‘A Word, A Week’ Perfectly Embodies the Motion Community’s Collaborative Spirit
Interview by Mike O'Donnell / Editor of the WNW Magazine
For his latest personal project, WNW Member Jeroen Krielaars was sparked by a specific curiosity. After opening Animography, a type foundry for animated typefaces, Jeroen started to wonder what exactly resulted from the orders that were coming in. How were his typefaces being used? In what kinds of projects? Were customers using the built-in controllers to customize them? So he invited a few studios and freelancers from the tight-knit animation community to take part in an experimental brief: create a looping animation around a single word, set in one of Animography’s animated typefaces. Over each week of 2018, a new contribution went live. The resulting collection is “A Word, A Week.”
Part of the joy of this project is that it encapsulates the incredibly collaborative spirit of the animation and motion design community. From what we’ve seen at Working Not Working, it feels like this community is always game to get involved in supporting the vision of their peers, often resulting in high-effort contributions from industry leaders. This is exactly what makes Jeroen proudest of this project: “I was expecting some short, typographic loops of a few seconds each, maybe repurposing client outtakes or spare parts of animation. In reality, people really went all out with super complex work. I was blown away by the submissions so many times during the year. The time and effort people put in even made me feel uncomfortable at times. I mean, it’s a non-paid thing. I just wanted them to have a run with these animated typefaces. But when I express my thanks, I always get positive vibes back. They were just as excited to part of the project.”
After my interview with Jeroen, seven WNW animators share how they incorporated Animography's animated typeface into their own creative style and personality, and why they are drawn to personal project briefs from fellow creatives.
Tell me a bit about your creative background and the world of animated typefaces?
I’m a self-taught graphic and motion designer. I have been a one-man studio for about 13 years, working for clients of all sorts and sizes. A few years ago, I began experimenting with animated type. I was trying to come up with the right kind of setup where typefaces could be infused with motion. After many explorations and collaborations, I founded Animography, which is basically a type foundry for animated typefaces, but also a platform where designers, animators, and programmers are trying to figure this stuff out. We are always trying to reach the next level both aesthetically and technically.
Running Animography is now my full-time occupation, where I divide my time between making new animated typefaces for our collection, bespoke work for clients, and handling all the basics that come with running a web shop.
What was the initial idea behind your personal project “A Word, A Week”?
I’ve been making animated typefaces for years now, alongside a small network of fellow type designers and motion designers. It’s a very fun thing to work on and it’s nice to see orders coming in through the web shop. But I always wondered what happens to the animated typefaces after that. How are they used? In what kinds of projects? Are people using the built-in controllers to customize it? Etc, etc.
A typeface can be a pleasant thing to look at by itself, but it’s always meant to be part of something bigger. An element in someone else’s project or a vehicle for their message.
To see how our typefaces could be implemented, I decided to invite a few befriended studios and freelancers for an experiment. I did not want to limit their process in any way; I wanted to give them as much creative freedom as possible.
What was the brief you shared with the contributing artists?
The brief was really simple. Create an animation around a single word, set in one of our animated typefaces. It can be any word you like. The animations should be square, preferably looping and can be any duration. This gave exactly enough creative freedom. It also provided some sort of common structure to tie everything together as a series.
Was it hard to get people onboard to collaborate?
Not really. I have learned a lot from previous big collaborations like Franchise and Mobilo. Those projects have given me a pretty extensive network to tap into for projects like this. It is probably most important to get some kind of momentum going right at the start. After a few rounds, it becomes easier to explain the project to new people because you have a few examples to show. As the year progressed, people got even more excited to join.
How did you envision this project playing out? In what ways were you surprised by the submissions?
I set really humble expectations for myself. I wanted to see our typefaces getting used and abused by people that inspire me. It was an experiment and I was open to any outcome. I did not want to put too much pressure on anybody with a time-consuming brief. That’s why the project was centered around just one word. I was expecting some short, typographic loops of a few seconds each, maybe repurposing client outtakes or spare parts of animation.
In reality, people really went all out with super complex work. I was blown away by the submissions so many times during the year. The time and effort people put in even made me feel uncomfortable at times. I mean, it’s a non-paid thing. I just wanted them to have a run with these animated typefaces. But when I express my thanks, I always get positive vibes back. They were just as excited to part of the project.
Why do you think creatives rally behind these self-initiated briefs from their peers?
