Tag Archives: graphic design

Behind the Title: Gretel designer/animator Johannes Geier

Back in his home country of Germany, Johannes Geier started building cars in Photoshop when he was 11. Now he’s working on campaigns for IFC and The New York Times.

Name: Johannes Geier

Company: NYC’s Gretel

Can you describe what Gretel does?
Gretel is a design and branding studio. We work with clients to get to the heart of who they are, then we express their brand through image and language. Intuition is a crucial part in every step of the process.

What’s your job title?
Designer and animator

Can you talk more about your role?
Working in branding means a focus on systems and longer-lasting solutions. Even campaigns get systematized here. My job requires the ability to switch quickly between both micro and macro — in the details and at a higher level. Everything we create must accurately express a brand’s unique truths, so keeping strategy in mind is important. This starts with an awareness of what else is out there before quickly jumping into sketches, style frames, first proofs of concept and thinking about motion languages.

How are you handling the shutdown and working remotely?
It took some time to properly break up a day but other than that it works pretty well with the same workflow we always had. Something I miss about being in the studio together is seeing different projects on other screens.

New York Times

What’s your favorite part of the job?
The beginning when everything is open and possible. The fear and respect of the blank paper. Where a short abstract sketch can define a whole direction and has the potential to trigger the fantasy to create greater stuff on top of it.

What’s your least favorite?
Joining a project after everything is defined.

What is your most productive time of day?
Early in the morning and at night. No meetings, no nothing.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I could imagine teaching at a university, designing workshop formats and such. Initiating my own faculty has always been a dream, especially in my hometown of Passau in Germany, where I grew up. When you offer programs to educate young people with reasonable design skills, cities look and think differently. When the awareness of design is present in a place, it can have a huge impact. Even when it’s bad, people see that and get inspired to make it better.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
I started Photoshopping cars at the age of 11 and editing basketball mix tapes at 14. Suddenly, those areas came together. I always did what interested me at the moment, and this led organically to what I do now. I went to a secondary school where we had art history and practical art taught early. Working with wood, clay and all things fun. One day we built rockets that could fly 1,000 feet high and had their own parachute.

My intention first was to learn classic drawing there. While others were practicing realistic drawing, I was working on a short film. When my teacher discovered that I could edit in Apple Final Cut, I ended up doing short films every year.

After that I went to a technical school for design and arts, but this time we built things like chairs and jewelry. It was about getting a feeling for every kind of material. During this time, I also joined a new magazine launched in my hometown in Germany and did editorial work there. Then I got to know an artist who exposed me to new philosophies about design and the understanding of abstraction. I supported him for a book release with a sculpture.

When I was interested in studying animation and visual effects, I joined a secret international team for a channel rebrand. As films became interesting again, I went to film school (Baden-Württemberg Film Academy) where I attended a motion design class. The focus was the interplay between sound, image and much more experimental approaches, called “visual music.”

During this time, I was an artist-in-residence in the remote Bavarian forest and collaborated with a musicologist. The university was very open-minded and free — a platform to do anything you wanted once you found the right people to work with. I somehow found them and did a graduation film about the 100m sprint using inflated, metaphorical worlds with light installations to stretch time. Then it was enough film for me. I was looking for something that could channel all my interests into one thing, and the result is branding.

Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
Work for the New York Times, Amazon Prime Video and MoMA.


What is the project that you are most proud of?
IFC is one. I worked on it at the beginning of my internship at Gretel with a very small dream team. I still look back at earlier frames we did then for ongoing projects today. I like that although it’s strictly type and color on a screen, the motion behavior and design can feel so unique.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
Apple Pay, Uber, Google Maps

What social media channels do you follow?
The ones that stand out for me are:
@rentalmag: It’s an aesthetic I like, and every single post has a strong visual impact full of derivations.
@alv_alv: When you scroll down there’s a really nice archive of interesting indie film title sequences.
@RIPstreets: It’s a great resource for street races around NJ burnouts and stuff, you know?

Do you listen to music while you work?
Yes, and I very much prefer loud music. Mostly electro and minimal. Philip Glass and Steve Reich are also in my top five. For other music, we have a Gretel playlist on Spotify.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
(Answered before the shutdown) To free my mind, I take long walks on Fridays and see where it leads me. I mostly land at Washington Square Park and go to venues around that area. The Oculus at World Trade Center is a good place on weekends. Seeing people from far above moving like one wave, the same rhythm over and over, is like meditation.

How has animation changed since you first started your career?
At the beginning, there was this era of homemade VFX and DSLR cinematography with integrated motion graphics. Highly saturated Vimeo videos are a good example of that. The quality didn’t matter that much, it was more the idea.

The awareness and accessibility of it changed rapidly. In 2016, the Google Creative Lab 5 developed a job application page to find “the next” The Five, a one-year paid program in the lab. They had keyframes there to animate the Google logo in order to submit as a first task. This was a sign for me that people recognized the craft and knew what keyframes were. We now see it on Instagram, how images and graphics are starting to move within one swipe.

