Creative Connections: Insights for the new normal
to keep our creative community connected, inspired and supported.
Times are uncertain and with feelings of separation high, we want to know how you are staying plugged in, what is keeping you creative and what might be getting in the way?
Four members from the Imaginary Forces team answered:
Harshit Desai: Creative Director
Rob Slychuk: Senior Art Director
Kathy Liang: Designer
Nicole Dileo: Designer/Animator
Please give a brief introduction to yourself and/or studio.
Harshit: Hi I am Harshit Desai- creative director and designer at Imaginary Forces, Los Angeles!
Rob: My name is Rob Slychuk and I am a senior art director at Imaginary Forces.
Kathy: Hi! I’m Kathy. I am a designer at Imaginary Forces. I’m sheltering in place in my sister’s childhood bedroom.
Nicole: Hey there, I’m Nicole. I’m a staff designer/animator at Imaginary Forces, currently working from my apartment in West Los Angeles.
Current state you ask?
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What week are you on for “sheltering in place”? How is work and the pace of your projects?
Harshit: I have lost track, but work has been going well. I want to say I’m busier because I can’t do my usual walk-arounds and check-in. A lot of the “cool” moments in projects come from a random exchange of ideas and conversations. I miss those!
Rob: If anything, I’m busier than usual. And so far I am a fan of working from home. Since before the lockdown I’ve slowly been building my studio-room into a place I just like to hang out in, and get work done. It’s still a work in progress but I finally get to put it to good use. I’ve been extremely fortunate, in that sense.
Kathy: Everything feels amplified, the busy days are busier, and the slow days are slower. Working from home is a little strange but I’m very grateful.
Nicole: Work has been pretty busy, which I’m super grateful for.
What is the most hilarious thing you’ve seen that distracted you from work?
Harshit: Some of the snacks in my pantry seem to constantly call out my name.
Kathy: Werner Herzog reading “Where’s Waldo” never fails to make me giggle. I hope he makes some sort of documentary about this pandemic.
Nicole: Not hilarious, but adorable. My brother and sister-in-law recently adopted a puppy. His name is Ozzy Bob, and he’s a huge distraction:
Can you recommend any general habits to improve workflow? Or list insightful do’s and don’ts.
Harshit: Personally- creating a routine for me helps. I like to do a few things before I sit down to work: open the windows to my living room and my office- make a nice cup of coffee, and put on some music. It lets my brain know it’s time to wake up.
Rob: There is nothing I appreciate more than a clean, well organized project file. People sometimes are rushing to get things out, or don’t see the use of it. But when you have to come back to your project a month from now, or if you have to hand it off to someone else, it will pay off in dividends. I also find it helps me work more efficiently, make iterations and to think clearly about the process. It’s the first thing I try to instill in any younger artist I work with. It all starts there.
Kathy: Put your phone somewhere you can’t easily access it. Check slack. Make a checklist.
Nicole: Listening to good music is usually what keeps me going. I’ll also take 20 minute yoga/workout breaks. Gotta keep the blood flowin’.
When viewing a project, what do you notice first? Any pet-peeves? What things do you love?
Harshit: It’s all about the feels!!! Design-wise I am all about a good layout, color palette, and type hierarchy. Major Pet peeve- unnamed layers and unorganized files.
Rob: I’m attracted to anything that is earnestly itself, in whatever art form or expression. I tend to love things that feel like they have a singular voice, rather than being too designed by committee.
Kathy: I love seeing well thought out typography and transitions.
Nicole: I’ve come to really understand the importance of good typography, thanks to my fabulous college professors. So a big pet peeve of mine is poorly set type. All too often, type is an afterthought.
When you feel stuck, or need inspiration, what are your go-to’s?
Harshit: I like to visit blogs which aren’t necessarily motion design centric? Industrial design, architecture, fine art. They are creative blogs but each of them give the opportunity to look at a problem with a different perspective- Core77, Colossal, and Nowness come to mind.
Rob: I tend to have a few irons in the fire at all times. So if i get stuck on one I switch to something else, and work on that. I’ve found in doing that I often find answers as to why I’m stuck or un-inspired by the other project.
Kathy: #1 rule – go do something else (preferably not art or design related).
If I’m working on something specific and I feel stuck, I’ll briefly write out my idea or do a mind map to hone in on what I want before I start looking. Not the sexiest metaphor, but, it’s like writing an essay – what’s my thesis and how do I support it? This helps me from getting too distracted by all the shiny things online.
Nicole: Design books are starting to become my new thing. I love reading from masters of our craft. They have so much experience and insight to share. “Design, form, and chaos” written by the great Paul Rand, is a book that recently dropped in my lap (courtesy of IF Director Tosh Kodama). It’s a great addition to my ever-growing design book collection.
What inspired you to get into this business? Was there a particular movie, commercial, animation, artist, music video, book, etc.?
