Outlook: Become a student of your client's field
Miguel Lee
Issue: November/December 2020

Outlook: Become a student of your client's field

One of the understated joys of working in the creative field is the sheer diversity of projects that we encounter. As more industries continue to discover the value and power of well crafted visual communication, we, the artists, must expand our capabilities to receive them. Now, more than ever, design studios must be great learners in order to be great content creators. 

Several of our biggest projects in the past few years have been done directly with the industries themselves and not through the traditional agency model. In many cases, we were not interfacing with creatives in a marketing department, but rather, with CEOs, engineers and experts in their respective fields. 

With authenticity and technical accuracy at a premium, these projects often require a special kind of on-boarding. From familiarizing ourselves with technical schematics and manufacturing processes, to learning the fundamental sciences behind how things work, we found that the best way to offer creative solutions was to first try to become experts ourselves in the technology and products we were being asked to advocate for. 

While motion design has always been a synthesis of the left and right brain, a new emphasis on learning became integral to our creative process. Fortunately, knowledge has never been more accessible than it is today, and it’s getting even more wide open. Organizations like Khan Academy and edX have blown open the doors to troves of academic resources. 

As a case study, a recent spot we produced for a major semiconductor company required photorealistic 3D visualizations that showed the high level materials engineering behind its products. To prepare, our team audited online courses in physical chemistry and materials engineering. This process led to more informed creative decisions as it enabled us to ask the right questions and avoid conceptual pitfalls along the way. Moreover, we enjoyed a more streamlined collaboration with the client – all PhDs in their respective fields. 

Incidentally, it’s not just the sciences either. Music and sound design, for instance, is a major component of much of our work. While much of the process is typically and largely delegated to composers and sound designers, our efforts to better understand music theory and musical history have proven invaluable in communicating our intentions with our collaborators. 

Whether it’s in the sciences, arts or humanities, studios will naturally excel in augmenting different disciplines respective to the strength and personality of their teams and clients. The ever-increasing need for authenticity, accuracy and clarity will require us all to be better learners and advocates. And the creative landscape will be all the richer for it. 

Miguel Lee is a Creative Director and Founder of Midnight Sherpa (www.midnightsherpa.com ), a Los Angeles-based creative studio specializing in motion design for all mediums.