First off, can you tell us a little about yourselves?
Nico: I’m a Creative Director at Fox & Co Design, originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I have been working in the Graphic Design industry since 2000, first as a Web Designer and since 2010, as a Motion Designer. I’ve also worked in several post-production roles, mostly VFX-related. I consider myself a seasoned veteran. I’ve worked for various advertising agencies (from boutique to international agencies such as BBDO, Clemenger and Ogilvy). I hold a degree in Graphic Design (from the very prestigious UBA), a masters in Digital Art, and a Ph.D. in Creative and Art Direction from the University of Barcelona Design. I moved to New Zealand in 2015, and joined Fox & Co 2 months after the studio was founded. Since then, I’ve grown my career alongside the studio, constantly motivated by a challenging, competitive but very creative industry. I’m also a proud father to a teenage boy, a husband, a film buff, and a Mountain Bike fanatic.
Linus: I’m an Art Director and Motion Designer at Fox & Co Design, and have been working in the industry since 2017… which isn’t super long but I cut my teeth on a whole lot of bad student job search design gigs before that. I work on all kinds of different creative briefs, but my favourite projects involve cinematic CG work where I can apply my interest in film and move (virtual) cameras around. I also have a bit of a soft spot for frame by frame animation, even if it’s a real pain in the ass!
What is your background, and how did you first get started in the industry?
Nico: I was born in Argentina in the 80s. From a very young age, I was always interested in any format of visual media; from cartoons to movies and even commercials.
As I was growing up, globalisation and the internet started to impact our culture. I was a typical 90s teenager, sporting long hair, listening to grunge music, skateboarding and watching MTV all day.
The school I attended had an amazing computer lab, considered ‘state of the art’ at the time, and they let us experiment with complete freedom. So we started to create websites. This was the year 1997! Jeez, I’m old! Nobody in the region was doing it, so we started to get professionally hired from local businesses to create their sites. Turning this into a career, I wanted to upskill and specialise my skills in the field, and that’s where I signed up to complete my Graphic Design degree, not knowing I’d fall in love with it! I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been part of the computer revolution that shaped the new generation of designers.
We were pretty experimental at our Web Design company, but the internet of 20 years ago had a lot of limitations. At this point, I found animation as a field where I had limitless creativity, and started to create a lot of experimental pieces. And after 10 years, I’d decided to jump ship from the website industry to Motion Design.
Linus: I grew up in Wellington and had a pretty normal middle class suburban childhood, including shouting at strangers on Xbox live and starting a few bands with cringey names.
My interest in making images and cool stuff goes back as far as I can remember but a particular memory that sticks out would be watching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in theatres as a 9 year old, being fascinated with how they made the werewolf, then making my dad take me to see it 4 more times. It didn’t occur to me that film and animation was something I could do myself until discovering a bunch of Youtubers circa 2010 making bad action movies with DSLRs and After Effects, which was my gateway drug into 3D and design (for any nerds reading this: Freddie Wong, Corridor digital and Video Copilot).
From then on, it was a whole lot of trial and error, 4 years at Massey, and a kind of rough year of looking for work before getting a job at Wipster, as their in-house mograph guy. I was only there for about 6 months but it was pretty cool. They trusted me a lot and appreciated the polish I put into everything.
What project will you be presenting in Under the Hood?
We are very excited to share the branding and digital campaign for a new product from Fox & Co, Motion for Mobile. Motion for Mobile (MFM) is a new division of the company, focused on tailored creative for Social Media.
What was the most challenging part of the project and what lessons did you draw from it?
Nico: This was a special project for us, it was a campaign for a new product that doesn’t exist yet. There are similar solutions in the market, but the approach for MFM is pretty unique. Finding a visual narrative for it was definitely a challenge.
There was a floating-issue as well that is very common for designers, in that sometimes working personal projects, or studio projects in this case, makes it even harder, right? There’s that extra pressure (self-imposed) about getting it right.
Another challenge was the start-stoppy nature of the project. It took us close to a year to complete (from February to December 2021). We are a small studio, so we could only work on it whenever we had any gaps between client work. On top of that, the product itself was evolving during this period. But we did learn that by taking an iterative approach, it wasn’t that discouraging to rewind back a couple of steps instead of throwing the whole idea away and start from scratch.
Linus: I had a pretty tough time getting the edit to flow nicely. The camera movements and constant speed ramping started getting a bit repetitive, and it didn’t really feel like it was building towards anything. It got a bit easier once we had the final audio track in there, it helps to have audio for your visuals to react to.
Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment in the project when things clicked and fell into place?
Being a new product, at first, it was hard to work without any external references to grasp. But that ended up being a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to create something original. That realisation was a liberating moment.
Now that the project has finished, what are you working on?
Nico: We are currently working on several projects at the studio. A cinematic opening title sequence for an MTV show, one of our recurring clients. We are also working on a couple of broadcast packages for streaming events, and the most exciting one, a mood film for an international tech company.
Linus: I’m currently also working on an animated short film outside of work.
What insights to your methodological approach or philosophy can you give us?
Nico: When possible, we try to apply an iterative approach to our projects. That allows us to have a holistic view of the piece, and we spend a good portion of our time trying to set that right. Once we are happy with the creative concepts, our north, we start to push toward the looks and, if time/budget allows it, we experiment as much as possible. It is not easy sometimes, (and production gets nervous when they don’t see progress) but we found that every project we develop under this framework always brings better results.
Linus: To be honest, I just move stuff around until it looks good.
Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or hobbies are you involved with?
Nico: I’m a film fanatic so I always try to watch as many movies as I can. Always keen on testing new software and tech if I can put my hands on it. And I have recently developed a bike addiction, this country has such a nice infrastructure to travel around that I’m trying to catch up with nature.
Linus: I’ve participated in a few CG art challenges recently, which usually involves creating a single image over 3 – 4 weeks. It’s nice to have a hard deadline for side projects. I’m also working on a short film which may or may not get finished. On the rare occasion that I’m not looking at a screen I can be found playing guitar
And finally, where to next for you? What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
Nico: I’ve been playing around with game engines for the last 3 to 4 years, Unreal and Unity, and we have used some of this tech in a couple of studio projects, but I feel we’ve been only scratching the surface. I would love to explore new possibilities.
Linus: I plan on jumping into Unreal Engine at some point. I feel like you get a lot more freedom to experiment when everything’s realtime. Also pre-rendered stuff isn’t going to be around forever
Join us on zoom for a candid walk-through of Linus and Nico’s work creating the branding and digital campaign for Motion for Mobile. They will be joined by Matt Grantham, Onfire Design.
Register for your ticket here: https://events.humanitix.com/da-presents-under-the-hood-april-2022
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