Harshit: Honestly- Cartoons and Video games! Growing up in India- Cartoon Network was my first introduction to the creative world- animation, graphics, etc.
I mean Jungle Book, Dexter’s Lab, SwatKats and Super Mario & Contra – all of these are my JAMMM!
Rob: “Se7en.” The opening titles really affected me, at far too young an age to have been watching it. The blend of imagery mixed with a Nine Inch Nails remix track, it was perfect. It blew my mind. I was recreating it on mario-paint on SNES (closest thing I knew to a computer at the time), then using a vhs to record and edit. I didn’t think you could actually have a job doing titles, till much later in life. It’s been a long and winding path, but to now be part of the team that inspired me to do it in the first place is honestly pretty surreal. I get to work with some amazing people. I feel lucky everyday.
Kathy: I took Miguel Lee’s “Motion 1” class at Art Center College of Design to fulfill a requirement and ended up liking it! Prior to that class, my goal was to be an editorial illustrator doing New York Times opinion pieces.
Nicole: I was always a fine artist. I studied fine art from middle school through my first two years at community college. My favorite mediums to work with were markers, ink, and charcoal, which led me to develop a bit of a cartoonist style. I first heard about “Motion Design” when applying for Computer Animation at Ringling. Much like fine art, I noticed that Motion Design encompasses a variety of styles and techniques to create compelling stories and visuals. I was immediately intrigued.
What is the last thing you watched/streamed not work-related (be honest!)?
Harshit: Seinfeld, the show about nothing; a great way to turn off your brain and laugh out loud. I wish more people were into it!
Rob: I often listen to music/podcasts or books while working. Today was Sean Caroll’s mindscape, which I am a big fan of. Also I have been watching “midnight Gospel” on netflix. I love the design/animation and overall concept of the show. Super unique.
Kathy: 90 Day Fiance – it’s pure escapist trash.
Can you take a picture of your current workspace, as is (don’t tidy it up!)?
What force is the most imaginary?
Harshit: Imaginary Forces?? But IF is real!!
Jokes apart, I feel music and its ability to move us physically and emotionally is something very powerful. I personally love to get lost in a song or tune.
Rob: Resistance. I’d recommend reading “the war of art,” the author breaks down a lot of the problems for anyone trying to achieve or create something…and dealing with resistance, it’s a great read (or audio-book!).
Kathy: All of it
Nicole: I’d have to go with the office dogs. They bring such good energy into the studio (all about that dog energy).
What song gets you dancing?
Nicole: I’d be lying if i didn’t say FKJ. His music is so unique and groovy. He’s been my go to lately.
Know any good jokes? If so, can you tell us? (Memes)
Nicole: Here are a few quarantine related memes:
Best live experience (Concert, play, festival, etc.)?
Harshit: Eric Prydz – EPIC 4.0: check out the cool holographic visuals here.
Rob: Too many. One was the Fuji-Rock festival in Japan (years ago). It was a fantastic line up, in unbelievably beautiful surroundings. Most recently I saw C.W. Stoneking at the troubadour, in LA. I feel like that is the last concert I will be seeing for some time, so I am cherishing it.
Kathy: Seeing The Cure in 2016. Not only was it ALL OF THE FEELS, but we also got to experience the euphoria of leaving early and missing the post concert traffic jam. I realize this makes me sound like a 50 yr old man.
Nicole: I was accidentally punched in the face during a Nine Inch Nails performance at Panorama NYC. It wasn’t my best live experience, but it was an experience.
How can creatives plug into their communities right now? Or can you recommend any volunteer communities in response to COVID-19?
Kathy: Eayikes – They have a Covid-19 response initiative called Home-y Made Meals. You can help make sack lunches for the vulnerable from your home, deliver meals, or donate.
Few For All (@Fewforall) is another. Buy your pasta from them if you’re in the LA area! They give 1 lb to the LA food bank per item bought, and they donate meals to out of work hospitality workers.
Anything else? Want to share your latest project, event, or news?
Harshit: Hulu’s Hillary Documentary main title. Regardless of what everyone’s political leanings and feelings about Hillary Clinton are- it’s a great documentary- a very real character sketch of someone who is constantly in the media’s eye. It was one of my first projects at IF and an absolute pleasure!
Rob: I recently helped work on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan titles for season 2 on Prime Video. It was a fun project with a lot of technical challenges. I also got to cameo in the sequences as Jack Ryan’s chest, I wore the military jacket near the end of the piece, it’s a “blink and you miss it” kind of role. But I’m hoping it gets me work as other chests, in future title sequences.
Kathy: Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere main title – Check out our title for Little Fires Everywhere! Come to watch stuff burn down, stay for the beauty. It was amazing to see our designs and ideas being shot in real life. Shoutout to the set crew and our editor Lexi Gunvaldson!
Nicole: I was on the team that helped develop our new website! It was such an honor to refresh our brand and give it a fun and simple new look. Ch-check it out.