Today, the graphic approach feels cleaner. More precise and on point. Animation exists everywhere now —everything needs the ability to live on a screen. This simpler, clearer approach translates easily, so the focus on animation has never felt so important.

To be fair, animation is a much bigger, complex field, and this answer is directed to commercial animation. What people do at Gobelins in Paris or Eastern European animation like in Lodz, Poland, is a whole different story. It’s more artful and doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to trends.

Behind the Title: Sarofsky EP Steven Anderson

This EP’s responsibilities range gamut “from managing our production staff to treating clients to an amazing dinner.”

Company: Chicago’s Sarofsky

Can you describe your company?
We like to describe ourselves as a design-driven production company. I like to think of us as that but so much more. We can be a one-stop shop for everything from concept through finish, or we can partner with a variety of other companies and just be one piece of the puzzle. It’s like ordering from a Chinese menu — you get to pick what items you want.

What’s your job title, and what does the job entail?
I’m executive producer, and that means different things at different companies and industries. Here at Sarofsky, I am responsible for things that run the gamut from managing our production staff to treating clients to an amazing dinner.


What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
I also run payroll, and I am damn good at it.

How has the VFX industry changed in the time you’ve been working?
It used to be that when you told someone, “This is going to take some time to execute,” that’s what it meant. But now, everyone wants everything two hours ago. On the flip side, the technology we now have access to has streamlined the production process and provided us with some terrific new tools.

Why do you like being on set for shoots? What are the benefits?
I always like being on set whenever I can because decisions are being made that are going to affect the rest of the production paradigm. It’s also a good opportunity to bond with clients and, sometimes, get some kick-ass homemade guacamole.

Did a particular film inspire you along this path in entertainment?
I have been around this business for quite a while, and one of the reasons I got into it was my love of film and filmmaking. I can’t say that one particular film inspired me to do this, but I remember being a young kid and my dad taking me to see The Towering Inferno in the movie theater. I was blown away.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Choosing a spectacular bottle of wine for a favorite client and watching their face when they taste it. My least favorite has to be chasing down clients for past due invoices. It gets old very quickly.

What is your most productive time of the day?
It’s 6:30am with my first cup of coffee sitting at my kitchen counter before the day comes at me. I get a lot of good thinking and writing done in those early morning hours.

Original Bomb Pop via agency VMLY&R

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
I would own a combo bookstore/wine shop where people could come and enjoy two of my favorite things.

Why did you choose this profession?
I would say this profession chose me. I studied to be an actor and made my living at it for several years, but due to some family issues, I ended up taking a break for a few years. When I came back, I went for a job interview at FCB and the rest is history. I made the move from agency producing to post executive producer five years ago and have not looked back since.

Can you briefly explain one or more ways Sarofsky is addressing the issue of workplace diversity in its business?
We are a smallish women-owned business, and I am a gay man; diversity is part of our DNA. We always look out for the best talent but also try to ensure we are providing opportunities for people who may not have access to them. For example, one of our amazing summer interns came to us through a program called Kaleidoscope 4 Kids, and we all benefited from the experience.

Name some recent projects you have worked on, which are you most proud of, and why?
My first week here at EP, we went to LA for the friends and family screening of Guardians of the Galaxy, and I thought, what an amazing company I work for! Marvel Studios is a terrific production partner, and I would say there is something special about so many of our clients because they keep coming back. I do have a soft spot for our main title for Animal Kingdom just because I am a big Ellen Barkin fan.

Original Bomb Pop via agency VMLY&R

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my MacBook and iPhone, but I also wouldn’t want to live without my cooking thermometer, as I’ve learned how to make sourdough bread this year, and it’s essential.

What social media channels do you follow?
I am a big fan of Instagram; it’s just visual eye candy and provides a nice break during the day. I don’t really partake in much else unless you count NPR. They occupy most of my day.

Do you listen to music while you work? Care to share your favorite music to work to?
I go in waves. Sometimes I do but then I won’t listen to anything for weeks. But I recently enjoyed listening to “Ladies and Gentleman: The Best of George Michael.” It was great to listen to an entire album, a rare treat.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I get up early and either walk or do some type of exercise to set the tone for the day. It’s also so important to unplug; my partner and I love to travel, so we do that as often as we can. All that and a 2006 Chateau Margaux usually washes away the day in two delicious sips.

Behind the Title: Gentleman Scholar MD/EP Jo Arghiris

LA-based Jo Arghiris embraces the creativity of the job and enjoys “pulling treatments together with our directors. It’s always such a fun, collaborative process.” Find out more…

Name: Jo Arghiris

Company: Gentleman Scholar (@gentscholar)

Can You Describe Your Company?
Gentleman Scholar is a creative production studio, drawn together by a love of design and an eagerness to push boundaries.  Since launching in Los Angeles in 2010, and expanding to New York in 2016, we have evolved within the disciplines of live-action production, digital exploration, print and VR. At our very core, we are a band of passionate artists and fearless makers.

