@Ello Feature on @Scene360:
Obsessive GIF Artist Al Boardman on the Importance of Personal Projects
Interview conducted by @alexi
Al Boardman, prolific GIF-creator and expert animator, has created motion graphics for an impressive list of famous brands (including Nike, IBM, and Twitter). His signature style is simple yet sophisticated, with a color palette and a smoothness that sucks the viewer in.
Along with work for clients, Boardman creates tons of personal projects that gets shared on social media, is an accomplished outdoorsman, and says that the craziest thing he’s ever made is his kid. Learn more about what inspires Boardman, how he keeps the creativity flowing, and his collaborative 9 Squares site that brings together motion graphics artists around the world.
What sparked your initial interest in motion graphics and animation? In other words, how did you become the master of the GIF?
I have a background in graphic design and video production and unbeknownst to me at the time, the combination of these two disciplines was motion graphics. Who knew? Not me, until I started trying to find some new ways of creating titles for films, lower thirds and little graphic sections for video projects I was working on. I also have a good friend who co-runs a motion graphics studio in Bristol whose work I really loved and who taught me a thing or two. I discovered motion graphics this way, about six years ago, and was immediately hooked.
In 2012 moved to Chicago with my wife who was posted there with work, and wanted to build a new freelance career in motion design. At the start, I had no clients, no contacts and no work, but I eventually picked up a few low-paid bits and bobs from startups around the city. It didn’t lead to much, so, I decided to try a different approach, and one that I’d recommend highly. I stopped chasing low-paid work that I didn’t particularly want to do and focused on creating work for myself.
I’m fascinated by architecture and Chicago is the perfect place to be inspired by beautiful buildings. I decided to create a short motion graphics video about some skyscrapers in Chicago that I particularly appreciated. I uploaded the finished video to Vimeo and it was a real surprise to me how well received it was. Within 24hrs it was awarded a Vimeo Staff Pick. This was so exciting, a bit like winning something at a film festival; I was so happy. It ended up being a watershed moment for me.
Working on personal projects is something I still try to do, it’s very important to me. I also believe it plays an important part in developing your own style, staying creatively motivated, exploring new ideas and learning new things.
Increasingly, I produce shorter-form projects like GIFs or short videos for Instagram, rather than longer motion graphics video projects. I think it’s because that’s the work I produce for myself. I fell in love with creating GIFs and find the short medium suits me perfectly. The restrictions can really push you to distill and tell a story in a short amount of time, and creating a seamless loop can be so mesmerising have immediate visual impact. I try to tell a story, inject emotion and feeling with every GIF I create. They’re also great for people with short attention spans…