My first film for The School of Life in a little while is actually one I made some time ago now. It's ostensibly about the decision whether or not to have children (although in my experience, choice is very often not a factor), but it is in fact more concerned with any difficult decisions we might face in life, and how we live with the consequences. As the film puts it, "we aren’t choosing either a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answer - merely deciding which form of future suffering we are best suited for."
As always with The School of Life films, the script and voiceover were provided by Alain de Botton. I then ran with the design, choosing to make all the characters rabbits, apart from one scene in which a rabbit unmasks himself to reveal that he is in fact Søren Kierkegaard. This is the scene I enjoyed animating the most. As usual, it was made using Adobe Animate.
Made during the early months of the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, the release of my latest TED-Ed film fortuitously coincided with a flurry of news about the possible efficacy of steroids for treating COVID-19. It explains how corticosteroids enter our cells and can help fight allergic reactions, rashes, asthma, and harmful immune responses.
Anees Bahji is the educator behind the script supplied by TED-Ed, from which I designed and animated the film. As is often the case with films for TED-Ed, the challenge is to make often quite abstract ideas easy to grasp (what do steroids look like? How do you show the ways in which they interact with the human body?) Often I also face my own steep learning curve, when trying to depict activity at a molecular level.
Demystifying the Age Appropriate Design Code is a presentation and educational booklet designed and illustrated for 5Rights Foundation. It explains why the code exists and what needs to happen for websites to implement its recommendations. In the words of their website, "5Rights Foundation exists to articulate the rights of children in the digital environment." Launched in 2015 by Baroness Kidron, they aim to address the failure of the digital world to differentiate between child and adult users, and take steps to protect children's rights online.
Beeban Kidron initially contacted me to discuss making a film. This has yet to happen (although I sincerely hope it will) but we later had a discussion about what could be done to turn a Power Point presentation on the Age Appropriate Design Code into something more compelling. Using a mixture of illustration, design and the 5Rights' existing brand guidelines, we collaboratively conceived a 23 page document which can be seen in full here.
The success of this document led to the development of a print version, shown above, for distribution to people in a position to influence and enact the necessary changes.
If you would like to discuss how illustration can be used in your campaign materials, get in touch here.
"A child is a child until they reach maturity, not only until they reach for their smartphone."
28th August 2019 - Comments Off on TED-Ed: The mysterious origins of life on Earth
Working with marine ecologist Luka Seamus Wright, my latest animation for TED-Ed explores the origins of life on Earth, and more specifically, where it might have happened. The film takes us to the ocean floor where fissures in the Earth's crust cause hydrothermal vents to spew vast quantities of hot seawater; the probable cradle of life.
The TED-Ed process is to pair educators with animators to combine deep specialised knowledge with a talent for visualisation and thereby produce unique films that make complex subjects easier to understand without ever dumbing down the core lessons. In a sense, TED-Ed is the fissure in ocean floor, animators are the boiling water they spew, and the educators are the rich soup of minerals that bring forth life. I receive the script and voiceover from TED, from which I design and animate the film. I was also responsible for the sound design on this film, which was a lot of fun to make, comprised as it is of deep gurgling and aquatic percolation.
This is my tenth film for TED-Ed, many of which are collected here in my portfolio. Most recently I have taken on particle physics and the impossibility of dividing by zero, so as you will see, the subject matter is seldom light. My aim is also to make it fun.
The title might suggest you're in for a film on social etiquette, and good behaviour, but in a way my latest work for The School of Life is quite the opposite. Similarly to my last film for them, concerned with not worrying so much whether people like you, this film also urges you not to merely laugh along politely with your host for fear of hurting their feelings. Rather, you should show the candour of a child mixed with the social empathy of a mature adult, and BINGO! You're a lovable eccentric. That or they'll never invite you back, but at least you had some fun, eh?
Script and voiceover are provided by the school's founder, author and philosopher Alain de Botton.
This is the starting point for my designs and conceptualisation, which I then carry through to the final animation. This is my 14th film for the school, and so from now on I have decided, as a little Easter Egg, to add the number of the film in one of the shots.
A general overview of my work for the school, together with links to several previous works can be found here. Themes range from troubled childhoods to the conflict between emotional and emotional growth.
I'm finally performing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. Or, rather, this is the only way I'm ever likely to. Audiences of Jon Gracey's Werewolf: Live will watch a looping 3 minute video I made as they enter the theatre.
The short animation builds on the teaser I made early last year, and explains what will happen during the show. It also functions as a general introduction to the popular game, not just for those participating in the live theatrical version. Hopefully, in this capacity, it will take on a life of its own over on YouTube as well as at the Iron Belly in Edinburgh from the 2nd to the 26th August 2018, and in future shows.
Since 2014 I have designed over 30 original characters for Cosmic Kids, whose yoga videos tell colourful stories to kids every week. Jaime, the show's host, wears a costume adorned with patches featuring a handful of these characters, and she recently asked me to prepare a few of the more recent characters to be made into new patches. I've yet to see the results, but the above image was made from the haul of characters that have emerged over the last 2 years. They include Arnold the Ant, Diggory the Dump Truck and a rare humanoid addition in the shape of Ruby Broom, with her enormous hair.
At the time of writing, the content I created for the Cosmic Kids Yoga Pose Universe is also still being released on a weekly basis. Here's Butterfly Pose:
Look out for more additions to the wonderful world of Cosmic Kids in the future.
My latest film for TED-Ed sees me yet again grappling with barely understood maths, after what must have seemed a competent attempt at pretending I was all up to speed with Pythagoras. This time around the theme is zero, and more importantly, why you can't divide by it. TED-Ed pose the question "How can the simple combination of an everyday number and a basic operation cause such problems?" This film is the answer.
Script and voiceover are provided by TED-Ed, and the design and animation was all down to me. The challenge on this film was to keep the visuals light hearted and fun, when what I was showing was, for the most part, numbers. I came up with a series of colourful blocks, and built the film around that visual.
My second release for The School of Life in the same week, although I should mention that the first film was made almost a year ago. This time Alain de Botton is exploring the differences between romantic love and friendship. His premise is that it is in friendship that we are our "best selves" and that it should not be thought of as the lesser state.
As always, I receive the script and voiceover from The School of Life, for whom I have now made several films, and then set to work translating it into a series of visuals. The emphasis on human psychology means that all my films for The School of Life have been character led, focussing very much on our inner lives and how we relate to one another. My next film, already in production, will be no exception to this.
The films are made in Adobe Animate (or Flash as it was until fairly recently). Some time I may put together a post about my character design process, but right now I need to get on with making some more characters.
5th March 2018 - Comments Off on The School of Life: How to Be a Good Teacher
My latest release for The School of Life tackles teaching, although not the kind encountered in classrooms. Rather it is about the ways in which we are all required to teach one another. The film lists a series of qualities that make for good teaching in our day-to-day interactions, and to illustrate this I conceived a series of everyday exchanges. A child teaching his grandmother to play a video game, or a colleague explaining a piece of software. The scenes are linked by overlapping characters to show a chain that ends with the first teacher being taught.
The process for making films for School of Life is that Alain de Botton sends his script and voiceover which I then translate into animation. The ideas are his, but the animation provides a space in which to reflect on the words, and to explore ones own ideas in relation to the subject. Whether you agree with the films or not, they always open up interesting discussion.
My previous films for The School of Life have covered many subjects, from lying to ourselves and political correctness, to why humanity destroyed itself. Read more about them here.