly trying to improve as a person and as a designer. 

I made a lot of mistakes in my life but I also learned a lot too. My course at Napier felt like an experience more than anything. It was almost a wake up call to me that there is something that I could pursue here. Unfortunately it had it's ups and downs but when I think of where I am today, I have the Graphic Design course at Napier to thank for that. If I wasn't so invested in the course, I wouldn't have learned as much as I did.

Frustration is good. Sometimes a shock to the system is just what you need, to put you on the right track.

Portfolio Update

I recently decided to update my website. I made this decision because It was proving to be a bit strenuous on loading the pages but mostly because it was just a stripped back version of my Behance. In fact, it was less up to date than my Behance, defeating the purpose of having a website.

I've been thinking a lot about the outlets for posting work. Behance is certainly the best one for it's connection to the rest of the community. But then you have Instagram, which is connected to everyone. So using those two outlets can be great for directing people to the website. However, that would be great if there was any reason for doing so. The website was looking out of date and I was even considering shutting it down due to the lack of attention I was giving it.

So this leads me to my new layout. I've stripped away the large scrolling pages and gone for an instagram-esque tile layout. It works great for giving a flavour of what I do, whilst allowing me to post big and small projects. Before I was restricted to large projects only, but this lets me post the small afternoon drawings or late night renders. I see my work now as texture. At first glance, people are getting a taste of what I do and as they scroll down, they're starting to see a pattern/ texture. It gives a much wider perception of my work and is very easy to navigate. At some point I will add captions for each one but for now, I don't think it's urgent. If anyone really wanted to learn about the clients I've done work for or the process, they just need to go on my Behance.

So there's the reasoning behind my drastic change in layout. Hopefully I can be less frustrated on not producing enough bigger side projects and enjoy the smaller pieces of work.

Designing ScotlandVR

ScotlandVR launched recently, with the full power of VisitScotland's PR team. It appeared on news websites, social media, blogs and even featured in a good few newspapers. It was also featured on Behance (my favourite one so far). And it's still building traction as we speak. It's fantastic and really exciting to know it's being seen. Especially after the sweat and tears that went into making the app. We worked on the app for roughly 6 months. However, that isn't 6 months straight. Me and Chris Ward, who were at the core of the development, were working on other things through out it. So time wasn't our friend.

In the beginning there was sort of an idea...

When we took on the brief, the idea was for it to be VR and to showcase locations around Scotland. That was it. As for how we were going to achieve this; it wasn't clear. We sketched and prototyped different ways in which this could be achieved. We realised that if it was going to be used with a cardboard headset, it was going to have to utilise the feature and be immersive. So we developed the idea of bringing these models into an established environment, which would allow the users to be immersed in the world around them, whilst discovering the models. That is when the 'pool' concept came in. A circular pool that sits infront of the user, like a hub; something static and familiar that the user would return to through out. This process would not have been possible without us trying and testing in Unity, extensively. For example, the concept would look good on paper but would just fall flat when it was prototyped. We also had a crazy idea of transporting people inside each model. So when they would look around, they would realise they were standing inside the small model they were also looking down at. For us, this was a pretty weird idea that looked awesome. However, it would have been too confusing for users and so we scrapped the idea pretty quickly.

Graphic Designer in a VR's world

It goes without saying, I had never worked on a VR app before. So designing the User interface in app, proved to be a whole new challenge. UI design in a 360 environment needs to be minimal/ near non- existent. You don't want people just bogged down with menu's in a 360 world. We also had to keep in mind the lack of controls that people have when in VR mode. On cardboard mode, there was only the button at the top right. The legibility was also a key factor in designing the layout and type treatment. This is where we developed the concept for the 'minority report wall' (which it was unofficially called throughout). This is where the content lived. The wall also had to be built in a way that allowed additional content to be added in the near future. We also decided to have a mobile version that would allow users to just use their fingers instead. This was the biggest challenge of them all. To make it seamlessly work with your fingers and to have all the gestures and movements work together, was very tricky. We also had to design separately for each mode, as they would not be perceived the same way. I personally feel it was worth while having the mobile mode but the app really shines when viewed in cardboard mode. This decision was made after user feedback from random people in the street. They all tried to interact with the app in different ways. The gyroscope feature was the most confusing for people. We also originally had a button in the corner, where you would click whilst hovering your reticule over something. This proved too difficult and fidgety. People wanted to directly click onto the thing they were interacting with on screen, so thats when we stripped the UI back even more.

