Still from student motion design work about voting.
Still from motion design piece.

The Challenge:

Students can choose to get involved with client work through a number of programs at Ringling College of Art and Design, but many get this first-hand experience in the classroom. In the fourth-year Motion Design Senior Thesis course, students select a project from over 50 client briefs. This means 50+ ways to work on client-based projects, build their portfolios, and gain an understanding of the professional expectations of the industry. In the fall 2018 semester, one student, Paul Detling (also the 2018 Trustee Scholar for Motion Design), chose to work on the Civic Nation’s Vote Together campaign, which aims to “change the culture of voting and increase participating by making democracy an opportunity for community celebration.”

From a motion design perspective, the brief asked for four short, looping, animations (GIFS) that would be shared via the Civic Nation social media channels. The project had two end goals: to inspire others to vote in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and to increase traffic to the Vote Together website, where interested parties could find information about the program, FAQs, and resources for how to get involved.

Detling was intrigued. “I chose this project because I have an interest in politics,” he shares. “When I read the brief, I had an immediate idea of what I could do in this space. Couple that with the fact that I like to animate GIFs that loop, with no start or end, and it was an instant fit.”

A great fit it certainly was, but he had just two short weeks to bring it to life.

The Process:

Over the course of the next two weeks, Detling got to work, starting with sketches to develop the look and feel of the story. He tried several approaches, landing on a character-based approach to connect with people and broaden his options for storytelling. He refined his characters to what you see today: an anthropomorphized red circle and a blue circle. Simple, yet highly effective and relatable.

He then sketched out rough storyboards for the message each animated GIF would relay. Once the characters and stories were laid out, each GIF took approximately 5-7 hours to create.

In these mini-stories, ranging from 4 seconds to 15 seconds in length, the lovable little guys showcase the interactions and details every voter experiences, from the hard decision-making process to proudly claiming the coveted “I Voted” sticker. They remind the viewers to “Get Out and Vote,” “Your Vote Counts,” “Vote Together,” and “Participation is a Celebration.”

Detling also took the current political climate into consideration, taking care to represent viewers from both sides of the aisle, hence red and blue characters, and deliver messages with universal appeal. 

“This was really about delivering something everyone could enjoy, as well as serving as a reminder of the importance of voting,” says Detling. “The GIFs were supposed to appeal to everyone.”

But the artwork wasn’t created alone—like any designer, Detling was tasked to work within the parameters of the Vote Together brand and to meet the high standards of Ed Cheetham, the Head of the Department of Motion Design at Ringling College, and his faculty.

Cheetham expounds, “In our department, we provide an opportunity for all the motion design students to use their motion design skills to raise awareness of important social issues, and ultimately use their creative powers for good. Having the Department of Motion Design engage with Civic Nation provides a tangible pathway for students to get involved, take action, and help make a positive difference in the world.” 

He continues, “I was very excited to see Paul select the voting awareness project. I knew that his creativity, coupled with his love of stop motion animation, would make for a charming and memorable reminder to get out and vote.”

Animated gif by Paul Detling
Animated gif by Paul Detling
A few of the final animated gifs

The Results:

“These are awesome! Thank you so much for all your hard work. Great job.”
Jessica Blair – Civic Nation

“…these are beyond cool.”
Cassie Wilkinson – LoyalKaspar

Needless to say, the client was pleased. The animated GIFs were used by Civic Nation on its Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“It’s great to see something I had a part in actually be used,” Detling says. But more than that, it was an opportunity for Detling to work with clients to deliver a product that meets their needs, supports their brand, and pushes their message forward. Not to mention, it was also a valuable addition to his portfolio as a professional motion designer.

By Stephanie Lederer
Stephanie Lederer is the Editorial + PR Manager for Ringling College and Editor of CONTXT magazine.