The biggest thing that struck me when I joined Scholar was everyone’s willingness to roll up their sleeves and give it a go. There are so many creative people working across both our studios, it’s quite amazing what we can achieve when we put our collective minds to it. In fact, it’s really hard to put us in a category or to define what we do on a day-to-day basis. But if I had to sum it up in just one word, our company feels like “home”; there’s no place quite like it.

What’s Your Job Title?
Managing Director/EP Los Angeles

What Does That Entail?
Truth be told, it’s evolving all the time. In its purest form, my job entails having top-line involvement on everything going on in the LA studio, both from operational and new business POVs. I face inwards and outwards. I mentor and I project. I lead and I follow. But the main thing I want to mention is that I couldn’t do my job without all these incredible people by my side. It really does take a village, every single day.

What Would Surprise People the Most About What Falls Under That Title?
Not so much “surprising” but certainly different from other roles, is that my job is never done (or at least it shouldn’t be). I never go home with all my to-do’s ticked off. The deck is constantly shuffled and re-dealt. This fluidity can be off-putting to some people who like to have a clear idea of what they need to achieve on any given day. But I really like to work that way, as it keeps my mind nimble and fresh.

What’s Your Favorite Part of the Job?
Learning new things and expanding my mind. I like to see our teams push themselves in this way, too. It’s incredibly satisfying watching folks overcome challenges and grow into their roles. Also, I obviously love winning work, especially if it’s an intense pitch process. I’m a creative person and I really enjoy pulling treatments together with our directors. It’s always such a fun, collaborative process.

What’s Your Least Favorite?
Well, I guess the 24/7 availability thing that we’ve all become accustomed to and are all guilty of. It’s so, so important for us to have boundaries. If I’m emailing the team late at night or on the weekend, I will write in the subject line, “For the Morning” or “For Monday.” I sometimes need to get stuff set up in advance, but I absolutely do not expect a response at 10pm on a Sunday night. To do your best work, it’s essential that you have a healthy work/life balance.

What is Your Favorite Time of the Day?
As clichéd as it may sound, I love to get up before anyone else and sit, in silence, with a cup of coffee. I’m a one-a-day kind of girl, so it’s pretty sacred to me. Weekdays or weekends, I have so much going on, I need to set my day up in these few solitary moments. I am not a night person at all and can usually be found fast asleep on the sofa sometime around 9pm each night. Equally favorite is when my kids get up and we do “huggle” time together, before the day takes us away on our separate journeys.

Bleacher Report

Can you Name Some Recent Projects?
Gentleman Scholar worked on a big Acura TLX campaign, which is probably one of my all-time favorites. Other fun projects include Legends Club for Timberland, Upwork “Hey World!” campaign from Duncan Channon, the Sponsor Reel for the 2018 AICP Show and Bleacher Report’s Sports Alphabet.

If You Didn’t Have This Job, What Would You be Doing Instead?
I love photography, writing and traveling. So if I could do it all again, I’d be some kind of travel writer/photographer combo or a journalist or something. My brother actually does just that, and I’m super-proud of his choices. To stand behind your own creative point of view takes skill and dedication.

How Did You Know This Would Be Your Path?
The road has been long, and it has carried me from London to New York to Los Angeles. I originally started in post production and VFX, where I got a taste for creative problem-solving. The jump from this world to a creative production studio like Scholar was perfectly timed and I relished the learning curve that came with it. I think it’s quite hard to have a defined “path” these days.

My advice to anyone getting into our industry right now would be to understand that knowledge and education are powerful tools, so go out of your way to harness them. And never stand still; always keep pushing yourself.

Name Three Pieces of Technology You Can’t Live Without.
My Ear Pods — so happy to not have that charging/listening conflict with my iPhone anymore; all the apps that allow me to streamline my life and get shit done any time of day no matter what, no matter where; I think my electric toothbrush is pretty high up there too. Can I have one more? Not “tech” per se, but my super-cute mini-hair straightener, which make my bangs look on point, even after working out!

What Social Media Channels Do You Follow?
Well, I like Instagram mostly. Do you count Pinterest? I love a Pinterest board. I have many of those. And I read Twitter, but I don’t Tweet too much. To be honest, I’m pretty lame on social media, and all my accounts are private. But I realize they are such important tools in our industry so I use them on an as-needed basis. Also, it’s something I need to consider soon for my kids, who are obsessed with watching random, “how-to” videos online and periodically ask me, “Are you going to put that on YouTube?” So I need to keep on top of it, not just for work, but also for them. It will be their world very soon.

