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June 16, 2014

Meet the Creative: Aaron the Motion Designer

We interview Aaron MacWilliam about his experience as a motion designer, where he finds inspiration, and the future of video.

Meet Aaron

At Demo Duck, we work with some of the best talent around the world and we want to give readers a glimpse into who they are and share some of their knowledge and insights about creating great video.

So with that, meet Aaron! He is a self-taught motion designer who lives in Ontario, Canada. He’s inspired by vibrant colors and expressive animation, and in our opinion, makes some pretty stellar videos himself. (Check out Visier, Wanted Analytics, and Telogical to see some of the projects he helped us create!)

Read on to learn more about Aaron, and keep an eye out for more interviews with our fab creatives and video partners in the coming weeks!

Tell us about yourself: Where and what did you study?

I’ve always had my nose in a sketchbook and have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. When I discovered the Graphic Design program at Algonquin College in Ottawa it seemed like a natural fit. I studied there for 3 years and left with a diploma in Graphic Design.

How did you get into animation?

In our last year in Design we were introduced to the world of motion graphics. I knew almost instantly that this is where I wanted to focus my energy.

Motion graphics takes everything I love about design and rips the lid off, allowing you take a layout or a logo or illustration and bring it to life. Not to be corny, but it was love at first sight.

Can you walk us through how you approach a new project?

I like to start a project by asking some simple questions; What is the goal of the animation? Who are we trying to reach? etc.

Once I have an idea of what the client is looking for I’ll start compiling inspiration; pictures, illustrations, colour palettes, and styles of animation that I think might work well for the project. If there is a script involved I’ll put together a creative treatment and storyboards. Then it’s on to designing style boards.

These are example frames from the storyboard that are fully designed and illustrated, giving the client a clear picture of our vision for the look and feel of the final piece. Once those have been approved it’s onto animation.

Styleboard1 Styleboard2 Styleboard3 Styleboard4

How much of your work is self-taught?

The majority of my work is either self taught or learned through the awesome group of motion designers here in Ottawa.

What has been your favorite project?

Last year we were asked to make an intro animation for the Ottawa chapter of Creative Mornings, a breakfast lecture series for the creative community.

The whole idea was based around a sort of collage of looping animations where we represent the local small businesses who are working hard to make a creative difference in Ottawa. I have an obsession with loops so I was obviously very excited to work on this one.

What tools do you use?

For animation I mainly use Adobe AfterEffects and some C4D. For design I use a sketchbook, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Where do you find inspiration?

Lately I’ve been very inspired by the work coming out of South America. The design and animation coming from the artists there really reflect that culture in a big way.

Vibrant colour palettes, expressive animation… you can almost taste it!

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.39.55 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.58.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.53.20 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.49.50 PM Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.48.48 PM

Here’s a reel of one of my favourite studios in Argentina. These guys kill it on every level.

Plenty Reel 2013 from Plenty on Vimeo.

What excites you about illustration these days? Where do you see it going in the future?

I’m excited by the amazing variety of wildly different styles. In any given day you can see a new broadcast package including a highly styled/simplistic approach then turn around to see an equally remarkable short with a very rough, painterly expression. It’s that variety I hope to keep seeing in the future.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to join the community of animators?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get your nose into the action and make some friends. Personally, I found having a mentor to be the single most enriching thing.

If you can find some talented folks who don’t mind showing you a thing or two you’ll be far better off than if you go it alone.

What is it like being a part of a team or collective? What is your favorite part of working with the others?

Freelancers face a lonely world out there. That’s why we created the collective. It’s a place for likeminded motion designers to put their heads together on problems. We all have our individual contracts but when we can we love working as a team on projects.

When we collaborate we’re bound to end up with a better outcome. Plus, working with your friends is pretty excellent.

SpeakeasyPubFrom left to right: Joseph Recoskie – Aaron MacWilliam – Jamie Muntean

How can clients get the best possible work out of a creative?

I’d say that by approaching a project with an open mind your odds will be much higher. Creatives are very willing to work with a client to turn out the perfect tool for their purposes but don’t forget, experienced motion designers and directors understand what it takes to tell a great story. Trust goes a long way.

What tips do you have for businesses looking for their first video?

The best explainer videos tell the story of a business in a simple and interesting way. When you’re considering your first explainer take some time to think about the story you would like to tell, then boil it down to the simplest terms.

Sometimes being overly specific can do more harm than good. You want to leave a lasting impression so be sure your message is easy to understand.

Meet the Creatives is an ongoing video blog series that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at our video production process. It also gives you the chance to meet some of the talented creatives behind our handcrafted videos. Sign up to receive blog updates and meet more of our creative team, including other animators, illustrators, voiceover artists, videographers, and more!

Photo Credit: Urszula Muntean Photography

  • Alist

    nice! way to go aaron! good advice for potential clients too- trust is key in the creative process.

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