Blend Fest 2017

By | after effects, brand, brand identity, design, design systems | No Comments

Blend Fest is an animation festival held biannually in Vancouver, BC. Over two days, guests hear talks by over a dozen award winning animators, directors, motion designers, and sound engineers. It is a place where animators and designers can come together under one roof to collaborate, improve skills, and geek out about keyframes. The festival was built out of love between four friends from Wine After Coffee – a vimeo channel that curates exceptional motion work. Lets get to it!

Here is festival opener, The Blend is Near, created by Oddfellows:

Whoa. Back up. Did you see that?Blend welcomed us all by including each attendee’s name in the title sequence. This gesture highlights how hospitable the festival was to us. From a branding standpoint, this was very powerful way to make a memorable experience.

Here are a few of my favorite speakers from the festival:

Justin Cone:

Justin was this year’s Blend host. You may have seen his contributions around the web in the form of a website called Motionographer. This site is a juicy pitstop with healthy helpings of animation, design, and storytelling. Thanks for keeping the show running smoothly!

Bee Grandinetti:

Bee Grandinetti is an independent designer, animator, and illustrator from Brazil. In 2015 Universal Everything commissioned Bee to create a 30 second animation loop based on the word “Shrink”. Her work was then projected mapped on the side of the Sydney Opera House. This living mural included work from 20 animation studios and animators. Check out Universal Everything’s documentation to see all animations on the Opera House.

Bee was also the lead designer and animator for this years Blend Fest branding. Before the festival stared, Blend asked each guest to create their own geometric avatar when signing up. Upon arrival, they gifted each one of us our very own physical avatar as a totem. Every single shape was cut, sanded, and hand-painted. These delightful keepsakes allow us to take a part of Blend with us wherever we go.

blend fest lanyard

One thing I really love about Bee is her gratitude. To help give back to the community, she uses her well-deserved recognition to spotlight other women animators.


Oddfellows is an award winning animation studio with offices in San Francisco and Portland. As a company created by animators, there were gaps in knowledge for running a business. They quickly realized this problem and reached out to other animation studios for advice. Luckily this tight knit community met them with warm welcomes. Competitors soon became allies in establishing best working practices for the community and began to help prop each other up. The big takeaway: ask for help if you need it. This is a community that loves to share and help others. Don’t forget to share your knowledge and offer help in return.

Because Oddfellows is a relatively new company, they had to hustle to get noticed. In one example, the studio was moved by the actions AirBnb hosts have done for their guests. They took this opportunity to reach out to AirBnb to propose a new project as a way to show their support for this messaging. After impressing the AirBnB team, Oddfellows was hired for additional work.

Erica Gorochow

“Originality is a by-product of authenticity”. Erica Gorochow, also known as Pep Rally, is an independent director, animator, and designer in Brooklyn. One wise piece of advice she shared with us was, “If you have an idea for a self-initiated project, cut it in half. Then cut it in half again. That is your project.” This rule lead her to create VoteGif, the website with a simple task to let voters know registration deadline for each state. She then animated characters for each state and rendered them in very easy to share gifs.

Erica also directed Dear Europe, a highly acclaimed video about the then-upcoming European elections in hopes to educate voters on the lessons learned through Brexit and the US Election. This collaborative video included over 20 animators to help drive the message of unification.

John Black

Sound accounts for half the picture. John Black, aka CypherAudio, is a sound designer and original music creator. This award winning music artist has created work for Apple, Google, Nike, and dozens of others including Blend Fest. The beautiful CypherAudio brand identity was designed by Worship Studio.


Animade is a London based multidisciplinary studio that creates animation, games, and interactive sites. They talked about the importance of internal studio projects. It’s a way for them to practice, experiment, fail, learn, foster studio culture, give themselves a place to play, and help gain attention from potential clients. If there is studio downtime, employees pull ideas (most often puns) out of a box and animate it. Animade has grown quite popular online as they share those animation collections on social channels. These small ideas sometimes morph into much larger aspects of client work, thus further funding additional studio projects.

One of my favorite studio projects is Party Pooper, a web experiment game where your character tries to poop the party.  It pushes the boundaries of SVG animation by utilizing Bodymovin‘ (you’re welcome). NOTE: watch this video AFTER you play Party Pooper for yourself! 

Additionally, Animade showed off another studio project called Boords. They designed a system that makes creating storyboards quick and easy. They are now releasing it to the rest of the world.

