In this series we’re shining a light on some of the people who breathe life and action into design, Aotearoa NZ’s motion designers. This week we sat down with Shaun Madgwick, a freelance motion designer who also runs MDGA ( Motion Designers Guild of Aotearoa ), which aims to bring together the wide range of designers, artists and technicians that work in the field of Motion Design in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Brought to you in collaboration with our friends at Motion Designers Guild of Aotearoa
Can you tell us a bit about your career journey? Where did you start out and what was it about motion design that drew you in?
As a motion designer I have been lucky to get quite a broad range of projects under my belt. I’ve worked on TVCs, broadcast branding projects, live events, art installations, interactive experiences, projection mapping and lots and lots of lower thirds.
I originally studied Graphic Design back in 2001 before moving to Oz to work for a small surf company for a couple of years.. When I came back to NZ I thought I was too cool for any of the design jobs I was getting offered (in reality I just wasn’t good enough to get better ones). I decided to study Motion Graphics & VFX at MDS, though it was only a 1 year course at the time. I liked the idea of combining my graphical skills with my love of films and anime but also, cynically, I could see there were a lot less motion designers out there than graphic designers and I’d probably have a better shot at getting a job in what I could see as an expanding field. From there I got a job at Oktobor as a runner, at the time home to some of the best designers, animators and compositors in the country. I’m pretty sure I got the role because I knew how to make coffee, not because I knew anything about motion. This was a really great time interacting with such talented people but also getting a good education on the more practical side of the industry, how things worked with clients, how jobs moved through the building. From there I hustled my arse off. Eventually I got a role in a small studio, then moved over to London with the same company. When I returned home I freelanced a bit before going in-house at an agency for years. I am now back to freelance life in what is a real boom time for Motion Design.
What are your favourite types of motion design projects to work on?
The best ones are the ones you get to come in on at the very start. I consider myself a Motion Director so when I get to come up with the original concept and treatment, storyboard the whole thing then animate it or build the team to help you create it. That’s fun. Having a motion designer in the room from the get go to make sure you are not missing any opportunities for thoughtful and creative motion solutions is very important.
Is there a notable project you’re especially proud of?
A few years back I got to do Lotto. Originally brought on to do the opening titles, the job just kept expanding. We ended up designing all the graphics for the big on set screens, figuring out how to play back the content so that it interacted with the presenters and the show, the on screen graphics – I even got to design the plinths for the ball machines. It was a great project for interacting with a broad team and figuring out solutions that would work in a live broadcast setting.
How is technology transforming the industry and the way you work?
The thing about motion design is that the technology is in constant flux. You are constantly needing to adapt to new software and plugins, new applications and ways of working. You push those things as far as you can until they break. Then you dial it back 0.1 percent and hope it works. While it’s easy to get stuck in a kind of arms race when you are needing to learn the new hotness as quickly as you can, to stay ahead of the pack, you are better served by concentrating on the fundamentals of design and storytelling.
When did MDGA get started and can you share with us more about who it’s for and what sort of plans lie for the future?
We started MDGA in 2020. Given the state of the world it seemed like a good time to try bring everyone together. We had for years had a small group of mainly senior motion designers, kept together through adobe user groups and slack channels, who would meet up for a few beers. Despite many of us being in hiring positions at various companies, no-one knew where all the new talent was, where the next crop of juniors were. We knew for a fact there were many more motion designers out there but there didn’t seem to be any way to connect them. Another thing we were seeing was a bunch of expats returning and wanting to find the local scene, find work or studios. It seemed the time was right to try and create a local touch point for all things Motion. Somewhere that anyone who was keen on Motion could find where to study it, who was making all the cool work and where they could meet like minded people. Also to bring together people who work in a role that can often be quite isolating. Offering some comradery and also maybe helping you answer those extremely niche technical questions.
While so far we have concentrated on getting together for drinks or a coffee, we have plans ahead for workshops around subjects specific to motion and more variety in the kinds of meetups we do (I know not everyone wants to meet at the pub). We are also hoping to do more to promote the work of local and international kiwi motion designers and studios.
Another key goal is to try and connect the various tertiary institutes with the wider Motion community so that when these students graduate they are more aware of the local industry, they know where the jobs are and they actually know some people locally who are doing the things they aspire to do.
Motion Design is a pretty cool job and the more we come together, share our knowledge, share our experiences and help one another, the stronger our community will be.
Can any level, from the curious to the expert, come along to MDGA events?
Anyone is welcome, whether you’ve been too scared to even open After Effects or you’ve been slogging away on simulations in a dark studio for a decade. If you are a producer who is on the hunt for new talent or maybe you just want to chat to someone who shares your frustrations with ACES.
What sort of advice would you share to anyone just starting out in their motion design career?
Be curious. There is a wealth of information online for all sorts of methods and courses and programs and plugins. Dive into all of that but remember, you still need good design fundamentals. You still need to understand pace, timing and rhythm.
mdga.nz/study has a good list of schools, courses and tutorials for you to get started on.
Lastly, where can we find both more about your work and MDGA on social?
My personal work is on madebymadge
The MDGA website is: mdga.nz
Our main place for chatting all things motion is the slack group. You’ve got a great group of local and international designers in there. If you want a heads up on events, you’ve got technical questions or you want to be inspired. That’s a good place to start: MDGA Slack
Our next meetup is on the 2nd of June at Brothers Beer, Mt Eden. Details here.