A few reasons. The most important I think is because it’s fun to work on something that has a lot of creative freedom but does have some constraints at the same time. Personal projects can be daunting sometimes because there are no limits or deadlines at all.
And of course there is the everlasting hunt for exposure and likes on social media. This does play a big role I think. And whether that hunt is born out of a personal (and maybe unhealthy) need of validation, a true willingness to share inspiration, or a calculated marketing strategy, is something everyone can decide for themselves. I think it’s a mostly a mix of all three.
With curated projects like “A word, A week,” I also think the line-up is really important. If people you admire are already part of it, it is really exciting to join those ranks yourself.
What were some of the other big takeaways from “A Word, a Week”?
For me personally it was nice to see how the type was used. They usually built a really elaborate world around it, but left the type pretty standard. Apart from changing the colors, they did not hack into it that much. It was also interesting to see which typefaces were most popular amongst the contributors.
Any advice for fellow WNW Members?
If you want to do a similar kind of project, plan ahead! You don’t want to stress out if someone drops out because they landed a big commercial dream project. Make sure you always have something up your sleeve so don’t have to skip a week.
Joyce N. Ho
"'A Word, a Week' was one of my favourite projects of 2018. When I was invited by Jeroen to contribute, I was immediately drawn to the fun nature of the brief and it felt like an excellent opportunity to explore a concept that had been stuck in my mind for a little while. Keeping it completely graphic and black and white, my animation was inspired by a lunar eclipse and the intricate celestial drawings that we used to draw to chart our position amongst the stars. I personally liked the animated typeface ‘Barbour’, so I knew it would be easy to incorporate it into my designs. The word 'Obscure' was picked quite late into production, but it was the perfect word to describe the action of an eclipse – an uncommonly used word to match the rarity of the event—plus it started with the letter 'o', a resemblance of the moon itself. "
“I was inspired by the animated type 'INDIE'; it gave me a fluid feeling that I could combine with my fluid animation style. That's why I chose the word 'FLOW', which is ‘a mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.’ It perfectly represents how I feel about what I do and how I feel being a part of this amazing collaboration project.”
“I share a studio with Jeroen and he invited me to contribute to his project with an open brief. It was an opportunity to try something slightly different and combine it with an interesting animated typeface. I'd been playing with the idea of making a scene appear and disappear within the range of flat solid colours and thought Vesterbro was a nice pairing and parallel in the way it takes shape.”
“A Word, A Week was a really fun collaboration. My week's contribution was during the Winter Olympics last year, and that definitely influenced my concept with a luge rider going down a tunnel. ‘Slide’ isn't particularly a favorite word or anything, but when it comes to animation I always appreciate nicely eased movement, so I latched onto it. I chose to use Animography's Gilbert typeface since the letters tracing on and off really went well with the theme. It's also a nice, bold typeface which paired with the illustration style I chose.”
"I love these kinds of collaborations; they are a great way of creating something that is ultimately your own, but still have some guidelines and a deadline, which helps with getting it done. It is also really exciting to see what other artists will come up with. I wanted to make the animated typeface the main focus of the animation, not just a title at the beginning or end, so I tried to use Vesterbro's elegant and smooth animation in combination with some harsher, snappier moves throughout the entire thing. That, mixed with some textures and tied to the concept ‘Nomad’, created an interesting look."
"Animation brings a whole extra layer of meaning to typography. When you're picking a font for an animation project, you have to bare in mind not only the way it looks when it's still, but also how it moves and what message you're conveying with that. And as all other elements of design, it's great fun to see how people play with the weight, rhythm, harmony, and contrast within those choices.
I personally think the motion industry is just the best and this is a great example of why: people collaborating and wanting to do something together just for the sake of having fun and sharing their passion with each other. I'm always excited about these small collaborations because they're a good reminder to take some time off to play around, do your thing, and get inspired by seeing what others have done too. It's just plain awesome to see the variation of amazing work that can be done within the same little brief."
Jorge R. Canedo Estrada
“I decided to team up with the incredible Stephen Kelleher for the project. And we began by thinking of a concept, wanting to do something fully B&W and with a lot of contrast. After the concept, we tried to find an animated typeface that would match it. I love personal projects like this since it can be done fairly quickly and it can be a lot of fun to try and do something that is mostly about experimenting, rather than communicating something specific. So I try to do as many of those little side projects as I can!”