They came from diverse backgrounds — Ryan grew up in Edmonton and Boca hails from São Paulo, Brazil. When they each decided to come to Vancouver to hone their motion design skills and their paths crossed at VFS, they clicked right away.
Ryan contributed to Boca’s Drop, a Term 1 motion graphics piece that was featured by YouTube editors and made the finals in the 2007 Adobe Design Achievement Awards in San Francisco. Then came Typographics, a slick animated introduction to typography that hit the front page of Yahoo.com.
The natural next step? Working together on their final project at VFS. The result is an ambitious split-screen exploration of Evolution and Creationism called Duelity. It’s already won a PopVox Award and screened at the Art of Digital show in San Diego.
We asked them about what it meant to work so closely together, their career ambitions, and their wild ride at VFS.
The first big collaboration between the two of you was Typographics — how did you come to be working together on that?
Boca: It was a Term 4 assignment. One of the requirements was that it had to be done by a team of two people.
Ryan: Boca had come to me a week before and mentioned that it would be cool if we could work together on our final project. So I thought we should collaborate on the infographic assignment as a warm-up to see how well we work together.
Boca: We had collaborated on each other’s projects since Term 1. He was my ‘talent’ in Drop and I helped him shoot his Term 1 and Term 2 videos.
Typographics struck a nerve online — blogged, linked, featured. What do you think about all the exposure?
Ryan: It has been amazing and overwhelming.
Boca: I think that’s great, because Typographics was featured not only in design forums — it was in normal everyday blogs. That shows that the piece works not only with designers, but also with a regular audience.
Ryan: Motion design is a fairly new thing, and most successful motion designers either work on high-end commercials for huge companies like Nike or Coke, or they do kind of self-indulgent personal projects. I think that we struck a chord with designers and design blogs because there hasn’t been many motion pieces that are made specifically for the design community, as weird as that sounds.
Boca: I believe that Typographics turned out to be a well-balanced project for both audiences.
Ryan: We remembered the dry textbook way of learning the basics of type, and we wanted to present it in a way that would be fun for both designers and non-designers.
Boca: It definitely opened a few doors for us and gave us some recognition.
You two obviously work well together, and like working together, too — what is it that makes you a good team?
Boca: I think, first of all, respect. We both really respect each other and admire each other’s work.
Ryan: Let me say I think Boca is incredible and anyone would be crazy not to work with the guy!
Boca: We’re always pushing each other’s limits and we know what each of us are capable of, so we won’t settle for mediocre work. Also, our different skill sets — myself being concept, typography, storyboarding, illustration, and 2D animation, and Ryan being concept, typography, 3D, and animation.
Ryan: Boca has a keen eye for contemporary design and creative thinking, and he always keeps in mind the history of design as well. I think that is what makes a great designer.
Boca: We both know our specialties, so we work together rather than compete against each other.
Ryan: He always jokes that he’s the right brain and I’m the left. A sort of synergy, you could call it.
Boca: Our friendship plays a huge role. Even if we had a bad day, and believe me, we had a few, we could always go out and forget about it.
Duelity — Creation seen through the lens of science, and Evolution told like it’s right out of the Bible. Where did that idea come from?
Boca: We wanted to do a piece that was unique and controversial and that would also push our limits and challenge our skills.
Ryan: In a meeting with amazing creative director and Head of Digital Design Sebastien de Castell, we were discussing the concept of having a split-screen motion graphic experience like never seen before. And we had meetings with our two advisors, Sergio Toporek and Mark Busse. Sergio suggested that we tackle the topic, ‘Where did we come from?’
Boca: It’s the oldest question of mankind — ‘Where do we come from, where are we going?’ It’s a very contemporary topic, and it’s an argument that will never end.
Ryan: I’m personally really nerdy and love learning about space and string theory. So I thought this type of topic wouldn’t get boring and we could have a lot of fun explaining these topics.
Boca: Also, it gave us the possibility of telling a story without being preachy or trying to prove a point of view.
What was your process, working together on Duelity?
Ryan: We spent countless hours on things like proofs of concept, brainstorming, researching the topics and art direction, mood boards, look frames, detailed storyboards, animatics.
Boca: We had to work on a few iterations, but after two weeks, we had the perfect script. After that, we started storyboarding and researching visual references. When the storyboards and mood boards were done, we moved on to designing style frames so we would know how each side would look like, and if they would look consistent side by side. Sergio and Mark helped us a lot during that phase, advising us on the style and flow of the film.
Ryan: We started animating the whole thing with only one month left to go.
Boca: We decided I’d tackle the Evolution side, because of my organic, colourful style, and Ryan would do the Creationism side because of his more scientific, urban approach to design.
Ryan: I think the most difficult challenge in the entire project was to make both videos entertaining when watched alone, because when they are side by side, they have enough stuff going on to keep you interested.
Boca: We worked with and managed a lot of other people, like the voiceover artists, Rob Wood and Mariem Henaine – amazing artists. They really set the mystic tone to the animation. And the sound designers, James Boatman and Chris Ray. We worked with really talented and professional people who were excited about the project and helped us with everything we needed.
Boca: I’m sad that it’s over, but I’m glad I have a new phase in my professional life to look forward to.
Ryan: I’m excited, because I’m starting a small design company [Normal Design] with two other students from my class, Dave Murawsky and Robyn Haddow. I originally was going to go freelance as a motion designer, but I think there is more potential as a strong, tight-knit team.
Boca: I just got a job as a motion designer at a motion graphics studio, Thank You Motion Graphics in Copenhagen. I’m really excited about the job, because the studio produces really high-end work, and it has a great atmosphere. Also, meeting new people, new cultural experiences, new design experiences!
Ryan: Boca will be working with us from Denmark with some boards and art direction — he’s our Euro division! My goal is to be able to work on some sweet motion projects in the upcoming years, and develop my portfolio. Wish me luck. Oh, and if you need any sweet design work done, please don’t hesitate to contact me – wearenormal.ca. Thanks for the plug.
If you had one piece of advice to incoming Digital Design students, what would it be?
Ryan: Don’t get caught up in doing what you think is the right thing to do, challenge yourself by doing stuff that is most likely going to fail because you’ll learn more that way.
Boca: Get ready for the roller-coaster ride! It’s a very demanding program, but it pays off in the end. You’ll get to meet very talented and professional people, and doors will open for you.