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Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
Al Boardman: I’m a motion graphics designer - I’ve been doing something like it for the last 12 years. I started out as a graphic designer in the UK, and because I couldn’t seem to get on well with having a boss, I started my own design business when I was 24. I developed a fascination with moving images, closed down the graphic design business and had a go at running a video production company. I moved to Chicago almost two years ago (where it seems to be winter most of the year!), and now I work independently. I enjoy working in Chicago, there’s lots going on. Most of my clients are US or UK based businesses or agencies.
Novedge: What is or has been the biggest influence on your work?
Al Boardman: There have been too many to name. Transitioning into motion design came relatively naturally to me, after a background in design and video production. But I was greatly helped by my good friend James Ward, who runs a fantastic motion design agency in the UK, called Scubaboy. I love pretty much anything that comes out of the Buck studio and London-based Animade are amazing. I’m very interested in film and tv title design too, so naturally am in awe of Kyle Cooper and Danny Yount.
Novedge: How do you collaborate with clients during the creative process? Al Boardman: I do very few face-to-face meetings these days, mostly I work with clients online and on Skype now and again. The process generally begins with a storyboard, where I sketch out a few ideas and share them with the client. I’m rubbish at drawing, so I quickly move on to style frames, bringing the creative, illustrations, colour palette, fonts and any other elements that will go into making up the video together. I like to get this 100% agreed before moving on. Then I start the animation. Most projects I work on are between 1-2 minutes in length and take roughly 3-4 weeks to produce.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Al Boardman: I’ve recently finished a one minute video for the Oscars special episode of the Charlie Rose show. The producer of the show asked me to come up with some scenes that showed a selection of the Oscar nominated films that they’d had guests on for over the previous few months: like Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron and Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Director Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave, and Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street. There were eight films in total, and we had to show each film in a creative and engaging way to introduce the Oscars special show.
I made some very rough sketches, 2D illustrations based on concepts or symbols within the films, with some key transitions from one film to the next.
We went back and forth a little, elaborated on a few scenes and I set out to create the first set of styleframes. I was provided with the film titles to animate into the piece, so I had to plan for that as well as bringing more life to some scenes, like adding the landscape to the Before Midnight section.
Obviously, it was exciting to produce something for such a historic show. But it was a particularly great project because I was given creative free reign. Although the TV deadlines were inevitably tight, I was pleased with how it turned out and it seemed to go down quite well. I was delighted to be awarded the Vimeo Staff pick for it, which for me is a bit like winning at a film festival. Not that I’ve won anything at a film festival!
Novedge: What does your workflow look like? What software do you use?
Al Boardman: As discussed, drawing’s not my biggest strength, but I do usually begin with pen and paper. I produce almost all of the creative for a project in Adobe Illustrator and make good use of the layers here, which happily can be imported into Adobe After Effects, where I spend most of my time moving keyframes around, searching for that perfect curve in the graph editor (I haven’t found it yet, but I keep trying) and animating shapes. I’m not particularly technical, I have a real passion for good design, but I’m still learning all the time. If a project needs a basic audio mix or some sound design, I’ll use Adobe Audition - but I’m certainly no expert here and normally try and send a video off for sound design if it’s anything vaguely complex. I occasionally use Adobe Premiere to edit or grade.
Novedge: You love architecture: which architects would you like to work with to produce motion graphics work?
Al Boardman: My parents-in-law are both architects, so I enjoy a bit of education whenever they come to visit Chicago, but I’m no expert. Living in Chicago, naturally I’ve developed a love of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies Van Der Rohe and Bertrand Goldberg. I have just come back from a trip to Palm Springs where I stayed in a mid-century modern hotel by architect William F Cody, which felt very chic and stylish. But they’re all dead, so that would be tough working with them… Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park grabs me every time I see it. His organic shapes would certainly be a challenge to animate, but an engrossing one!
Novedge: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Al Boardman: I have learnt to take advice with a pinch of salt, to be honest. I’m quite driven by nature (read: stubborn). I am far better at learning from my own mistakes (of which there are many) than following instructions. I really love what I do and I’m lucky to be able to do it, but I don’t really subscribe to the Jobsian philosophy of ‘do what you love and don’t settle for anything less’. I think it’s an idealistic way of looking at things and bad advice for anyone looking to break into the creative industry (or any industry frankly). We all do things that we don’t love, it’s a basic requirement of work. The trick is finding a reasonable balance.
It's been quite busy here at Novedge, with all the new Autodesk releases, a brand new twinterview and getting ready for next week's Hangout. Let me give you an update on everything that's been going on.
If you haven't yet, check out our list of Autodesk products and look at the new features on all the 2015 releases by going to the individual product pages.
Free trial downloads of AutoCAD 2015, Revit 2015 and Maya 2015 LT are available on our site as well, here are the details.
DOSCH Image Libraries
Check out these libraries by DOSCH to add trees, cars and textures to your visualizations. These images are license-free and come as Photoshop files, with a transparency layer, ready to be used. Perfect for those projects that don't require 3D models of each element.
Free Maintenance Subscription for One Year - Expires on April 25th!
As you already know, this is the last year Autodesk upgrades are available. Starting in February 2016, the only way to stay current on Autodesk software will be to have Maintenace subscription. If you need to upgrade to AutoCAD 2015 LT, AutoCAD Revit LT Suite 2015 or AutoCAD Inventor LT Suite 2015, you have until this Friday, April 25th, to receive a free one-year Maintenance subscription with your upgrade. That translates into savings of up to 30%.