Do You Listen to Music While You Work? Care to Share Your Favorite Music to Work to?
Yes, I have a Sonos set up in my office. I listen to a lot of playlists — found ones and the random ones that your streaming services build for you. Earlier this morning I had an album called Smino by blkswn playing. Right now I’m listening to a band called Pronoun. They were on a playlist Nylon Studios released called, “All the Brooklyn Bands You Should Be Listening To.”

My drive home is all about the podcast. I’m trying to educate myself more on American history at the moment. I’m also tempted to get into Babel and learn French. With all the hours I spend in the car, I’m pretty sure I would be fluent in no time!

What Do You Do to De-stress From it All?
So many things! I literally never stop. Hot yoga, spinning, hiking, mountain biking, cooking and thinking of new projects for my house. Road tripping, camping and exploring new places with my family and friends. Taking photographs and doing art projects with my kids. My all-time favorite thing to do is hit the beach for the day, winter and summer. I find it one of the most restorative places on Earth. I’m so happy to call LA my home. It suits me down to the ground!

Promoting a Mickey Mouse watch without Mickey

Imagine creating a spot for a watch that celebrates the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse — but you can’t show Mickey Mouse. Already Been Chewed (ABC), a design and motion graphics studio, developed a POV concept that met this challenge and also tied in the design of the actual watch.

Nixon, a California-based premium watch company that is releasing a series of watches around the Mickey Mouse anniversary, called on Already Been Chewed to create the 20-second spot.

“The challenge was that the licensing arrangement that Disney made with Nixon doesn’t allow Mickey’s image to be in the spot,” explains Barton Damer, creative director at Already Been Chewed. “We had to come up with a campaign that promotes the watch and has some sort of call to action that inspires people to want this watch. But, at the same time, what were we going to do for 20 seconds if we couldn’t show Mickey?”

After much consideration, Damer and his team developed a concept to determine if they could push the limits on this restriction. “We came up with a treatment for the video that would be completely point-of-view, and the POV would do a variety of things for us that were working in our favor.”

The solution was to show Mickey’s hands and feet without actually showing the whole character. In another instance, a silhouette of Mickey is seen in the shadows on a wall, sending a clear message to viewers that the spot is an official Disney and Mickey Mouse release and not just something that was inspired by Mickey Mouse.

Targeting the appropriate consumer demographic segment was another key issue. “Mickey Mouse has long been one of the most iconic brands in the history of branding, so we wanted to make sure that it also appealed to the Nixon target audience and not just a Disney consumer,” Damer says. “When you think of Disney, you could brand Mickey for children or you could brand it for adults who still love Mickey Mouse. So, we needed to find a style and vibe that would speak to the Nixon target audience.”

The Already Been Chewed team chose surfing and skateboarding as dominant themes, since 16-to 30-year-olds are the target demographic and also because Disney is a West Coast brand.
Damer comments, “We wanted to make sure we were creating Mickey in a kind of 3D, tangible way, with more of a feature film and 3D feel. We felt that it should have a little bit more of a modern approach. But at the same time, we wanted to mesh it with a touch of the old-school vibe, like 1950s cartoons.”

In that spirit, the team wanted the action to start with Mickey walking from his car and then culminate at the famous Venice Beach basketball courts and skate park. Here’s the end result.

“The challenge, of course, is how to do all this in 15 seconds so that we can show the logos at the front and back and a hero image of the watch. And that’s where it was fun thinking it through and coming up with the flow of the spot and seamless transitions with no camera cuts or anything like that. It was a lot to pull off in such a short time, but I think we really succeeded.”

Already Been Chewed achieved these goals with an assist from Maxon’s Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects. With Damer as creative lead, here’s the complete cast of characters: head of production Aaron Smock; 3D design was via Thomas King, Barton Damer, Bryan Talkish, Lance Eckert; animation was provided by Bryan Talkish and Lance Eckert; character animation was via Chris Watson; soundtrack was DJ Sean P.

Behind the Title: Weta Workshop’s Jason Aldous

NAME: Jason Aldous

COMPANY: Wellington, New Zealand’s Weta Workshop

A weird and wonderful (emphasis on wonderful) collection of artists, craftspeople and some of the most creative minds I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Any one day can have leading costume designers, sword-smiths and game creators working under a single roof.

Project manager for communications & media production.

On the surface it sounds pretty straightforward: product marketing and product packaging. But like a lot of things at Weta Workshop, once you jump aboard the train it turns out to be more like a roller coaster.

On a daily basis this role could involve product design, presentations, photo shoots, brainstorm sessions, client visits and modeling. But the heart of the role is making sure we’ve got everything we need (information, planning, resources and inspiration) to make sure every project meets the Weta Workshop standard.

This is the type of role that can scale up or down in responsibility depending on the size of the project and the size of the team. In a smaller team on a small project, you could spend time being involved in planning, creative, copyediting and graphic design. In a larger team on a big project you keep it to the basics while the team cover their bases.

