SoundOn with Sono Sanctus

Gifs have taken the Internet by storm. From social media and how individuals communicate down to bedrock institutions like print media and editorial illustration, the world is seemingly in love with this form of micro animation. It’s short, sweet, and you can pack a lot into those brief few seconds of looping joy.

Depending on how you look at it though, it may be missing one thing… sound.

Here we have a plethora of amazing animations, all playing indefinitely on mute, potentially only communicating half of their full potential.

Enter Wesley Slover and Sono Sanctus. Wesley is an amazing sound designer and composer with deep ties to the motion design industry and he had the bright idea that maybe all these gifs didn’t have to be silent.

Introducing SoundOn, a new community-based experiment Wesley started with the simple mission of adding sound to some of the amazing gifs we enjoy on a daily basis.

The following is a Q&A with Wesley to find out more about the project and how it came to be.


This seems like a great idea and I’m shocked we haven’t seen it before! Can you tell us how this all came about?

Yeah, sure thing. I think there’s a lot of similar collaboration on a one-off basis but we wanted to try something that was a bigger scale and more inclusive. I think the reason you don’t see it is it’s a ton of work. It’s a lot more simple to make sound for a friend’s gif than to create a pipeline to receive, design, deliver, and post 60+ entries.

The idea goes back to when I first discovered the motion graphics community and did a lot of collaboration on Vimeo. As my career has progressed I’ve had much less time for collaborating on personal projects but it was invaluable to my development as a sound designer and for the community aspect.

Now that I have staff and contractors I wanted them to have some of that same experience and use it as a chance for us to grow as a team. We would do one-offs but I thought it would be really nice to have a backlog of gifs that we could reach for when there was downtime.

To date, how long have you been working on this project?

We received our first submission on January 9th, 2018 and it was a little over a year until we finished the submissions and built the gallery page.

When it came to doing the initial outreach, how did you decide who to contact?

We actually didn’t contact anyone. The purpose of SoundOn was to invite any and everyone to submit their work to us. It was particularly important to us that we gave the opportunity for people who may be starting their careers or for whatever reason hadn’t worked with a sound designer to be able to.

I had no idea how many submissions we’d receive so my “rollout” was just tweeting at 5:30 pm with a basic description and link to a form. Then as we posted the finished videos we’d post them with a hashtag and occasionally tweet the submission form but we quickly received 60 submissions which became a pretty full workload for us!

For those who might want to get involved, what can they do to be part of the project or help?

We aren’t currently accepting more SoundOn submissions but I’d just encourage sound designers to reach out to motion designers and vice versa. I think collaboration between sound and visuals is fantastic and gifs offer a sort of “safe space” for experimentation and collaboration since the very short duration makes the stakes lower than committing to doing a short film.

It goes along the lines of your “what does the future hold” question but I would love to see someone create a resource to connect animators with gifs to sound designers. Kind of like what Mixed Parts is doing to connect motion designers.

As .gifs continue to gain popularity in pop culture, what do you think the future holds for this format?

I’m not sure but I’d have to imagine that moving image is just going to become more useful. On the Sono Sanctus Slack, we’re constantly using giphy integration. As silly as it is (it’s incredibly silly) I think it’s honestly enriched our relationships to one another because it gets us to goof around together even when we’re rarely in the same physical place.

Similarly, what does the future hold for SoundOn?

We’ve been very busy for a while so I don’t see Sono Sanctus hosting SoundOn again in the foreseeable future. It was a sort of experiment that I think was really beneficial and fun but it was quite a lot of work.

I think logistically it would be pretty difficult for us to do but I’d love to see a website that connects motion designers and sound designers and makes SoundOn something that is broader than just Sono Sanctus.

I’d also encourage any other sound designers or sound studios to try it. The motion graphics community is constantly pumping out tons of awesome work that needs noise. I’d gladly share any tips to help our fellow sound designers set this up and promote it. I have a very “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality of sound design. I think the more active we, as sound designers are in the community the more attention and value is placed on our craft.

Finally, what’s next for you and Sono Sanctus?

Lately, Sono Sanctus has been really focused on growing a strong team. As such, we’re bringing on our first producer which I’m super excited about. I think that is going to free up more time and energy for developing more of our own work, learning, and discovering new opportunities. Plus I think that project management and communication is an incredibly important aspect of the value we bring to a project, so I want to have someone on our team who specifically dedicated to that area of our craft.

In terms of our work we’ve become particularly interested in sound design’s role in architecture and industrial design and I’m excited to do more work in that space.

About the author

Joe Donaldson

Joe Donaldson is a director, designer, and animator who worked on Motionograpgher from 2014-2020. Previously, he was an art director at Buck. Over the past decade, he's lived and worked in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles and has directed work for clients such as Apple, Google, Instagram, The New York Times, Unicef, Etsy, and The New Yorker. In addition to his creative work, in 2018 he started Holdframe. He's now working as a professor at Ringling College of Art and Design and when not teaching he can be found spending time with his family or out running.