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
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.