When the schedules fall into alignment, everything is perfectly balanced, and the team is creatively challenged.

When we’ve made way for an urgent request and everything is looking steady and then… a second urgent request rolls in. With such a wide and varied company with clients, fans, employees and projects from all over the world, the surprises are unavoidable, but it’s pretty rewarding to deliver on too!

Afternoon walk. There’s always someone thoughtful enough to round up a few people at a time for a walk. It’s a good time to get fresh air, talk about work, not talk about work and generally give your head a bit of a refresh before truckin’ on to the end of the day.

I’d be getting back to planning some short films. Ideally ones that involve food.

I wasn’t initially looking to re-enter the field of graphic design, but I saw a compelling role that I fit the bill perfectly for. The appeal of working at Weta Workshop helped push me out of my comfort zone in editorial to keep developing in another field.

The Art & Craft of Weta Workshop exhibition in Wuhan — sharing the work we do with people who might not have the chance to visit us in Wellington. Also brand development for the Mini Epics line of collectibles. I really love the product packaging we’ve come up with and I can’t wait to see it on shelves.

GKR: Heavy Hitters was my first time working on a board game. Plus, it’s an IP of our own, created by three artists who I had admired from afar for a really long time!

Recently, Middle-earth: From Script to Screen. I can’t claim a great deal of ownership over this project, but to have been involved with a team of experts detailing how the world of Middle-earth was built for screen has been an absolute privilege and an adventure.

Fujifilm x100 (taking photos)
iPhone (viewing photos)
Printing press (properly viewing photos)

I stay tuned to Twitter personally and professionally. But my favorite place for social media content is Instagram.

Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy has been my go-to night shift and focus-inducing music for years. There’s always a place for The Commodores on the late-night playlist too!

I used get out for a run on my lunch break, if I could. I think I’ve taken a change of pace and moved onto dog walks. But nothing can beat a multi-day hike in the New Zealand bush!

Behind the Title: Alma Mater EP/producer Ben Apley

NAME: Ben Apley

COMPANY: Alma Mater

Alma Mater is a visual studio dedicated to design, live action and animation. Our work has a strong foundation in design, and includes projects in traditional commercial advertising, as well as entertainment, and often includes digital extensions, branding and experiential executions.

Executive Producer/Producer

As executive producer, I target new opportunities, work with sales reps to strategically figure out how to pursue new business and manage the overall flow of the office from a business and resource standpoint. As producer, I manage production workflow and communicate project goals, needs, etc. to our clients.

My primary responsibility is putting the creative team in the best possible place to succeed. If you do that, then everything else kind of falls into place.

There isn’t an established “right way” to try to do this job. The role really does shift around a lot based on where you are in the sales and production cycle, and you have to be comfortable adapting to immediate needs while still planning for longer-term business strategies.

Closing on new business.

Turning down new opportunities when we’re too busy. That kills me.

After my children go to sleep.

Pursuing a career as a professional basketball player.

When I was in college, I had a journalism internship at a news agency based in Washington, DC, one spring, and then a production internship in Chicago later that summer. I realized during the production internship that everyone on the crew appeared to be pretty happy while the journalists I followed always seemed kind of angry. So I decided to pursue production.

Rough Night

We just finished a campaign for Lennox, the title sequence for the movie Rough Night and a series of commercials launching the 2018 Ford F-150.

Early on in my career, I produced the original Marvel theatrical logo animation. I remember being so excited to see something I had worked on in the movie theater.

My phone, my computer, and my car.

Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Sometimes I like to play “Everyday I’m Hustlin’” by Rick Ross while I work on bids.

I have three children who bring me back to reality on a regular basis.

Chaos Group and Adobe partner for photorealistic rendering in CC

Chaos Group’s V-Ray rendering technology is featured in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, allowing graphic designers to easily create photorealistic 3D rendered composites with Project Felix.

Available now, Project Felix is a public beta desktop app that helps users composite 3D assets like models, materials and lights with background images, resulting in an editable render they can continue to design in Photoshop CC. For example, users can turn a basic 3D model of a generic bottle into a realistic product shot that is fully lit and placed in a scene to create an ad, concept mock-up or even abstract art.

V-Ray acts as a virtual camera, letting users test angles, perspectives and placement of their model in the scene before generating a final high-res render. Using the preview window, Felix users get immediate visual feedback on how each edit affects the final rendered image.

By integrating V-Ray, Adobe has brought the same raytracing technology used by companies Industrial Light & Magic to a much wider audience.

“We’re thrilled that Adobe has chosen V-Ray to be the core rendering engine for Project Felix, and to be a part of a new era for 3D in graphic design,” says Peter Mitev, CEO of Chaos Group. “Together we’re bringing the benefits of photoreal rendering, and a new design workflow, to millions of creatives worldwide.”

