For many artists, personal projects present a great way to improve their skills and take their work to the next level. But, finding the time, dedication and inspiration to start self-initiated work and stick at it can be tough.
Carlo Cadenas knows that feeling. The Argentine art director and graphic designer made Speakloop, a wonderful series of animations to practise his skills. He set himself the challenge to re-design each letter of the alphabet – but don’t expect to find any familiar typefaces. Instead, the abstract shapes form a series of 26 animated mini-masterpieces, exploring form, movement and type in surprising ways.
We asked Carlo to share some advice based on his own experiences…
1. Set yourself boundaries
Give yourself a focus and an end goal, because it can be hard to know where to start, and when to stop. “I wanted to improve my skills in motion graphics, and now I had 26 opportunities to put this pretty straightforward idea into practice. It’s important to set out some kind of framework once you start on a personal project; constraints can help you step out of your mental comfort zone and connect to something new.”
2. Be prepared
When you don’t have strict deadlines or demands from clients, it can be much harder to motivate yourself – all of a sudden that Netflix episode seems way more important than finishing that project. Carlo’s solution was to plan out his project in detail, but also to accept that difficult and boring moments are probably going to be part of the process.
“I got more fluent in using different animation systems, and picked up many little tricks I can now apply to commissioned projects. But sometimes it’s much more about those abstract skills. The project took dedication to prepare and discipline to execute.”
3. Learn from it
Of course it’s an achievement in itself to finish your project, but it’s important not to forget what you are learning during the process – skills and lessons you might need in future client work. For Carlo, switching from static images to animation meant discovering a whole new territory.
“In a motion project there are two processes – design and motion. They both need to be done very well to make it look good. If you design a beautiful graphic, but fail to make the movement look organic, the result will look horrible. It’s all about finding the right harmony between the two.
“I also found it’s easier to tell a story working with animation techniques. Once parts of your graphic start moving, they can communicate in different, much stronger ways. I think movement creates this intense connection with the viewer; it draws you in more easily than a static image.”
4. Mix things up
It’s easy to get in a rut when animating – it’s a time-consuming practice which requires the same actions over and over again. Every creative project also has its boring sides. “Instead of working chronologically, from A to Z, I worked in a discontinuous manner. The first symbol I created was the letter A, the second was letter Y, and so on. It helped me maintain an open visual language and approach each letter as a new challenge.”
5. Get it out there
Speakloop was celebrated by 36 days of Type, and on Behance the project was shared by design organizations AIGA and Motion. This probably wouldn’t have happened if Carlo hadn’t thought about his project’s afterlife.
“It’s maybe obvious, but make sure you’re active on social media channels. If you are proud enough to put your name on the project, make sure you get it out there!
“Sharing your projects with close colleagues is a good way to get feedback, but also try showing it to people that aren’t designers or visual professionals. You’ll be surprised by the useful insights somebody might bring.”