Friday Afternoon Toons

Written on 10 January 2014

Most Friday afternoons we have a showing of short animations, led by James – one of our top designers.  We asked James why he decided to hold these afternoon shows, and what animation means to him.

Why did you want to bring animation to T&T?
At T&T we use to hold a Friday knowledge share series which brought together thought leaders in the design and digital community. When this came to an end, I thought it would be good to continue an event that brought the team together. So I came up with the Afternoon Toons shows. It’s nice to show something creative on a Friday afternoon that people can enjoy and talk about whilst they wind down from the week. Designers are in the business of creating visual things, so it’s great to get some inspiration from things like animation.

Why specifically animation and not say short films?
I’ve always been interested in animation, and I think a lot of people view animation as something for kids. So I wanted to change people’s perception and show that animation can be for adults as well. There are a lot of animations with serious themes – themes that only adults can understand. There is also animation that is beautiful.

What do you find inspirational about the medium of animation?
Animation is about telling a story, and designers are storytellers at heart too. It’s interesting to see how animators try to tell stories without using cameras, live action or actors. They just use their own tools and skills to tell a story.

How do you choose which animation to screen to the team?
I start by looking through various blogs and channels on YouTube or Vimeo. I try to think back on other animations I have seen before. I like to get a balance of something that is interesting yet also has wide appeal. Sometimes I have to take a step back and try not to be biased. I also hope to show something that people wouldn’t usually watch to be refreshing.

Do most of the animations you’ve shown have an important message?
I try to go with ones that do have a message and have a story, but sometimes I show two back to back – a fun one, and a serious thought provoking animation.

You have shown some animations that were produced by very well-known animations studios and others that were low budget – was there a difference on how they were received by the audience, what was the feedback?
The best received was A Danish Poet, which has won an Oscar. It was a small budget animation that was simply drawn. It shows people enjoy a good story and the animation is secondary.

How well do you think the Afternoon Toons is going so far?
Pretty well, people are still coming. People are now expecting it to be good. The pressure is on to show great shows – I need to meet the demand and be consistent in my schedule.

At first I was only showing Japanese anime, but then I decided it was better to show a broader spectrum of work from all over the world.

How confident are you that people are there for the anime and not the beer and snacks?
Pretty confident!

To what extent do you think interaction design and animation interlink, what do you think interaction designers can learn from animators?
I studied animation for a year before switching to graphic design. The reason I switched was because what I really wanted to know was how to tell a story – the animation course wasn’t showing me how to do this. They were showing us the tools and the skills to produce animation.

Design is about thinking, detective work and research – I find that more interesting. I think where the two overlap is the initial sketching out phase. A lot of graphic designers can’t draw, but you don’t need to. I think just being able to sketch and be able communicate your ideas is really beneficial.  Drawing takes practice. Designers could learn how animators are able to communicate ideas through very simple sketches. This can be really helpful when working in teams.

What other techniques can interaction designers – those who worry about creating dynamic interfaces that have state changes and transitions – learn from animators?
Interaction designers can learn from animators. We are already seeing that with iOS7 – the little animations use for transitions and the parallax effect. This is something we’ll see more of – animations being used functionally as part of the interface. There are animation techniques that interaction designers can learn such as squash and stretch. Animators need to learn about the elasticity of objects – how it helps make things more believable and bringing that into interfaces can help it feel more tangible and a joy to interact with.

From the movies that we’ve screened so far, which one do you think was the most inspirational/successful?
The ones most people talked about would probably be Deaf Note or the Danish Poet.

I think it’s important to hold these get-togethers in a creative consultancy, to create a culture and connection with everyone in the team. It gets people talking, where they can discover new things. It’s not only designers that attend, but everyone in the company.

This is just a little insight into the T&T office. The team do have their heads down and work hard, but we help them unwind with various activities – one of which is the Afternoon Toons.

I will end this blog post with one of James’ favourite animation:

Please Say Something, by David OReilly

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