London-based studio An­i­made’s cross-dis­ci­plinary team ex­plain the bou­tique ser­vice they of­fer clients, and why in­ter­nal projects are so im­por­tant to the studio’s cul­ture

Computer Arts - - Contents -

Be­hind the scenes at bou­tique London-based an­i­ma­tion studio An­i­made

Whether it’s An­i­made’s cheeky an­i­mated skits or in­no­va­tive sto­ry­board­ing tool Bo­ords, you’ll have seen their per­sonal projects light­ing up the in­ter­net from all an­gles in re­cent years. Ridicu­lously rub­bery Olympic bal­loon char­ac­ters jos­tle with won­der­fully baf­fling prop-based shorts and fun, in­struc­tional tu­to­ri­als in the London-based an­i­ma­tion studio’s body of self-ini­ti­ated work.

And then there’s the client work: ma­jor col­lab­o­ra­tions with the likes of Airbnb, IBM and Face­book have pro­pelled the studio’s an­i­ma­tion magic into liv­ing rooms and of­fices around the world. It’s lit­tle sur­prise, then, that An­i­made burst onto the score­board of our most re­cent poll of the coun­try’s top de­sign stu­dios, mak­ing the top 30 of our UK Studio Rank­ings 2016.

Launched in 2010 by child­hood friends James Cham­bers and Thomas Judd (ini­tially un­der the name Cham­bers Judd, and later Hover Studio, with the an­i­ma­tion arm branded sep­a­rately as An­i­made), the com­pany merged all as­pects of its out­put un­der one name in 2014, and car­ried out a vis­ual re­brand the fol­low­ing year.

We paid the close-knit, cross-dis­ci­plinary An­i­made team a visit to find out more about their re­brand, and the se­crets be­hind the studio’s epic rise through the ranks...

Why did you re­brand the studio in 2015? James Cham­bers:

It was a com­bi­na­tion of many years of re­fine­ment. Our pre­vi­ous brand iden­tity didn’t re­flect who we were vis­ually, as much as any­thing, so we wanted to bring it up to date. It was also a piv­otal time in terms of our out­put. The over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage we wanted to con­vey was that we be­lieve in char­ac­ter­ful cre­ativ­ity through any medium – be it an­i­mated, dig­i­tal or any­thing in be­tween.

An­i­made started with just two peo­ple and now has a team of 17. Was grow­ing the studio part of your plan from the be­gin­ning? JC:

It’s been very or­ganic. When we first started out, it was just two guys in a room. We were free­lanc­ing: Tom was do­ing il­lus­trated an­i­mated work, and I was do­ing more tra­di­tional dig­i­tal work. We al­ways knew we were in­ter­ested in the space be­tween those things, but there was never a clear tra­jec­tory to what we have to­day.

Tom Judd: There were times when we talked about main­tain­ing that size, and not at­tempt­ing to go any fur­ther. It was quite scary, but slowly it started rolling, and we fa­cil­i­tated the change by hir­ing and ex­pand­ing, and fig­ur­ing a lot of stuff out as we went – which has been an end­less kind of thing for us.

How do you po­si­tion the studio to clients? TJ:

It spans a lot of things. We work with some as an an­i­ma­tion tech­ni­cian, where they come with il­lus­tra­tions, a sto­ry­board and a full scripted nar­ra­tive. We take their de­signs and make them move. At the other end of the spec­trum – and the work we re­ally en­joy do­ing as a studio – is when we have a lot more con­trol over con­cept­ing, nar­ra­tives and sto­ry­board­ing, and are able to part­ner with the agency or di­rec­tor client at that mo­ment, and help con­struct all of the post pro­duc­tion. It puts us in a rather bou­tique area be­cause we’re not an an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion house where peo­ple just come and get things an­i­mated; we also pro­vide vi­sion and cre­ativ­ity.

Why do you think An­i­made’s work has be­come so pop­u­lar re­cently? JC:

We’ve put a lot of stock into in­ter­nal studio projects since the be­gin­ning. Hope­fully some of the suc­cess we might have had over the last few years is down to that com­ing through. Even as we grow, it’s been very im­por­tant to us to main­tain

time on those ar­eas and al­low peo­ple to ex­press them­selves out­side of client briefs. It’s some­thing we al­ways strive to put as much time as pos­si­ble to­wards. So hope­fully the amount of con­tent – client work too – that we put out there has con­trib­uted to this.

TJ: James and I have known each other since we were 11. We re­alised the power of the in­ter­net when we sat our de­grees. It was in its in­fancy in terms of how artists were shar­ing their work, but we were run­ning a stu­dent art hub – ba­si­cally Be­hance for stu­dents, be­fore Be­hance ex­isted – and it be­came quite pop­u­lar. We were even fea­tured in Com­puter Arts. It proved to us that there was a dif­fer­ent way of work­ing and find­ing clients: it wasn’t down to your stature and your name. You could lit­er­ally put some good work out there and it would at­tract the right peo­ple.

An­i­made has a fan­tas­tic studio cul­ture. What does it in­volve, and how did you de­velop it? JC:

We’ve been big be­liev­ers in a good work-life bal­ance since we started. In the years we’ve been run­ning, we’ve only very oc­ca­sion­ally done over­time, and when we have it’s paid and peo­ple are com­pen­sated. Mak­ing sure it’s un­der­stood that you’re not ex­pected to work 18 hours a day is a valu­able thing, and we gen­uinely be­lieve it adds to the qual­ity of the cre­ative work that we pro­duce here at An­i­made.

In terms of our side projects, we try to treat them as much as we can like client briefs, to help make sure they get the same weight in the studio. So we set a bud­get and de­liv­ery date, we put a project man­ager on there, and we’ve also started writ­ing briefs so that we un­der­stand the ob­jec­tives of do­ing it.

What are the big­gest chal­lenges of main­tain­ing your com­mit­ment to side projects, and what in­spires you to keep go­ing de­spite these? TJ:

Def­i­nitely money. We rely so heav­ily on side projects as a tool for mar­ket­ing, and yet they yield noth­ing un­til the phone rings and the client calls. It’s hav­ing the be­lief that it works.

In your view, what’s the secret to creating an ex­cel­lent studio cul­ture? TJ:

The peo­ple. It’s about good hir­ing, and get­ting peo­ple in who be­lieve the things that you be­lieve. We also put a lot of em­pha­sis on our in­tern­ship pro­gramme, be­cause we find that lots of great tal­ent comes through that. We run paid, three­month in­tern­ships that of­fer a proper learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. As well giv­ing them some­thing, they can show us if they’d be a good fit.

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