Meet the client:
Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity (Fosac)
Fosac is a family festival that runs for two weeks every February. For their first online festival, Fosac put out an open call for creative practitioners. They wanted to produce a piece of work based around the themes of the festival: STEM learning, community collaboration and most importantly, curiosity.
I was fortunate enough to have my proposal selected amongst the other applicants.

The ident used for the video series

My proposal: Get kids aged 4-9 to ask life's biggest questions and have scientists answer them.

I chose to work with children because I think there is a raw and unfiltered curiosity that exists in all of us but can become affected by societal pressures, insecurities and expectations. These pressures are absent in young children and provide a much needed un-bias view of the world.

I planned to go into a local infants school and ask the students what they think life would be like if certain aspects changed. I would then send their questions to academics to answer and then animate their hypotheses in short educational videos.

What I ended up producing however was far from a serious educational video.
Meeting with the students:
In hindsight, I probably should have expected young children to deal with intriguing questions so well. Shortly after coming up with a few "What if?" questions the ideas and possibilities of the new worlds they had just created were all too intriguing to forget. Before long answers and theories were being flown across the room...
"What if we had tails like a monkey?" The teacher proposed.
One boy yelled "Well, we'd swing our way to school obviously...But what if you hit a bird!"
"I wouldn't want one because I'd have to lift my tail when I want a poo" said one child.
The answers were too good not to include so I altered my brief to become a series of me animating the children's responses to life's most pressing issues.

Ideas from the students on life with a tail

The students were seemingly unphased by not having a telephone

Some thoughts on "What if we went to school in space?"

One of the final lines from the second animated video

Getting Started:
The elephant in the room here is that I had never animated anything before this project. But seeing as this commission was about curiosity, it felt fitting to learn something new with the time I had. Initially, I found it difficult to storyboard the different ideas from the children into a body of work that felt complete. The ideas were too disconnected, it became apparent to me that the video was missing a key element: story.
After some experimentation, I decided to write in rhyming couplets and produce the animations as 'Dr. Seuss' style videos.
This felt like an obvious choice to me as poetry has a natural flow that would both help to engage the audience and provide clear points in the animation to transition.
Once I had outlined a script using the ideas from the children, I approached a voice actor to read through my poem and learned to edit audio in premiere pro so that it flowed appropriately whilst fitting to the soundtrack.

Initial type testing and how I could transition from one point to the next

An alternate type style I explored

Early testing for a tail flick cycle

A demonstration of how I created some of the visual elements for the video by stacking multiple simple textures.
I then put these visuals into a simple storyboard to see how they would connect together.

The initial visuals I had worked with were strong but took me far too long to produce. I realised I was trying too hard to create what I thought an animation should look like instead of playing to my strengths. After some introspection, I decided to take a much more typographic approach and produced the final storyboard above before animating the final video.
Creating a sequel that lives up to expectations:

My first video was very well received by my client and was played on NottsTV (A local TV channel) during the festival. However, I now had to create a second video to fulfil the brief I set for myself.
Episode 2 - What if we went to school on the moon?
I was eager to stick to the same formula that worked for the first video, but I wanted to evolve the series. To do this I used the same typeface and bold typographic frames but prioritised creating more interesting shot compositions. I tried to blend the type into each frame to create a feeling that it belonged there as part of these digital space interfaces. All the while complemented by much more complex animations and visuals.

The typeface I used for both videos. A large part of what drew me to this typeface is how variable the tone of voice is from simply stretching the type. The most narrow version was perfect for my playful tails video, whereas the widest variation feels closer to the sci-fi theme I wanted to convey.

I used lots of blacks in the second video as I wanted it to feel like space from a first glance. I was inspired by classic sci-fi interface designs from film and TV and tried to imagine the viewer seeing this through a terminal to add to the immersion of the video.

The final video in the series. What if we went to school on the moon?

For me, this project was an important lesson in trusting the creative process. My initial expectations changed and evolved constantly throughout the commission, all while wondering if I would even be able to produce anything of decent quality in this new medium. The fact that not only the client was overwhelmingly happy with the end result, but to also have my work acknowledged by a local award, has helped solidify my trust in the design process as a whole.

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