“Working with the amazing team at Chaos Group meant we could bring the power of the industry’s top rendering engine to our users,” adds Stefano Corazza, senior director of engineering at Adobe. “Our collaboration lets graphic designers design in a more natural flow. Each edit comes to life right before their eyes.”

Behind the Title: Leviathan executive creative director Jason White

Name:  Jason White (@jasonlvthn) 

Company: Leviathan is a creative agency that specializes in designing digital experiences for physical environments. Some examples of our work would be projection-mapped concerts, experiential events and interactive installations.

Though our company’s core competency is content-related CG production, our differentiator is conceptual development, paired with software engineering to create custom systems and experiences for each new project.

What’s your job title?
Executive Creative Director

What does that entail? 
I’m responsible for our company’s creative direction: who we are and what we appear to be. I oversee all aspects of the company’s creative output, often helping my team look at everything we do from a holistic, art-centered point of view.

I also play a prominent role in defining the company’s culture — from coaching individual teammates to meticulously crafting our portfolio for public viewing. When it comes to public relations, attracting others into our orbit has got to be one of the most rewarding parts of the job.

What would surprise people the most about what falls under that title?
The left and right sides of the brain working in perfect harmony… at lightning-fast speeds.
The job is a delicate balance of focusing on the business end, from both our company’s and clients’ needs, while continuously expressing myself creatively, by always coming up with new looks and fresh ideas.

What’s your favorite part of the job?
Growing artists. I feel an enormous amount of satisfaction creating jobs for artists, creating paths for growth and seeing them succeed over time. It’s incredibly rewarding to not only be in the position to invent a company that provides jobs but to work alongside the staff and continuously re-invent the company together.

What’s your least favorite?
Stopping. I sometimes have to stop the creative fire within my team, that same fire that I’d ignited when the project started, that thing that we were so excited about as a team. Sometimes stopping what we’ve started means that clients changed their minds, direction or just ran out of money to support the project. Breaking that bad news to my team is hard, and I don’t like breaking hearts.

What is your favorite time of the day?
I’m into every minute of every day. There’s just never enough time to experience it all.

If you didn’t have this job, what would you be doing instead?
Creating non-commercial works of art and exhibitions.

How early on did you know this would be your path?
When I was in middle school, I was already creating my art and had a vision of building an art-centered culture and studio, inspired by a blend of Andy Warhol’s art factory and the strange world that Salvador Dali had conjured.

It wasn’t until college, though, that I realized computer animation would be the key to putting all of these dreams into reality and the moment I stepped into a post production boutique, I immediately knew that I would someday build one.


Can you name some recent projects you have worked on?
We’ve recently wrapped two special exhibit projects. One is an experiential exhibit for Airbus, a commercial aircraft titan, that features sculptural projection mapping, using a touch interface for system control. The other project is an interactive exhibit within California’s PG&E energy training center that uses augmented reality to teach people how to conserve energy while touring through a real model home. Both of these exhibits share an instructional approach to the interactivity that informs and educates in real spaces, making for project assignments that are much more rewarding.

What is the project are you proudest of?
I’m in the middle of writing a book on the subject of Experiential Design, under contract with Routledge Press. It’s an industry-focused book that documents the extraordinary art and technology experiences surrounding us and, ideally, helps define our industry for the current and next generation of artists. I’m proud to say that so many studios and professional artists have rallied to the cause. They have been supportive and generous with content and interviews, and enriching this project.

Name three pieces of technology you can’t live without.
Laptop. Wacom tablet. Weather app.

What social media channels do you follow?
The ISS (The International space station) photograph feeds are so inspiring. Daily images from life in space puts things in perspective for me.

Do you listen to music while you work?
I have a work playlist filled with composer Cliff Martinez’s soundtrack work (Drive, Only God Forgives, Solaris) His recent The Knick series soundtracks are perfect to work to; delicate, meditative and curious.

What do you do to de-stress from it all?
I fight. Well, only through boxing in my gym. I’ve been doing it for almost two years now, and I have to say that it’s both the best full-body workout and mental stress reliever. The amount of focus required under intense pressure ironically puts you in a zen state of mind, where nothing else matters.

Behind the Title: Executive Creative Director Erin Sarofsky

NAME: Erin Sarofsky

COMPANY: Chicago’s Sarofsky Corp. (@sarofsky)

I always say we are a design-driven production company… but that’s my way of trying to consolidate a bunch of information into four words. The long and the short of it is that we produce work using live action, visual effects, 3D development, design, animation and editorial. We have clients in both the commercial and entertainment arenas. Ultimately, though, we are a collection of artists and producers that are problem solvers. Every day, clients call us with a task: to come up with the fastest, cheapest*, most innovative and beautiful way of producing their project.

* I’m not saying we are cheap. Actually, we are quite pricey, but budgets are what they are and we need to maximize the money clients have. We like to make sure the money winds up on screen and is not wasted.

I am the owner and executive creative director. I am also live-action director, which is technically a small part of my job if you look at it by time spent, but it is a big focus as we become more and more entrusted with that aspect as a part of the studio’s capabilities.

