The Trichrome Project

welcome to the trichrome project blog, which documents the progress of the trichrome animation series, including research, artwork and news.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Field study, day 2

Today was all about books. I went to the film museum in Amsterdam and browsed through their library to search for some interesting sources that could eventually become the backbone of the paper I'll be writing. Some would describe that as the "boring part." The truth is, it wasn't boring for me, but probably a little too boring for a blog post. Alas for the blog! I'm making a post anyways, just to stick to my principles.

Art vs. Advertising

What I found interesting was the tension between 'art' and 'advertising.' When these two concepts are dealt with simultaneously, it usually begins by stating that these two are often seen as mutually exclusive. Many of the books I found focused on either one or the other, OR on the debate as to whether they can be considered one and the same.

As a side note, I'd like to mention that it's not hard to find instances of art and advertising united as one and the same. Alfonse Mucha, Warhol, Norman Rockwell, anyone? In Mucha's case, it's interesting to note that he used the same style for his advertisements as he did in his personal artwork.

Can an advertisement have significant artistic or cultural value? Of course anything can be analyzed from a cultural viewpoint and yield interesting results. Take for example the atrocious advertising campaign of Cillit Bang, which even involved the creation of a fake blog that supposedly belonged to the really annoying Cillit Bang guy, Barry Scott. Everything from the heinous, aggressive shades of neon pink, the comical character of the mascot, and the multimedia-oriented approach to the advertising campaign can be analyzed to reveal interesting observations about today's media and culture. But at what point can an advertisement also be considered 'art'?

Artistic advertisements: Selling out?

One of the questions my teacher asked me when I proposed my research plan was: "What is your opinion of animated shorts being used as parts of an advertising campaign? If shell approached you to make an animation to promote the use of oil, would you do it?" Many of my findings at the library today were about the threat of new media and advertising on cultural heritage and more expressive, less commercial forms of expression. Shortly put: the threat of mass media on the fragile, helpless individual and its morals and culture.

My personal opinion: There is an 'art' to creating an animation for promotional purposes. There is a way to do it that leaves room for creativity while still achieving its original goal, namely to promote or advertise. I stumbled across a book about Animated Shorts used for propaganda purposes in the U.S during WWII. Whether that's relevant to my research is questionable, but it is an interesting parallel. Why are people fascinated by these animations and write books about them? Because the ways in which these animations promote a certain ideology is fascinating, whether you agree with the ideology or not. It's not about the end, it's about the means.

And to answer the question my teacher asked me: No! I wouldn't! Somewhat randomly, this reminds me of a pretty cool commercial I saw on Belgian TV this weekend, intended to tentatively promote the idea of nuclear energy in Belgium:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Field Study: day 1

Day one of the field study has commenced. 'Field study' basically means gathering lots of rough data that has something to do with your subject before starting on the actual paper.

I kept it simple: I browsed some sites, took a look at a few animations that were relevant to my topic, and tried to figure out how these advertising campaigns worked. Of course I got started on the two animations that inspired me to begin with...

Trembled Blossoms

To be honest, the animation in this movie does not impress me very much. I'm not a 3D animator so I can't honestly say that I could do a better job, but I just think that the transition from James Jean's beautiful concept art to this sub-standard 3D film is unfortunate. But something must be said for the decision by Prada to be involved in creative products such as these. In fact, as it turns out, they've been investing in various creative projects for years now, sponsoring the creation of murals, artwork, short films, and animation.

In a way it makes sense, seeing as fashion is also a sector of the creative industry and is in many ways closely linked to these various art forms. It's interesting to see what these projects do for Prada: while promoting themselves and creating an artistic and even expensive image for themselves, Prada is in turn also promoting independent artists. As far as I can tell, the 'projects' that Prada invests in are unique products of the artists that work on them. Trembled Blossoms is not a sparkling gem of animation but the concept and style is undoubtedly unique to James Jean, who was free to create his own spin on the clothing line.

Coca-Cola: Happiness Factory

This campaign is targeted at a larger and more mainstream audience than Prada, and includes not only this animated short (showed in cinemas) and the teaser which was played on TV, but also spin-offs, merchandise, an interactive website, contests, mobile phone activities, and so on. The animated short was made by Psyop, a sickeningly awesome animation studio known for some of the awesomest animated commercials I've ever seen (including the Converse video).

In an interview I stumbled across, it's suggested that the advertising campaign was not planned this way. In fact, Coca-cola was so fond of Psyop's spin on the 'Happiness Factory' concept (which only existed in script prior) that the conceptualization phase became a very long one, involving the design of tons of characters and basically an entire universe for the happiness factory. Although Coca-cola evidently played a strong role in guiding the creation process of the short, it is clear that Psyop should get the credit for the awesome look of the animation.

General thoughts

How lame does 'general thoughts' sound? But truthfully, that's all I have to offer right now. In browsing around today, I became preoccupied with a few things...

  1. As of yet, I have only these two animated shorts that really fit the definition of a short that is used as a format for advertising. However, there's a vast amount of commercial campaigns that come close. The quality and concept of the commercials are excellent, creative and unique, and the brands are using these great commercials to emphasize that they are a brand that invest in quality. A strong example of this is the Sony Bravia campaign.
  2. 'New media': It's difficult to deny that there's a new generation out there that does not limit itself to one medium. Advertising campaigns make use of teasers, games, and similar things to lure people from a younger generation to the internet or to their mobile phones to further immerse themselves in a product. The Coca-Cola advertisements not only establish Coca-Cola's image as the way to express an optimistic and happy lifestyle; they also draw people to the interactive website of Happiness Factory and numerous other activities that promote the soft drink. Another example that comes to mind is the promotional campaign for Cloverfield, aimed at an audience of people who dig a lot deeper than what is simply handed to them by a TV screen. Why am I ranting about this? Well, to me, brands investing in animated shorts are clearly making use of this new form of promotion, the 'animated short' being just one of many formats which can be used to advertise.

Anyway, that's it for now. I will leave you with a link to Psyop (also to be found earlier in this post, but I have to post it again, because this studio is just awesome). This studio really sets the standard for animation in advertising today and also it's just fun to click stuff.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Hello to anyone who might be reading,
I created this blog to document the process of my EMMA project at the HKU, which I'll be working on until the end of August, at which point (hopefully) I will obtain a Master's degree in design for the completed project.

The EMMA project basically involves writing a research paper and then making stuff. I get to choose what to write about and what to make, so the possibilites are very broad. For the coming months I'll be primarily focusing on the research, which I didn't intend to document in a blog. However, yesterday a very inspiring and succesful graphic designer, Tarek Atrissi, gave a presentation at our school with some tips on how to handle the EMMA project, he himself being a graduate of the program in 2009. He suggested, amongst many other things, documenting the research process in a blog or something similar. Having thought about it, I decided that this was in fact a good idea. It'll help me to structure my thoughts and keep working in small steps rather than attempting to write the whole paper in one weekend as per my usual approach.

So, welcome to my EMMA project blog! For those who are wondering what my EMMA project will entail, my current pet name for the project is "The animated short as a format for advertising." I wanted to look at how animated shorts are used as an advertising technique, for example "Happiness Factory" by Coca-Cola. I'll try to keep it interesting, but for now I'm logging off.

Feel free to check out my other websites for more mindless entertainment.