Sander van Dijk

Sander co-founded Blend festival. He is a big talent with an even larger heart. Anyone that has ever crossed paths with Sander will know how genuine and passionate he is. His style utilizes simple geometric shapes, bold color, and wicked transitions. This type of thinking is great for companies trying to push a flexible branding ecosystem.

Sander has an extraordinary work philosophy – making a conscious choice on who to work with. After leaving his dream job at Buck, he began to work with companies that have a better vision for the world. The path to get there is simple, work with companies that inspire you. Creating this work helps companies you support gain traction and succeed. “Following your dreams will require a change in life, but if anyone can make a transition it’s motion designers.” Below is an interview with animation podcast, Animalators:

Along with this inspirational mindset, he has developed a unique workflow and released tools to empower others. For example, check out his Ray Dynamic Texture plugin which allows texturing shape layers with just a few clicks:


Design studio Illo is run by power partners Ilenia Notarangelo and Luca Gonnelli. Their talk was broken up into 3 parts: Sharing a desk with your partner, sharing your desk with your team, and sharing your desk with a robot. Illo are as charming as they come. Frequently referencing their love for pizza, they discussed the challenges of working with your partner, the importance of valuing diversity (7 of 11 employees are women), and how they were able to create over 200 videos for The 2016 Rio Olympics–all while on vacation.

“Keyframes are overrated. Better use code.” Among the design work they do, Illo created an algorithm named Algo they continually work with. Building this AI has allowed them to use real-time data to generate videos all within a few seconds. They have also utilized Algo for Italian soccer league Serie A and the S&P500 daily video recaps for Bloomberg.

Andrew Kramer

Andrew Kramer is the After Effects godfather. He is notably recognized for creating After Effects tutorials under the name Video Copilot. Anyone in the motion discipline can tell you they have learned from him. After many years of teaching us his secrets, he went on to develop plugins for the community and started creating visual effects for blockbuster titles such as Star Trek and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Andrew talked about the challenges of working on massive projects while maintaining a healthy relationship with his family. “With today’s software and hardware anyone can make some something – the real issue is actually having a good idea.” Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story, Andrew. And now, another very exciting tutorial.

Tips & Tricks

Sprinkled throughout the conference were short 2 minute sessions of tips and tricks. Here are some amazing tips you can try in your workflow:

Sarah Beth Hulver: Masking a texture

Zak Tietjen: Parallax Rig (everyone at the conference let out an audible gasp after hearing Zak share his tip)

Vucko: A tip for writing on notes

Kyle Martinez: Rubberhose

Animalators: live at Blend Fest 2017 with Andrew Kramer, Patrick Osborne and Erica Gorochow:

List of speakers:
Host – Justin Cone of Motionographer
Andrew Kramer
Bee Grandinetti
Carson Ting
Erica Gorochow
John Black
Patrick Osborne
Robert Valley
Sander Van Dijk
Tuna Bora
Thank you Blend!

GERG WERK Redesign

By | brand, brand identity, design, gergwerk, portfolio, process, typography, website, website design | No Comments

gergwerk tablet redesignGerg Werk Resumegergwerk type card Over the last few months I have dedicated myself to revitalizing the Gerg Werk identity. As a large portion of my design practice utilizes motion and video, I wanted to give homage to these aspects in the redesign. I have done this by visualizing the new Gerg Werk logo as a modified keyframe icon. In animation, keyframes mark the start and end of any transition by moving objects at a steady, constant rate. If you want to give the audience a little razzle dazzle, Easing Keyframes will allow objects to move with inertia, style, and elegance. One type of Easing Keyframe is visualized as a hourglass shape. This ‘Bezier’ Keyframe not only represents style and personality, but also resembles a lowercase ‘g’.types of keyframesIn case you were wondering how these keyframe types effect how objects move, I’ve created a short animation below.
Keyframe – the movement is linear, lacks variety in speed by moving objects in a constant rate
Ease Out – will start the animation slowly, and finish at full speed
Ease In – will start the animation at full speed, then finish slowly
Bezier – shares attributes from both easing keyframes. It is this extra style and attention to detail that I hope to continue to include throughout my work.
Design elements using the Bezier Keyframe as inspiration for the letter ‘g’. After lots of sketching, I was able to create a larger mark that also utilizes the Bezier Keyframe into the initials GWK – Gerg Werk.gergwerk logomark design_
Process sketch variations:gergwerk-test-pattern gergwerk-test-pattern-detail gergwerk-letterforms

One World Observatory teaser post

By | brand, design, design systems, gergwerk, portfolio, Stimulant, typography, Video | No Comments

This is a teaser post based on the latest project I worked on in 2015. Now that the building is open to the public, I can announce that I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunity to design a large scale projection data visualization for the One World Observatory in New York City. For final designs and many more details, see this project in my portfolio here:
Photos from NY Curbedone world observatory, one world trade center, dataviz, infographic, design, nyc one world observatory, one world trade center, dataviz, infographic, design, nyc_
Photos from The Gothamist. one world trade center, projection map, design

Looking back at 2014

By | brand, brand identity, dance, design, gergwerk, gui, portfolio, Stimulant, typography, Uncategorized | No Comments

Lets take a look back at the work I was a part of in 2014.