Building in 3D without knowing how to

When I was briefed about the project, It was at a time where I had no idea how to use Cinema 4D or any 3d program's for that matter. So I was booked in for 2 weeks of 'learning 3D'. It's a slight daunting reality that you have such a big project ahead of you and it hinders on you learning Cinema4D. However, I could not have chosen a better way to learn it. Graeme Sutherland, the Motion Graphics team leader, did a crash course with me, which was a very quick succession of information, over the two weeks. Because of this, I now have it engrained into my head, the best and quickest ways of building 3D models. Learning the shortcuts from day one, is essential for jumping in the deep end. Having this knowledge was just the beginning of my 3D learning; Unity was another ball game entirely. Chris Ward was familiar with Unity, but he hadn't done something like this before. So it was a learning curve for both of us. We had to work as a close team, when implementing the models/ animations into Unity. This took a lot of hours preparing the geometry of each model and cleaning the C4D files of unused materials and effects. It was a team effort that I believe was the reason the app is looking the way it is. We discussed and brainstormed every tiny detail, until it was just right. This was also the case when working with XDesign; the company behind building the app. It was absolutely essential that our designs we sent to XDesign, would come out in the build, the way it was meant to. This was a good experience for learning the process and challenges of collaborating with an external company and understanding the process of how an app like this is built. There's a long process of user feedback and testing. Something that is very dominant in an app likethis. 

In the end we built our first VR app

Personally this project was a great experience. It helped me develop and expand my skills. I always aim to learn and take in new experiences, but this really let me know what I was capable of. It's not a route I want to solely go down; I couldn't see myself designing games/apps for the rest of my life. But what I can see, is designing with a new understanding of the most current platforms and technologies. VR might be a flash in the pan or it might become huge. Either way, I now have the skill set to work in that environment and to be able to say I can design/ build in 3D space, if the project requires it. I am always a graphic designer above all else. I don't agree with being one or the other. These program's and mediums, are simply just outlets for our stories and designs. I strongly think that having the knowledge of these tools, helps a lot in creative control. If you want to see your idea fully realised, do it yourself. 

Goals n that

My plan for 2017 was to do less and focus more on doing less and being happy for doing less. Instead, I've found myself doing a lot...

So new plan: Do what I want to do but don't care too much.

An issue I had before was constantly living in a place where time was my enemy and I wasn't playing out enough of my ideas. You would think that was mad considering where I work but I'm talking about those kind of ideas that you've had stored away for months/ years. Or the ideas that come in your head as you walk home and the ones that make you so damn excited to being a designer. And dare I say, those ideas that may just inspire others.

I took on an idea of doing portraits every day for the next year. However, I ended up getting quite badly ill for a good week and then I took another week to recover. By the time I was better, the portraits was literally the last thing I wanted to do. However, I feel the idea is still strong enough to run with, so I'm going to continue the portraits, in the comfort of my own time and space. The idea was to post them on Facebook every day, but I'm now going to post them infrequently and in bulk. The added pressure of people I haven't spoke to in years, seeing their portrait, was a little bit too much for an everyday occurrence.

So... Hopefully 2017 is the year I find a balance. One where I feel happy and satisfied. I definitely want to start being more care free and less uptight about stuff.

R

2016 Debrief

It goes without saying that 2016 was a pretty shit year. Politically speaking. However, it's hard to not let that over shadow all the good things this year.