My role is essentially to oversee the creative development of our jobs.

That probably seems like a lot of work, especially because we have multiple jobs of varying sizes happening simultaneously. Luckily, our projects are always in various stages of development. The beginning of a job tends to take up the majority of my time. It’s important that the client and I are on the same page, so that translates to a lot of communication and previsualization. We then kick it off in the studio with the right producer and artists attached. My executive producer Steven Anderson and I spend a lot of time discussing our teams and who is appropriate for what project.

The studio

After that, it’s really just keeping an eye on things and making sure the team has the resources and guidance they need. Luckily, I have a very talented group here. Our communication is better here than at any other company I’ve worked, which is essential to being flexible for our clients, and also supportive of each other.

I think that the most surprising thing is that I can never really focus on anything. The most intensive work I do happens after hours at home or on a plane (which, now that we have Internet, is sort of a wash). There are always people needing to talk through things… clients, producers, artists, lawyers, accountants, contractors, business development, etc.

As the ECD and owner, I have the big responsibility of managing not only the day-to-day projects but also the company’s bigger strategy, which includes making sure my employees’ careers are on track and that we are making informed business decisions.

I love my team. We collaborate all day… and there’s always a lot of laughter.

Really, it’s just amazing that we all make a living in the arts. I imagine that as we all went to art and film school we wondered if we would ever be able to balance the need to make a living with the desire to produce work that fuels our souls. Luckily, everyday we get to do that.

I also love that I can snack all day. I’m a bit of a grazer.

When one of my artists is struggling and I know how to fix it, I have to give them the information, support and direction for them to figure it out themselves. I think as a CD, it’s important to embrace your role as a mentor, but sometimes all I want to do is grab the mouse and a pair of headphones with some cheesy ‘80s channel playing and do their work for them. Though, at the end of the day, that would make me a terrible CD, so I don’t.

I love the moment before I fall asleep. When I am cozy in bed, feeling like the day was rewarding in some unexpected way (usually prompting a silly giggle) and thinking about tomorrow… and how it’s going to be crazy, wondering how are we going to get it all done.

I love, love, love American crafts. I am a knitter… not professional, but I can hold my own. All of my baby-making friends get little sweaters for their munchkins. So I think I would be doing something in the crafts, like pottery or woodworking or pattern making or even basket weaving. I love using raw materials and making stuff.

I’d like to think that my work would be shown in museums, but I’d probably be rocking a corset (begrudgingly) at a Renaissance festival selling my wares.

I began as a graphic design major but started folding in more technical courses early on. By the time I was a senior, I knew I wanted to stay to get my Masters in computer graphics, which at the time (1999-2001) at Rochester Institute of Technology was a combo of early After Effects, directing (LOL) and 3D. The second I could animate my designs, I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living. I honestly had no idea what that even meant in terms of a career. I just knew that I loved that there could be a narrative aspect to my designs.

Captain America 2

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

The last couple of years we have been producing main title sequences for Marvel. That work has really invigorated the studio and increased our visibility.

Our first project with them was Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. When Anthony and Joe Russo went to Marvel to direct Captain America 2 they introduced us to the executive team there and asked us to pitch on the main-on-end. I had been working with the Russos since we produced the Community main title for them in 2009. Even though we had a great relationship, we knew we were the dark horse, having never worked with Marvel or been through their intensive security process. Ultimately, they loved the creative we presented and we got the gig.

Shortly after that project, we were asked to pitch again on Guardians of the Galaxy. We did the typography for the main title sequence as well as some fun locator cards. It was so wonderful to work with James Gunn. That movie was really, really special.


The last project we finished for Marvel was the main-on-end for Ant-Man. That was for sure the most challenging, because the development process ate a lot of our production time away. As a studio, we are so proud of the work we produced. The look is so unique and our process was so well developed that we really hold it in high regard. Also, for me personally, I know director Peyton Reed was really happy with the final piece. It’s really rewarding when the director is just super excited about the work you create for their film.

Whatever I am working on at the moment.

This may be terrible, but as soon as I deliver a job, I am over it. I am already excited about whatever is cueing up. I am very “in the moment” when it comes to my work, and it doesn’t matter if it is a big feature main title or a commercial for a new herpes cream. I love the challenge of making something as amazing as it can be… so if someone is excited to work with me, and willing to pay me, I am all in.

My car (I love driving).
My remote control (I am lazy).
My laptop (I got work to do).

Honestly, just Facebook. It’s basically a collection of photos of my dogs and some PR about whatever my latest work is. I have to be very careful about not being political or religious. I don’t limit my friends and I assume everything is public. When you own a company you have to understand that your opinions and behavior reflect on the company.

When I focus and do design work, I like to choose a song and listen to it on repeat. It is crazy, I know. When I write or do admin, I usually have a Harry Potter movie on in the background. I’d like to believe my patronus would be a honey badger.

