Johnny Kelly and Matthew Cooper Q&A:

Some behind-the-scenes photos from the production of I Am Not An Artist.

How did this project arrive at your doorsteps? What was the initial brief from the client?
Johnny Kelly: The brief was to create 56 animated GIFs in one crazy month, based around the theme that the design profession, rather than being glamourous, fashionable and artistic, is in reality frustrating, time-consuming and very hard work. These GIFs would be then presented on a website promoting Barcelona-based design college Elisava. People are able to add their own GIFs too, either by uploading something, or using their webcam with the website’s GIF generator. The whole project was thought up, designed and assembled by agency Soon In Tokyo (also based in Barcelona), who in addition to being graduates of the college are also teachers there too! They’ve also put together a poster – incorporating every frame of animation we made – a flip book, a screensaver, and press advertisements. GIF file sizes can get large pretty quickly, before you know it the file size is too big for a website. So the challenge is to keep the frame numbers to a minimum. The gif with the hand stamping down on the cards for example is only six frames long, and It was nice to have to limit things in this way, forcing you to come up with ideas that need to have an instant impact on the viewer.
Mathew Cooper: This economy of animation was really liberating. Finding ways to communicate something the viewer is able to relate to using only a few images meant that ideas had to be distilled down to their simplest form. If it made us laugh or was able to hold our attention for a few minutes we probably used it.

The concept of this project is really based on the idea that designers are workers not artists. Is that something you find yourself agreeing with?
JK: Soon In Tokyo came up with the concept for the project, and my interpretation of it is as a riposte to this idea of a superstar designer, international conferences and that sort of carry on. Good design, and good ideas first and foremost come out of hard work and perspiration. Followed swiftly by monotony and some cups of blood and sweat.
MC: There is a lot of frantic energy behind the scenes as a designer works to meet a deadline. I think that’s what these animations are collectively communicating, A kind of everyday panic.

So, we probably won’t see an 800-page monograph coming from either of you anytime soon. This kind of work, animation and stop-motion, can be very labor intensive. It’s definitely a process that you have to follow. Yet it can still be fun, creative and satisfying. At the end of the day, if it’s art or work, does that really matter?
MC: I think it’s important not to worry too much how a piece of work will be categorised, that side of things is generally out of your hands and has no bearing on its quality. The process is always the most fulfilling part, even if it is, in the case of stop-motion, time consuming and often repetitive. Somehow, after a project finishes you look back and forget that side of things and remember the extremely positive aspects, such as the endless cups of tea.
JK: I agree – its important not to focus on how it will be perceived or categorised, the important part in a project like this is getting the idea or concept across in the most engaging way. On top of that, I feel happy if I challenge myself and learn something new on each job – I learnt a huge amount on this project.

The animated GIFs are themselves little loops that constantly repeat, bounce back and forth and never stop. Was the format of the looping GIFs intentionally supposed to replicate the repetitive nature of the workday, the routine of all the little tasks that make up our days?
JK: Yes its that feeling of continual repetition; clicking, writing, punching, the usual workday! When you see them all together its hopefully like looking into a mirror. Sometimes I think if you made my day into a ten frame gif, it wouldn’t be that much different from the previous one, maybe with a different sandwich.
MC: I think even the sandwich would stay the same in mine.

This is the third project you’ve done together, including The Seed for Adobe, and the Het Klokhuis project. What’s your process like working together?
JK: Matthew and I have similar tastes and sensibilities I think, so we work really well together. He however is a total perfectionist at stop motion animation, whereas I’m fairly ham-fisted.
MC: If I gave off that impression then I’m glad! Johnny has a knack for problem solving and an unstoppable enthusiasm for experimenting with new techniques that always makes working together a lot of fun.

Anything new coming up that you’re excited about?
JK: I’ve just started work on a music video for an Irish instrumental band called The Redneck Manifesto. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into my first music promo in a long time.

Directed & Animated by Johnny Kelly & Matthew Cooper
Agency, Art Direction & Concept: Soon In Tokyo Concept
Concept and creative direction: Angelo Palma and Javi Donada
Copywriter: Angelo Palma
Designer: Thiago Monteiro and Javi Donada
Programming: Jesus Gollonet