Once upon a time, there was a talented motion designer from Bristol, UK named Al Boardman. One day Al created a beautifully designed, geometric animated GIF. Creativity aside, from all outward appearances, it seemed to be an ordinary animated GIF. In reality, it turned out to be anything but ordinary. Instead, it was the magic spark that ignited a creative concept that transformed into a collaborative passion project.
Or – if you prefer the CliffNotes version, what do you get when you mix 9 motion designers with 9 animated GIFs? 9 Squares.
I’m fascinated with the concept of collaborative motion graphics. I was first exposed to the idea in 2013 when Michael Waldron, Senior VP Creative Director of Art + Design at Nickelodeon sent me an email, proposing the idea of directing a collaborative motion graphics project as his talk for motion 2014. Michael wasn’t new to speaking at motion, he had done numerous talks since he first took the motion stage in 2009. In his pitch, he referred to this as The Exquisite Corpse Project based on the Surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse – a game in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution. Over the years, this game was adapted from writing to drawing and collage. Michael’s plan was to ratchet it up yet another level: collaborative motion graphics. Since then, Michael has created two more iterations – but I’ll save that for a future conversation.
A year later, thanks to yet another motion speaker, Greg Gunn, Creative Director at Blind – I got hooked on the creatively designed, whimsical animated GIFs in his passion project: Mythical Mondays, featured on motion.tv.
So what do you get when you mix Michael’s Exquisite Corpse Project and Greg’s Mythical Monday’s? 9 Squares – a collaborative animation project organized by motion designers Al Boardman (Bristol, UK), Skip Dolphin Hursh (Brooklyn, NY), and David Stansfield (Charleston, SC). The concept of 9 Squares came about when David suggested that it would be fun to create an animated GIF similar to the one Al had created – but where 9 different animators would collaborate by taking on one square each.
And with that, 9 Squares was born.
So let’s take a look at Al’s animated GIF that started it all. Each square consists of simple, colorful geometric shapes. The animation of each square is delightfully playful, but something special happens when the 9 squares come together to form a grid. The interaction between the animations becomes a kinetic dance of beautifully orchestrated motion graphics.
Let the collaboration begin! How does it work? Nine artists are assigned the task of creating a three second, 350-pixel square using only 4 colors – which are pre-selected by the organizers. Then, when the animations are complete, the organizers look for patterns and moments of synchronicity to design the order in which they will be displayed in the three-by-three grid. The result? Motion magic!
Since the project began in March of 2015, a total of twenty-eight, 9-square animated GIFs have been created by 186 artists. View them all online.
Now that’s just awesome!
9 squares #27
Top: Lisa Vertudaches, Jason Poley, Adam Wells
Middle: Eleanor Ngai, Thiago Maia, Travis Krause
Bottom: Bran Dougherty-Johnson, Pocull, Tom Bunker
9 squares #15.
Top: Melinda Kádár, Heather Shelini Alabado, Aimee Bruss
Middle: Lizzie Lay, Cindy Suen, Simone Noronha
Bottom: Alicia Reece, Sara Bennett, Sara Farnsworth
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