Bright colours & quirky concepts is what Melbourne based stop-motion animation studio Yelldesign is all about! They share some super useful lessons they have learnt along the way when dealing with clients and tell us about a fun passion project which entails a 5-part animation series called Papermeal.
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. Yelldesign is an animation studio based in Fitzroy, Melbourne that specialises in stop-motion animation and short-form content for social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Youtube. Our visual style includes bright colours, quirky concepts and using everyday situations/environments in unusual ways.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? We have a team of 9, so we start with a morning stand-up – discussing the day’s workload, and what social media direction we would like to take for that day. There are the usual flow of email responses, then onto pre-production tasks, like designing/building props and sets, then after lunch we usually have an animation shoot scheduled, so its 100% focus on that until the end of the day. Each shoot takes roughly 3-6 hours (for a 6-15 second video), and can involve up to 500 photographs.
What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?) We are absolutely committed to encouraging and developing young designers/crafters. I came to the design industry as a mature-aged student, so I can see the types of things young designers may struggle with in a commercial environment. I’m also very grateful for the experiences I’ve been given in corporate design, and love to help fast-track younger designers where possible. We usually have at least 1 work-experience student or intern in the studio at any given time.
Any passion projects you would like to share? Of course! The creative group at yelldesign just completed a 5-part animation series called PAPERMEAL. We thought it would be fun to make a complete meal from start to finish, using only paper. In the first series we made 5 meals, and taking it one step further, we decided to make the utensils and all of the sets out of paper too! You can see the whole project here
Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them? Jesse Fitzmaurice – Animator Known locally as ‘The Wolf’, Jesse fixes anything the rest of the team can’t manage. A deep thinker, fascinated with the peculiarities of life, Jesse is a fastidious animator and captivating storyteller.
Toddy Watts – Animator Some of the cleanest hands in the business, technically flawless, fashionable, and upbeat. Toddy is responsible for making many of our showpiece props including pixel perfect laptops, and simply stunning prawns.
Magda Ksiezak – Senior designer Celebrated papercraft legend Magda’s design sense permeates throughout the group and her papercraft expertise continually raises the bar. Magda is also a key mentor for the younger designers, both from aesthetic direction, and client management.
Orla McEvoy – Studio Assistant One of the hardest working pre-prod members of the team. Orla’s growing stable of props is as impressive as it is diverse. Once Orla mastered the paper dodecahedron she hasn’t looked back.
Andy Woithe – Senior Animator Former candy-maker and glass-blower, Andy is another perfectionist whose talents run from designing/building props to shooting and post production. Audio is one of Andy’s major strengths, the backing tracks and foley sounds play a critical role in the success of many of yelldesign’s animations.
Sahr Willis – Director Sahr has a background in musical theatre, stage production and studying pirates. These days Sahr handles yelldesign’s Human Resources and Account Management. Sahr also makes a killer pav.
Thea Lange – Studio Manager If something gets done at yelldesign, its likely that Thea has arranged it. Detail-orientated and quietly focused, Thea ensures a steady flow of premium content is delivered daily – with a trademark smile.
Steve Yani – Studio Assistant Steve Yani interned with yelldesign for 3 months while completing a mixed media degree. Steve’s attention to detail and passion for high quality craft has resulted in a permanent part-time position with the production crew.
How did you develop your style as an animator and what tips would you have for others? I’ve always been fascinated by unusual things, and stop motion is the perfect medium to explore this. I also think short form content elevates the traditional advertising ‘a-ha’ moment, using ‘surprise’ as a key element. Almost every client asks for some sort of surprise in their video, this has influenced my animation style to become very quirky and unexpected. At yelldesign, we now do quite niche animations, and this is important as we have concentrated on this style and honed it over time. There is a temptation to go nuts and do a bit of everything, but it takes time to develop an identifiable style, and its worth investing the effort to continually refine a style you’re either good at, or simply interested in.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? – The client knows more about their product/service than you do.
When a client engages you to do work for them, they usually have a deep understanding of their product/service and things that resonate with their customers. Always try and use their expertise and enhance it with a thoughtful, relevant and engaging piece of design.
– You know more about animation than the client does
Don’t be afraid to stand up and say what will work well as a piece of animation or design – that’s your job! The client is paying you to provide this service, don’t be intimidated by people that are in a perceived ‘higher position’ than you – unless they are in a design-related role, they most likely don’t know as much about the process of animation as you do.
– Call out potential issues early
If you see something that may become an issue – flag it, and quickly. A good designer will make sure they do everything possible to ensure a project is going to succeed. Don’t wait for a known-issue to be found out by someone else. Bring it up and deal with it before hours of time is wasted.
– Send your invoices early!
If you’re a freelancer, or have your own business – Invoicing for design work is probably the most boring, rudimentary and frankly, important task you’ll have to do. Get invoices into your client’s financial system as early as possible. Just getting set up to receive a payment can take months, let alone receiving the actual money!
– Don’t send work until its due.
Probably the most important lesson I have learned. If a design is due on Friday, do it as soon as you can, but don’t send it until Friday. If you send it on Wed, you’ll have feedback and changes in your inbox on Thursday, then you’ll have to make an extra round by Friday. You’ll be burnt out making edits. Bottom line is – agree on a date with the client and stick to it – not before or after.