If it get’s overwhelming, then a weekend where I just run errands with the cell phone left at home does the trick. But I find that the day-to-day stress can be easily managed when you have a lot of fun people around you who naturally laugh a lot. We all take our jobs seriously… but we certainly know how to make a joke about anything.

Hush adds design director Claudia Chagüi

New York-based design studio Hush has added design director Claudia Chagüi to its team. She brings with her a varied background in commercials, interactive installations, retail and events.

A native Colombian, Chagüi’s career has taken her from Central and South America to Kansas City, where she served as the creative director at Hint, the experiential/design division of T2. There she wrote, designed, pitched and led projects for brands such as TEDx, Sprint, McDonalds, Dell and Crayola, among others. She later helped expand Hush, starting with offices in Chicago and eventually New York.

Her work has won many awards, including Gold and Silver national ADDY awards.

“Claudia’s energy and enthusiasm for artistry and design is palpable. She’s a natural talent who has the foundation of traditional artistic pursuits, but has expanded her own practice to communicate how the craft of design can drive brands forward,” says David Schwarz, Hush creative partner. “Within a few minutes of meeting her, we knew we were very much aligned.”


Danielle LaFortune upped to SVP entertainment marketing at mOcean

mOcean has promoted long-time staffer Danielle LaFortune to SVP of entertainment marketing. She is now responsible for managing all theatrical and broadcast print and on-air creative teams and projects, keeping them on deadline and budget, and overseeing all campaigns from pitch to delivery.

“My role is to act as a liaison between our creative agency and our clients,” says LaFortune. “We have to be strategic in the way we assemble our teams and how we present to the client. I’m always trying to see everything through the client’s eyes, while giving our creatives the freedom to do what they do best.”

LaFortune originally joined mOcean in 2008 as VP of print creative services. Prior to mOcean, she was VP of creative services for New Wave Entertainment for 12 years. While at New Wave, she worked on projects such as The Big LebowskiBorat and Ice Age, as well as Star Wars: Episode I, II and III, acting as the agency-of-record liaison with Lucasfilm.

LA-based mOcean offers a team of strategists, writers, editors, directors and designers specializing in branding, marketing and content development.

Detroit’s Hudson Edit adds editor and designer/editor team

Hudson Edit in Detroit has added three to its talent roster, including editor Zach DuFresne and the editorial and design team Gentlemen (made up of editor Derek Swanson and designer Dave Graw). Gentlemen is also being added to the roster of Hudson Edit’s sister company, Avalon Films, for directorial representation.

Gentlemen are a creative collective that combines editorial with design and motion graphics. Graw and Swanson have been friends and creative partners since meeting in a basement at a band rehearsal back in 1999. That led to their longest-running collaborative project to date, the ongoing web series Solid Dudes Kitchen.

Graw worked as a freelance graphic artist and designer, first in print, later in motion, for a number of companies in the Detroit area, while Swanson worked as an editor for such companies as Beast and Mad River Post. In September 2013 they formed Gentlemen, which allows them to explore a variety of modes of content creation encompassing both production and post. Recent projects include a music video for the band Bars of Gold and a spot for the Detroit City Football Club.


Editor Zach DuFresne

Editor DuFresne joins Hudson Edit from Territory. In 2007, while at STS Griot, he won first place in the AICE Filmspotting (now known as Camp Kuleshov) editing competition for assistants for his PSA, Get Out.  More recently, his work on the Corvette Stingray project Biometric Test Drive for Chevrolet was awarded with a 2014 Bronze Telly.

DuFresne says the offer to join Hudson Edit’s welcoming atmosphere was too enticing to pass up. “I know the caliber of talent they’ve been bringing on and I love how actively they’re fostering a creative environment,” he notes.

LeftChannel creates annual happy holidays video

Columbus, Ohio —  LeftChannel (http://leftchannel.com), a motion design/animation studio led by Creative Director Alberto Scirocco, has released its annual holiday video feature — it features “warm and fuzzy” 3D animation that has a classic holiday feel. The :36 piece stars a hat and scarf wearing Gryphon flying through a winter wonderland with a special tree ornament.

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Be a part of Autodesk’s Best of the Best 2014 show reel

MONTREAL — Autodesk is now accepting submissions for its Best of the Best 2014 show reel, which will premiere at the NAB Convention from April 7-10, 2014 in Las Vegas.

Highlighting the year’s top talent and most innovative work created using Autodesk tools, the reel will be featured on AREA, the Autodesk website, the Autodesk YouTube Channel and at various industry events throughout the year.

Recent creative projects eligible for submission include animations, films, broadcast, cinematics, commercials, episodic work and/or music videos that were created with 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, Softimage, Smoke, Flame, Lustre or the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite.

For more information visit http://area.autodesk.com/submitcontent/2013/bestofthebest.