Artlantis Give Me 5 Promotion
Don't forget to upgrade to Artlantis 5 before May 30th to save over $300. And the same savings apply to any sidegrade from Artlantis Render.
Join Us for the 10th Episode of How To Succeed in Architecture
Our Google Hangout On Air Series: How to Succeed in Architecture has reached episode #10. We are celebrating big, with an all star line up. We invited Gregory R. Mottola and Rosa Sheng from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, Doug Mehl from FENNIE+MEHL Architects and Olle Lundberg from Lundberg Design to talk about the way they designed the workspaces of some of the most innovative technologies companies, such as Square, Twitter and GitHub. Make sure to register to watch the live broadcast, to ask questions live to our panelists.
New Weekly Twinterviews!
We started a new series of interviews on Twitter to bring the AEC community together on Twitter: Twinterviews! Our first three "victims" were Bob Borson, the team at Public Architecture and Neal Pann. Next Thursday, we'll grill Enoch Sears, at 11 am. Look for the hashtag #Twinterview.
Looking for more Specials and New Releases?
You can find our previous posts here to make sure you didn't miss any of our past announcements.
Editor's Note: After a great conversation with Jason Dries-Daffner, Senior Director of Architecture at EDG, I asked him to sum up his best advice on how to communicate with clients. To learn more about EDG Interior Architecture and Design, check out their website and read my interview with Jason here.
Communication is the conduit by which we transfer design ideas to other people. Fundamentally, successful communication is about mutual understanding. Below are five common elements found in the design process, and some thoughts on how specific communication methods might increase mutual understanding among project stakeholders.
1. Clarify expectations early and often.
Don’t assume all project stakeholders have the same understanding, priorities and access to information. Ask to clarify and confirm at the beginning and throughout each phase of work. For example, one of our senior project managers, Jackson Butler, hands out a kickoff folder to his team at the beginning of each project. This folder includes the project management plan describing project goals, timelines, fees and deliverables. It also includes areas for individual team members to list what particularly high value work they can contribute and what they hope to gain from the project for their own professional development. Jackson’s most recent Marriott Hotel Great Room project just wrapped up Contract Documents a week early, with limited overtime (we are still are designers after all…) and with appropriate contingency fee to handle the inevitable construction phase changes. By clarifying stakeholder expectations early and often, Jackson now has a happy client, a great looking design and a proud team.
2. Work hard to understand the other people.
EDG’s president and CEO, Jennifer Johanson is a leader in the hospitality design world. Why? Because her communication of hotel and restaurant design is always focused on our clients and the end users. Whether in a team brainstorming session, a client presentation or a press interview, Jennifer consistently frames the discussion in terms of client operations and business goals as well as guest experience. Her communication is motivational and persuasive not because she is “selling” anything but because she works hard to understand the needs and values of others engaged in the conversation. Recent examples of the success of this approach are Elena and Pony Line an award winning bar and restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires.
3. Face to face, video conference, telephone, and email (in that order)
Communication can only be truly effective if there is a bond of mutual trust. Email can sometimes be a poor medium for communication. Tone is often misinterpreted and it does little to establish or maintain a personal bond between people. Early in a project, try to have face to face meetings, or at least a video conference. Being able to see other stakeholders’ expression and body language will help you better understand them. Once you have established mutual trust, email away, but don’t forget to regularly schedule video conferences or pick up the phone to make the human connection. We are working on several projects in Costa Rica and I had some on-site coordination meetings with client and local architect. Since I was able to meet these people in person, I feel not only a professional obligation to do my job, but also a strong personal commitment to Dennis, Francisco, Ronald and Andrea.
4. Are meetings worth it?
Face to face communication is invaluable (see above). Meetings can be a great way to collaborate, establish and review goals and progress, and create collegiality. However, they can also be a huge, expensive and pointless time sink. Plan your meetings for the right reasons, right length of time and right people. On the successful side, an EDG project manager will regularly meet together with the senior designer and job captain so that the three person leadership team can plan and review a project together. Those 15 - 20 minute informal sessions have huge returns on investment in directly advancing design and serving our clients. On the other hand, I have also been to large (10+ people) meetings where there is no clear goal or agenda and the facilitators are ill-prepared and clearly winging it. If you are going to invest in a meeting please consider: inviting only the critical stakeholders, establishing the goal of the meeting and sending out an agenda and documents to review in advance. This will help keep communication focused and yield a good return on time.
5. Never mind the fine print.
“…the contact says…”, “…it was in the specs…”, “…I sent you that email…”. Eliminate those phrases from your professional vocabulary. Being correct is irrelevant if you or others missed a goal. You will very quickly alienate colleagues and clients if you rely only on the fine print. Instead, be proactive IN ADDITION to having the fine print. For example, if the design or client operational standards require a tight and uniform grout line, yes of course document that in your drawings and specifications. Additionally, though, bring up the point during bidding and preconstruction meetings and walk the site with the GC and sub to see if the existing sub floor is appropriately level. Again, the goal is to establish mutual understanding. Burying important information does not help.
Keeping the goal of mutual understanding in mind, we will be prepared to communicate effectively. Pay attention to people who consistently get the most out of their teams and fellow stakeholders. These are the people who lead projects with beautiful design (including functional, innovative, delightful…architecture, products, systems, animations, ffe, graphics…). You will see that they clarify stakeholder expectations and put in effort to understand other people involved. They know how to harness communication opportunities and technology to build trust and rapport, how to leverage time spent in meetings and how to avoid something crucial getting lost in the fine print. If communication is the conduit by which we transfer design ideas, let’s do our best to keep it flowing.