For me personally, it was my first year in the design industry, working for a studio that I've grown to love. And it wasn't too long ago that I was working at a dead end job, doing something that was a means to an end. I cherish every day at my job and I never take it for granted. Being skilled is something required yes, but respecting the job is another thing. It's easy to get stuck in your ways and get lazy; like pursuing the easiest and safest options with projects. I've found this to be true when collaborating with an external studio. It truly becomes apparent how much you care more than others. Some people only aim high enough to get them a paycheque and a comfortable life. They don't care about the detail or the finesse. Heck, even the entire execution can be swayed by someone just not really feeling it that day. A lot of what designers do, is based on trust. We're meant to be professionals, working at standards that are pushing the boundaries. Our opinions and directions matter, which makes me think job titles are becoming more blurred. Someone who is just referred to as a motion graphics designer, is also an art director, 3d artist, graphic designer, illustrator etc. There's an incredible amount of relatable skills that need to be utilised. This doesn't mean your job title should just include all of these things, it means you should have the option to do them; to pursue your strengths and to seek to improve your weakness'.

I read an article recently on the Drum website, that was talking about how younger designers are primarily digital designers and because of this, they don't understand the fundamental principles of design. This article was incredibly opinionated and was the words of someone who has clearly said many times, "it wasn't the same back in our day". Digital design is an incredible craft in it's own right. I hate people who think computers or programs, do all the work for you. I can guarantee you, thats bullshit. It's taken me years to learn how to produce the stuff I do now. Years of trial and error. No one can just sit and read a tutorial on photoshop and then fully know how to use it. And even if you do know your way around it, without the understanding of design, you'll never make anything good. I was told one time that my photos were really good, because my camera was really good. I never heard anything so ignorant. I think it goes without saying how dumb that sounds. If you give someone the best camera there is to go out and take photos, does that mean they should technically have the best photos? Or is it the person who has years of experience and understanding of what makes a photo great?

To give these digital platforms all the credit, is like saying your pencil is doing all the real work. Things are different now. We work with incredibly deep and powerful applications that allow us to create anything but thats it. Like how a car can take you anywhere you want. We are the ones controlling the output. Not only does it demand good digital craft it also requires art direction. I understand when people shy away from digital design, because it can be vast and daunting. Yes, there's the shit jobs like social ads, but there's also the amazing jobs like designing assets in Cinema 4D or creating editorial layouts for a motion graphic. I will always respect the more traditional approach to design, but I think digital design needs to start being more respected too. We're not a sea of ignorant youngsters; we're the progressive vehicle at the frontlines. It's the reason I'll use a paper cutting machine or laser cutter, as opposed to wasting my time with a scalpel knife. I could do it myself and feel some sort of achievement, or I can sell out and go for the better quality and more time efficient way. There's nothing wrong with this, it's just logical, especially in the industry. SO older generations can certainly learn a thing or two from the younger generation.

In 2016, I definitely want to do less personal projects and focus on client work more. The reason being is I noticed this strange rift between the two. I always lean on my personal work as the stuff I'm most proud of but in reality, it should be my client work. Which I think is becoming the case now, especially with my latest projects. It just goes to show when you shift all your attention and effort to these projects, it really shows. Selectively deciding which project you're going to care about, is bad practice; you should care for every single one of them. Which is why I'm going to be trying to do less work at home. I'll probably spend the time reading more and learning more about cinema 4d and practicing illustration more. There's ways of improving myself that don't always require hours of design time. Even just a simple book can give me inspiration.

So here's to 2017!!

Why is perfection seen as the best?

Most projects for clients, seems to take a natural linear path. You tend to find yourself saying the same sequence of things, when asked about timings. For example, how long do you need for drawing up a deck of ideas for the client, how long will it take to execute the project, how long will amends take and then finally, how long will it take to finesse and polish it entirely?