First, a project that has won the top spot for best use of technology at the Event Design Awards 2014, the Genentech Pipeline Explorer. My role on this project was visual designer, motion designer, and post production. I also co-wrote a blog post that documents our process, which includes  behind the scenes images and lots of project details.

Genentech BioOncology Pipeline at ASCO 2014 from Stimulant on Vimeo.

Second, the interactive art installation for Decibel Fesitval called dBcube. This highly experimental four-sided interactive dance cube received tons of attention from festival goers. The USS Enterprise helmsman, George Takai, also had his turn.

#dBcube at EMP for Decibel Festival 2014 from Stimulant on Vimeo.

A personal favorite of mine is an exhibit for the MOHAI museum in Seattle. The Launchpad uses interactive multi-touch mirrors, depth-sensing cameras, and a real time reactive particle system.

MOHAI Launchpad from Stimulant on Vimeo.

I had the opportunity to  work on branding for my good friend, Noise Jockey. In his spare time, NJ is field recording, producing sound design, sound effects, and music. Here is the final logotype design lockup at the top of his website.Noise Jockey website redesign, gerg werk_
Reversed logomark optionsnoise jockey logomarks, logo_
Alternative direction using Morse code as sound and visual symbolnoise jockey logomarks, logo_
Alternative direction using a noise maker as main logonoise-maker-blog_
Color and layout exploration for logotype noise jockey, logotypes, logo_
Sketch and type explorationsnoise jockey documentation, process

Genentech’s BioOncology 2014 Pipeline: Design & process

By | brand, design, multi touch, multi touch interface, portfolio, Stimulant, touch screen, Video | No Comments

Genentech BioOncology Pipeline at ASCO 2014 from Stimulant on Vimeo.

Every year, the rock stars of the cancer research and treatment world put on their shiniest shoes and assemble for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the ASCO conference, Genentech’s BioOncology group asked Stimulant to design and develop a unique way to view and interact with their drug development pipeline. This pipeline represents all the molecules currently being researched and tested to treat various tumor types, each of which can be organized by tumors they may affect, the biological mechanism of their action, and the phase of testing they’re currently in. 

In a sea of printed bar charts that focus on one area of study, Stimulant designed a way for conference attendees to focus in on their own area of interest while still maintaining a holistic look of the data in a larger context. As leaders in biotechnology, Genentech must also pave the way as how data is presented to the oncology community.

I had the pleasure to co-write and share our design process for this project. To read the full design process details along with more behind the scenes imagery, visit:
Dana Smith testing size relationships on low-fi print mock upDana Smith user testing genentech pipeline explorer

Client: Genentech
Agency: Stimulant

Stimulant credit list:
Design Director: Nathan Moody
Art Director: Jules Konig
Project Manager: Julie Yamato
Technical Director: Josh Santangelo
Technical lead: Ritesh Lala
Interaction Design: Dana Smith
Visual Design, Motion Design, & Post Production: Gregory Kaufman
Cinematographers: Stephan Winokur and Nathan Moody
Header image by Stephan Winokur

DS: solar organization

By | brand, brand identity, design systems | No Comments
i was asked to develop a name and visual identity for my solar panel organization.

mission-provide alternate ways to power electronic devices

brand essence-going yellow

brand attributes-smart, efficient, modern, universal, optimistic, friendly

naming development was based on names of the sun, unit measurements for sunlight energy (for solar panels), what solar panels are made of (silicon) etc…

mighty rays
travel light
solar flair
solar circuit


first image making set. the type was thought of as a scientific approach, or a visual representation of temperature and degrees.

contrasting geometric shapes with hand drawn blemishes that act as sun spots
intricate detail, but when reduced in size, loose a lot of the ornate marks

second image set

third image set-idea was to play with pattern. allows for unlimited application because the lines are infinitely interchangeable.

final elements for the beam brand-

act as pattern

image and color use