Staying in Motion at the April Workwhile Design Talk

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At a time when people are obsessed with animating everything they can easily shoot with their phones, where do the real motion designers draw their inspiration? We heard from three designers at the top of their game about where they draw inspiration for animation and how they harness it as independent freelancers and an entrepreneur.

Making your own way isn’t always easy. But at last week’s Workwhile Design Talk, our speakers showed us that it’s worth the struggle.

But how to do it? Well, as motion designers, their advice should be no surprise: ‘Stay moving.’

Our April theme - Animate This - sought to bring to light the inspiration and process of three motion designers: Lieke Milder, Karan Singh, and Marvin Koppejan. While each has a different style, a different approach, and a different story, it was clear that this mantra of ‘stay moving’ motivated them in quite similar ways.

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Lieke (www.liekemilder.com) designs animations, but she is foremost a storyteller. Lieke found her love for animation during an internship with agency in60seconds, with whom she later worked as a senior animator for a number of years. Setting her sights on challenging herself, Lieke recently made the move to freelance, and has been busy crafting stories that play with mood and emotion to evoke curiosity from the audience.

‘What I do as an animator is set a mood, and leave a gap for the audience to fill it with their own imagination,’ Lieke explained. ‘Through my work you can see a lot of worlds, but it’s the viewer who must give their opinion on them.’

Lieke brought us into some of her worlds, including her short film project Black Comedy, which will be shown this year at Cannes. By taking us through her process of creating the short film, she revealed her own process of discovery: of launching with big ideas, allowing her own imagination to shape the work, and then carefully paring it down.

By going through her process in detail, we saw behind the curtain of how a short film - so simple and so elegant - is the result of combining wild creativity with measured detailing. For Lieke, all of her projects are the result of not just ambition, but something more.

‘The most important thing is isn’t how ambitious you are,’ she explained, ‘But also about how much fun you’re having.’

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Having fun might have been the starting point for the next speaker, Karan Singh (www.madebykaran.com), when he decided to embark on his illustration career.

‘I got into illustration by asking myself this question,’ Karan told us, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could draw?’

And with that so seemingly simple a question, Karan’s global career was launched. Karan hails from Australia, and has settled (for now) in Amsterdam with his girlfriend Ash after living around the world in Tokyo, New York, Malmö, Sydney, and Melbourne. His work is bright, colorful, vibrant, geometric. It evokes a new kind of pop art for our current time. Self-taught by what he called ‘being really good at being impatient’, Karan’s fluid work seamlessly lent itself to motion design… So he used his favorite motivator to try it out.

‘Wouldn’t it be cool’ is the mantra that motivated Karan to animate his illustrations. By the success of this experiment, it t was clear to see through both his bounding energy and his meticulous story arc that his work is never an accident, but the result of research, painstaking attention to detail, and perhaps a bit of fearlessness.

‘I have an allergy to complacency,’ he admitted. ‘These constant questions are what challenge me to constantly try new things. The attempt is crucial.’

And with that drive to attempt, he’s had some big wins, including a recent animated campaign for Nike for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul, a massive animated project initiated by the client despite Karan’s admission that he’s have to self-teach the animation technique to finish the project. But for Karan, trying something new wasn’t daunting because he had a sturdy starting point.

‘The concept comes first, and what to animate comes later,’ he explained. ‘I just want to encourage people to try something new where you don’t know where it’s going to end up.’

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For our third speaker, Marvin Koppejan, founder of Woodwork Amsterdam (www.woodwork.nl), trying something new has always been his modus operandi. It’s what led him through a successful agency and freelance career, but ultimately motivated him to start his own specialized agency seven years ago.

Today, Woodwork has grown to a boutique motion design studio of about eight designers, all with different specialities but sharing a love of designing movement. But looking back on what he’s built, Marvin confessed his ambitions were once quite different.

‘I never wanted to become an animator,’ he told us. ‘I wanted to be a guitar player, like Slash.’

So perhaps it’s his obsession with Slash he has to thank for the years of drawing pictures of guitars and rockstars that led the way for Marvin to see movement as part of his design. Over the years, his design school training showed him the opportunity to animate his work, and his love of motion design took shape.

‘What I like most is to combine different disciplines to create one piece,’ he said, bringing to light a theme that is apparent through his work.

The Woodwork portfolio is varied, showcasing a variety of styles from straight animation to hyper-real graphics, stop-motion to multidimensional VR. As Creative Director, Marvin works alongside his talented team to bring out a range of possibilities, but always keeping true to the internal motivator.

‘I always strive to get my own expression into the work for the client,’ Marvin shared. ‘And in a way, that keeps the process similar, but the outcome is always different.’

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The talk ended with a lively panel and provocative questions from the audience about design, staying motivated, and practicalities of managing the business side of a creative career. As the sun finally began to set on the hot, sunny spring day in Amsterdam, the audience - already so large seating spilled into the garden at the Hoxton apartment - moved outside for drinks and conversation, making connections amongst the growing Workwhile community.

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Workwhile Design Talks at the Hoxton

Big thanks to our sponsors: The Hoxton and Elise Gherlan Photography for supporting this fifth edition of the Workwhile Design Talks.

Workwhile Events is now on summer break until September! In the meantime, learn more about Workwhile and how to get involved at www.workwhile.agency.

Text: Amanda Cardinale
Photography: (C)  Elise Gherlan Photography