If this was a conversation about animation, then why is the final part needed? Why does it need to be polished and glossed? If the animation is informative and accompanies a body of content, then fair enough. There's times where polish and finesse to the animation is required, in order to allow the content to be in the foreground. However, what if it's a chance to create something new? A way of entertaining, while evoking and challenging peoples expectations? Then in that case, I see the polish and gloss as only one part of the spectrum.

There's nothing wrong with a bit of sharp edges to your work. I found this out when I realised my most popular work was the stuff I did on limited time. For a while, I was thinking how much I wish there was time to polish and tidy up my work, but in reality, people liked it more because of the rough edges.

I created this animation for PLAYDEAD, within the space of 5 days_



I had to go to Glasgow and stay with a friend for the week, so I could go into the studio everyday and work on it. I even used a Surface Pro (the smallest fucking tablet you'll ever see) for drawing it frame by frame. I was also recovering from a cold; basically, I wasn't off to a great start. I walked into the studio with only PLAYDEAD's expectations and my trusty little Surface Pro. Because I was drawing frame by frame in such little time, there was no chance of preparing. I would bring up multiple pictures of crows on the screen in front of me, and draw from reference. No tracing, just purely by eye. This was my flying cycle reference_



There wasn't even a storyboard; there wasn't time. My brief was simple; to create a 30 second animation of a crow, transforming into symbolic shapes, that would represent the subject of the poem, 'The Crow', by Ted Hughes. So I sat and drew like a mad man, frame by frame, guessing as I went. There was no room for amends; once a scene was done, it was done. It turned out to be an incredible week with a bunch of extremely talented folk. The guys loved it and so did the client. There was additional work to be done to it, but in the end, I managed to produce a fully realised animation within a week. It was so rough looking that it actually became the idea itself. The flying looked strange, the shapes and line work were erratic and the pacing was strangely off kilter but it worked! It had such a human touch, ingrained into it. Ted Hughes was an incredibly flawed man, yet he created beautiful poetry. This was my homage to the man and his poem. I might have used a digital platform to make the crow, but it could have easily been pen and paper.

And so I realised, that time to polish and gloss at the end of a film production, is sometimes not warranted. There's a rulebook somewhere that tells you to create a production that falls in the same trend as existing work. This is sometimes sub conscious, especially when working on film/ animation; you instantly want it to feel 'legit' and 'credible'. How do you do this? By adding the trend-factor to it. Everything you've seen has a proven and tested formula, that becomes your final touch to the project. Whatever originality you had in there, is now gone. The cuts and transitions will be familiar, the colours and style will be trendy and even the music and pacing will have been drained of all life. You have now added to the sea of invisible animations, that will go out and serve their purpose, without ever reaching a higher meaning.

Now, it sounds like I'm ripping into 'most' animations out there and I guess I am a little. But I still believe that producing an animation/ film that is safe and trendy, will always be relevant for certain clients. When you get a brief in and the proposition is very clear on what the purpose is, don't fight it. The client is paying for something that is probably going to be effective in what it's for. But! If there's wiggle room for some originality and something new, then jump on it. And don't be afraid of making a bit of a mess along the way. Trying un-tested methods, tends to be the most interesting results.

When I think of production that has been tried and tested, I think of shit like the X-Factor. That show has unlimited money. So what do they do? They buy all the most popular and most expensive music and kill it to death .A sad moment? use 'Any Other Name' by Thomas Newman. A moment for drama? Use 'Time' by Hans Zimmer. This is lazy as hell. And even the transitions are so glossy, you actually hear the same sound effects over and over. The structure is so tight and established, that if you watch an episode of the X-Factor from years ago, it will be exactly the same. To me, it's like leaving a Big Mac out for a couple of years, to then return and find it looks exactly the same, even though it's clearly rotten and stale inside.

