Well, a few weeks ago myself and a group of students from my class all treked through to Edinburgh to meet the lovely folks at Elastic Creative. I blogged pretty extensively about it, so if you want to know more go there.
But on Monday of this week I made my own little venture, to Playdead, a motion and branding agency based in Glasgow. I already knew founder and designer Jonny Harris, as he’d tutored at Abertay during Playdead’s early days. He seemed to like my work so I was eager to show him Closure, which I still haven’t gotten around to… and if you don’t know what Closure is yet, then you ain’t been reading this blog for anywhere near long enough!
Jonny and the other founding half of Playdead, Kev , welcomed me into their cosy studio late on Monday afternoon. Their studio is nestled amongst a cornicopia of other creative businesses down an alley off of Argyll Street, and this location has proven beneficial already. Jonny spoke of a project they’d recently published with BBC Bitesize creating a set of animated comic books for school education. This wasn’t only good business for the folk at Playdead, but when voiceovers and sound effects needed added they turned to the studio straight downstairs from them to provide! The expansive nature of a medium like motion allows for a lot of collaboration, meaning networking and inter-business relationships is crucial in a working environment such as theirs.
They aim to deliver, and them some.
In fact business relationships seem incredibly important to a company like Playdead. They can see the expectations their clients will have, and aim to deliver, and then some. They pride themselves on the quality of their work and follow a similar mantra to Elastic. Good work breeds more work. If you do a good job for somebody and have a satisfied customer which you’ve built a good relationship with then it pays endless dividends – more than any marketing or branding will ever do.
The Playdead brand is something else I asked the guys about. It seemed to be more to their tastes, skewed towards a more specific demographic than most other creative agencies. Jonny admitted that he initially assumed their edgy and darker brand image would apply to somebody looking for much the same thing, whislt scaring away larger more plainly faced companies and corporations. However it seems to have worked in reverse – these larger, rather neutrally branded companies seem eager to break that image and seak out somebody edgier, much like Playdead. The proof is in the list of their former work, which includes clients as prolific as BBC, Channel 4, STV and Dazed And Confused.
This was an area I was initially unsure about – where does most motion graphics go in the world? For Playdead is clealry into broadcast, on the TV throughout various different stations. Being placed in Glasgow helped this phenominally, with BBC Scotland being based just off the Clyde. The passion and dedication to their work has won them a client list to be proud of, and it shows through in their work. But it’s not simply the medium of motion graphics that they are dedicated to – it’s Playdead itself. Jonny and Kev had already been in their own seperate companies prior to starting the company. Jonny had been going freelance, but explained that it proved to be quite unsatisfying work. Coming into an strange environment and be thrown in the deep end of a project you have little control over made freelancing an unsatisfying experience, and so Playdead, was just about essential.
But this creative freedom initially came at a price. Jonny and Kev hated the notion of taking out loans, going crazy with initial investment and being restricted by overly rigid business plans. Instead the pair worked out of Kev’s living room, on his Mac and Jonny’s old laptop, up until a few months ago. Recently good enough briefs and clients have come through the door to justify the investment of high-quality hardware, but on top of overheads like software liscences and studio rent you can tell this is only the latest step in a long line of hard work saving for the company.
I left Playdead feeling a little relieved. With finding it so hard to define my aims and my niche as a motion graphics artist I was becoming intimidated by the prospect of leaving university to find it was an impossible career, for me at least. But looking at Kev and Jonny I felt once again like it was completely possible. Maybe even likely? But I won’t get ahead of myself. I might go crazy and splurge crazy ammounts of money on ten iMacs, get myself brutally in debt and have to work my way out of it through something a touch quicker than motion graphics. But provided that doesn’t happen I might be okay. Yeah.