Friday, November 28, 2008

Interview - Willy Karl Beecher

Motion graphics for the MADC Awards 2008 by Willy Beecher

Title sequence for the AFI awards 2007

Willy Karl Beecher is an incredibly talented Melbourne designer, and also a great friend of my partner Gordon. If you live in Australia and own a TV, it's more than likely that you've seen Willy's incredible work at some point... but you probably haven't spared a thought for the process and expertise required to create the stunning motion graphics he is responsible for!

Willy is a design director whose varied portfolio of work includes branding, art direction, graphic design and motion graphics for film, TV and commercials. Amongst other things, he designs and creates the superimposed graphics and effects you see in so many commercials and title sequences. It's work that often blends so seamlessly into the viewing experience, that you mightn't always notice just how involved this design process is!

Willy's clients over the years have included Adidas, the AFI awards, Herald and Weekly Times, Nissan, Mio and Village Cinemas. Willy also lectures in Illustration, Design and Motion Graphics at RMIT in Melbourne.

Please take a moment to watch Willy's incredible showreel below... Its like, WOW!

Tell me a little about your background - what did you study and what path led you to what you're doing now?

As far back as I remember I have been interested in art, all through school it fascinated me. For me I could think of no better way to indulge my time than simply create things. Through secondary school I discovered an aptitude for Art and Design and focused my studies primarily on these.

I studied Industrial Design at RMIT Melbourne starting back in 1989, and although I loved illustration and concept development during this course, I found it too engineering and technically based. I managed to complete 2 years over 4, yet couldn't find the passion I needed to complete the course. I've spoken to many people that have had similar experiences, and I suppose when I lecture it gives me a sense of empathy towards my students.

After a soul searching 2 year break, I returned with a vengeance to study Electronic Design & Interactive Media, again at RMIT. During this course I discovered my passion for moving image and I focused almost entirely on Graphic Design and Animation. In 1995 the course was still evolving, we were on the eve of the internet boom and the lecturers encouraged whatever crazy ideas you could develop. For me this was perfect!

On graduation I was employed as a designer for a graphic design firm, JM Artworks. This was a small but wonderful place, where the Creative Director encouraged everyone. It was a hectic and crazy environment but we had so much fun, a madhouse of designers and artists. I would often be struck on the head by a flying Elmo. I stayed on for about 2 and a half years.

In late 1997, and with some luck I landed a job as a Designer for a boutique animation company called Planet X Studios. Here I trained as a Design Director. I was surrounded by animation and broadcast experts and was educated to follow extremely high standards of production. Working mostly on TVCs and film graphics there was NO margin for error, and the pressure was constant. Planet X was great because I learned professional skills, not only in design but in management, and business.

Following this I started YenBrand with Adam Rankin. We were a boutique Motion Graphics and Branding consultancy. We had reasonable success but after 2 and a half years we parted ways to pursue alternative careers.

Since this time I have worked for myself.

motion graphic for Desktop Magazine 'Create' awards

What are some of your projects/clients that we might be familiar with?

I work with such a variety of brands that I rarely get bored, its great. I work on Television Commercials, Branding, TV Identities and Corporate Projects. Some you may be familiar with: The AFI AWARDS for 2007, branding and concept design for a series of AMP commercials, a HONDA TVC spot, Corporate Branding videos for SIEMENS, Adidas and an interesting one recently was Design Direction for Optus / "Hot Hits" a teenage music and celebrity show on Mobile Phones. Currently I'm working on Design for a series of retail TVCs for Nissan.

Title sequence for the AFI awards 2006

You work closely with film directors and agency to achieve the polished motion graphics we see on TV commercials. How much creative freedom do you have when determining the 'look' of this commercial work?

I'm very fortunate and grateful that I'm given lots of freedom to develop creative. I never work alone though and I must credit everyone involved, especially the producers that work behind the scenes with the admin and scheduling.

For me it's vital that I receive enough time from clients to develop animation. There is a process I insist on where proper briefings, storyboards, style frames and Animatics come first. Most clients understand the importance of this to achieve the "look". When everyone is in agreement, projects rise to the top in quality.

Motion graphics for the Defence Department TVCs

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

I'm going through an introspective period regarding this, its because there is so much wonderful work, I'm simply overwhelmed.

Perhaps its also a realisation on how small we really are. Even so creatives like these inspire me to tears:

Theo Jansen

Where else do you find inspiration? (books, magazines, the web, travel, film etc).

I'm fascinated by beauty in so many forms, including music, but especially the magic of nature. I often turn to nature for colour schemes, patterns and movement. The Planet Earth DVD series with David Attenborough, The Jelly Fish enclosure at the Melbourne Aquarium, or the Butterflies at the Melbourne Zoo, Simply Brilliant!

Poster for the Loreal Melbourne Fashion Festival 2005

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

Because I work on contract my days vary considerably. Although I do work on an hourly basis, I may do a week of 12 Hour days, after which I may have 4 days off. I'm very conscious of my health and train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 4 times a week. My girlfriend, puppy and I also often retreat to the country, natural environments are a rejuvenating experience.

Willy's portrait of his partner, Ellie

What are you most proud of professionally?

Cultivating great professional relationships that last, and being hired as the generator of creative vision.

What's the best thing about your job?

Creating wonder and magic, seriously!

And the worst?

People that don't understand the value of the creative process. I believe design must be taken more seriously in this country, valued at early stages of education. We are all surrounded and intrinsically involved with design. Whether we like this or not, from tangible products to TV, the clothes we wear, books, film, cars, buildings, interiors, the list goes on. Having an educated perspective on universal design principles increases the quality of your life experience.

What would be your dream project?

I've worked on many dream projects, but in 2009 I'm aiming to acquire contracts from the US market.

Identity Design for TV Networks like NBC, CNN, Discovery and Feature Film Title Design.

Concept work for MRPPP in Melbourne

What are you looking forward to?

More travel and buying a house!

What's on your 'to do' list this week?

Getting my Tax sorted, I also have a BJJ Jiu Jitsu tournament coming up, so I'm training hard.

Melbourne Questions –

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Actually it was the Lorne pier seafood shop. We ordered Coffin and Smokey Bay Oysters, so fresh and wonderful!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Sleeping in :)

Melbourne's best kept secret?

There is a brilliant old school Italian grocery store in Moonee Ponds called Russos Meats. It's on Holmes Road. They have incredible home made salami and sausages, recently I ordered a home made Prosciutto. Its hanging in the store with my name on it. It will be ready in December, Yum!


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