Placements. What Exactly Are They Like?

This summer I had the fantastic fortune to be accepted on placements to work with two fantastic studios in Glasgow, all of which made invaluable research for my Design In The Marketplace module. The first was branding agency CityHall Design, whom I’ll cover in a later blog entry (as I do with everything of course). The second is motion graphics studio Playdead.

Courtesy of Playdead Ltd.
Courtesy of Playdead Ltd.

I knew one of the founders of Playdead, Jonny Harris, as a lecturer from Abertay University. I was lucky enough work with him, co-founder and designer/animator Kevin McRae and designer/animator Austin Temby. My placement started on the 5th of August, and I couldn’t have chosen a more eventful 2-week slot in which to work with the guys. They had just moved into a new studio premises, in the archways across the river from the BBC Scotland and STV buildings. The studio’s location is an incredible asset, meaning that communicating with the studio’s largest and most frequent clients couldn’t be easier. Playdead value talking face-to-face with their clients and the location of the studio made it the easiest option for staying in touch with two of the biggest broadcasters in the UK. Alternately on my stay the team Skype’d and Facetime’d their ideas across to clients and colleagues, any medium that facilitated a more personable interaction with the people they needed to communicate with.

The BBC Scotland building, Glasgow

The BBC Scotland building, Glasgow

It’s important to Playdead that them and the people they are producing work for can see eye-to-eye. Motion projects work on such vastly different timescales to print or branding work that the luxury of changing the concept or style 9 or 10 times over the course of the project becomes much more cumbersome and time-consuming. Consequently Playdead’s initial talks with clients aim to ensure the team understand the needs of their client perfectly and what their work needs to achieve. All this means it’s no surprise that the highlight of the team’s new studio was a comfortable seating area right at the entrance of the studio, perfect for welcoming clients into and really fleshing out ideas and getting to know who they are working with.

And what a group of people they work with too. A quick glance at their online portfolio boasts clients ranging from most big broadcasters in the country. But this then might suggest that mmotion graphics studios have a relatively limited client pool to work for, limited to BBC, STV and not many others in Scotland. Additionally you have to wonder how much smaller braodcasters venture out of London when looking for a motion graphics studio. Jonny from Playdead said some work had actually come from London before, but for now there still seems a an opinion that for motion work London is the best, and perhaps only, place to source a studio. Playdead are proving the opinion wrong.

Television is no longer monopolised by 3 or 4 major companies solely based in London. Whatever motion graphics that existed prior to desktop animation would almost certainly need to be based there. Now dozens upon dozens of channels require work. In particular networks such as National Geographic and Discover Channel require in-programme visuals informative graphic elements to help inform viewers of the content more easily. It’s a simple example of how each network has unique and individual needs.

Furthermore motion graphics studios, quite often, don’t work directly with these channels but with production companies working to produce content for these channels. Playdead themselves were working with a production company to help them pitch and launch a new show concept. Coming to a motion graphics studio at such an early stage gives the production company a convincing asset in their pitch of the final product and also allows for any kinks in the working of the show itself to be worked out.

Courtesy of Playdead Ltd. and BBC Bitesize

Courtesy of Playdead Ltd. and BBC Bitesize

Outwith television broadcast what sort of work is there though? Is there nothing else motion work can be applied to? Increasingly motion companies and artists are providing work for clients to use online, much like the work Playdead produced for BBC Bitesize. As we’re increasingly surrounded by screens and mobile devices motion work will become more important and brand may no longer be able to stay stationary. This is perhaps a prediction Elastic Creative has already made, possibily another reason for a branding agency to move more towards producing fluid motion work.

Additionally Playdead were in the midst of working on a new project, working with other creative studios and other artists to produce something altogether less commercial than their current back-catalogue. This is what I worked on, but that’s as much as I can give away. Perhaps in my final DITM essay I might be able to explain in more detail… not as if you’ll be reading that I suppose.

Listening to: Gangsta B**** by Apache


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