People want fresh air and sometimes that means throwing the gloss and polish out the window and creating something imperfect. At the end of the day, none of us are perfect. We can surround ourselves in aesthetically perfect technology, furniture etc. But we're still walking sacks of meat, sweating and panting, as we drudge through life. Our interpretation of beauty, is warped by culture and society. We don't see beauty in, for example, something different and evocative in an Art Gallery, as much as we do see it in a sunset, or a picture of a flower or even a picture of an attractive woman. So our idea of perfection, is really down to what our culture has done to us.

This is why we need a bit of dirt and grit thrown onto the canvas, instead of something pretty and distracting.

Nearly time to relax

A project I started back in July, is finally coming to a stage of fruition. And I have a ton of holidays left to take, so the next couple of months will hopefully be a well deserved rest.

Designing a UI for a VR game, is a whole new set of challenges. Learning how VR works, how the UI compliments it and basically how it should be as invisible as possible. The point of VR is the interaction within the 3D space. So when you introduce flat icons and interfaces, you're really bogging down the experience. Ofcourse, this is a huge challenge, when we have a lot of content to work with.

It's an amazing experience to get your head around something that is only just taking off. The App store hardly as any fully realised VR games. Instead, it's got rollercoaster simulators and 3D image apps. There's nothing where the content is delivered in 3D space and actually utilities the VR aspects. What we've created certainly an achievement, especially for the fact we were learning as we go.

As I get my head into slightly more graphic design-esque work, I'll leave this latest illustration I did for my behance project, 'X Portraits'.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/32375605/X-Portraits

The meaning of unimportant photos

When you think of the billions of images that are uploaded to the internet every year, you must sometimes wonder, whats the point?

However I do see why you may take photos of people in the moment and in situ. It's sometimes nice to have photos of yourself; because it shows you in your environment and places you in history, for whoever is going to see that photo. Which is another idea; who is going to see these photos? We take them now, without any regard as to how they will age in years to come. All of the photos we take on our mobile phones, are destined to end up on Facebook, but that's just a social media website. It's not set in stone. It can't last forever and what if the time comes where it's no longer needed?

Photos of the past were few in many, yes, but they were still preserved and kept throughout history. Is that the same for our digital images? The internet is a black hole and not everything that is uploaded, is set in stone. Files can be manipulated, misplaced, lost, corrupted.etc. We're so willing to give up everything to the cloud, that we forget that the absence of the psychical, turns us into mindless collectors. We just hoard digital files. Filling up our hard drives and uploading to the internet, in the name of collecting. And I don't particularly think there's a profound reason behind that, I just think it's one of humanities bad habits. Everything we do naturally, is not necessarily a good thing. It just means your mind wants to do it. 

There's a photographer called Vivian Maier, who took photos of everyday life in America, around the 50's/ 60's. But she was never discovered until years after she died, when someone came across her collection of undeveloped film. The photos turned out to be documents of everyday scenarios during that time period. It's amazing to think how much meaning those photos had, despite at the time, it just seemed like a hobby. They were never shared or given to anybody. The gravity of the photos were even more so, because of the nature in which the were found. What if these were shared onto a platform at the time, with billions of other photographers in the 60's; would it have the same impact?

Whats our black hole going to look like in years to come? Maybe our collections will be replaced with new collections and the old ones will be lost forever.

I always find the most interesting photos, to be the most ordinary and natural. If they're staged in any way, they lose their point in time and will probably not age well.. 

Thats my thought for tonight. Anyway, back to work!

The low poly life

The past couple of weeks have been pretty full on at Whitespace, with a big project we're working on. With the help of Graeme Sutherland and the motion team, I've managed to learn cinema 4d in a rapid amount of time. Here's a few screenshots of early draft scenes. 

This is just a little slither of some of the things being built at the moment. It's super exciting to be doing something that I've literally never took an interest in until now. And now having finally got my head around 3D, I can certainly see a massive opportunity for future projects, personal and Whitespace related.