The work of a motion graphics designer is arguably one of the more challenging creative professions to define in terms of what’s required due to the multitude of skills it calls for from one project to another. Depending on the project a motion graphics designer could be exercising their skill as a designer, animator and storyboard artist one day and an editor, illustrator and 3D artist the next. It is through the modern art of motion graphics that images, text, graphics and sound take shape to tell a story through moving images.
The combination of colors, text, styles, images and whatever else the artist wants to include are virtually endless, and that’s what Italian motion graphics designer Emanuele Marani loves most. Some of his most recent work includes the new Facebook Faceversary animation videos that debuted in February, the opening logo motion graphic for New Republic Pictures founded by Academy Award-nominated producer Brian Oliver, the opening title for “The Morning Show” and more.
As a motion graphics designer Marani has designed commercials, idents, advertisements and more for the likes of Baskin Robbins, Oreo, Target, Apple, Facebook, Uber, BMW, Apple TV, Adobe, Oculus, Instagram and countless others. Growing up in Italy, Emanuele Marani loved to draw, as well as shoot photos and tell stories through film; yet, he found each of the mediums to be too limiting on their own.
“I felt really limited by having a still frame or a drawing as a form of my expression, this was a huge problem for me- I wanted to see what I had in my mind taking life. I was looking for something that was able to mix my passion for storytelling, drawing, photography and film.”
Upon discovering the world of motion graphics Marani fell head over heels in love– finally, a medium where all of his interests could intersect to create whatever he imagined. As a man with a seemingly endless well of creativity, Marani has not only managed to stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving industry, but he’s also established himself as an innovative force.
Last month Marani earned a Bronze Award from the 99th annual ADC Awards for the opening title he designed for “The Morning Show,” which airs on Apple TV+ and stars household names Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. Earlier on his career Marani was also recognized with numerous awards, including the PromaxBDA Silver and Bronze Awards, and the Silver and Bronze World Medals from New York Festivals for his work as a designer on the 2013 Italian promotional campaign for season eight of the hit series “Criminal Minds.”
Over the years Marani has worked as a motion graphics designer for numerous TV networks such as Fox Channel Italy, MTV Germany, MTV Italy and Italy’s leading TV network RAI, as well as legendary studios including Elastic TV, Psyop LA, Buck LA , Man vs Machine LA, We Are Royale, Hello Scholar and more.
Needless to say, Emanuele Marani is among the industry’s best and most experienced artists to shed a little light on the field of motion graphics. In our interview he fills us in on what goes into the job, some of the keys to success and above all, the importance of remaining authentic and staying true to yourself with your work.
So, what led you to motion graphics– how did you first discover the field?
EM: When I was in high school I used to borrow my dad’s old reflex and camera to shoot photos and videos, and create short movies with friends. I felt a strong passion for drawing, but I felt really limited by having a still frame or a drawing as a form of my expression, this was a huge problem for me- I wanted to see what I had in my mind taking life. I was looking for something that was able to mix my passion for storytelling, drawing, photography and film.
While researching film schools in Rome, I discovered an institute of design that was doing an exhibition with projects from recent graduates. It was in that moment that I discovered motion graphics, I instantly fell in love. Through motion graphics I found a way to mix all the different techniques that I’d always loved and create what I’d envisioned in my mind without any limits.
For those who don’t know, can you tell us what a motion graphics designer does?
EM: I can really only say what a motion graphic designer is for me from my perspective. The motion graphics designer has to know how to handle all the different techniques that will help develop the story.
So for me, it’s not a 3D artist, it’s not an illustrator, and it’s not an animator, but someone who does a bit of everything. But most of all, besides the technique, they have to know how to tell a story, and make that story interesting, to catch the attention of the viewer using the right design and language depending on what the story and the concept is about. They also have to know how to tell a story with the right timing and point of view. So basically for me a motion designer is both a designer and a director who has the power to create an interesting visual story.
What is it about motion graphics design that you love?
EM: That’s simple. The freedom that it gives you in terms of storytelling. There’s always the potential to find a way to tell the story you have in mind using different techniques, the only limit of motion graphics is your mind.
Where do you get your inspiration from and how do you maintain your creative edge?
EM: This is a hard question. It’s hard to predict what can inspire me. I can talk about real inspiration, but that can be different from the creative process you have to deal with when you work on a project with a deadline.
Creativity is something that’s born from your mind and your thoughts, so I can get inspiration from different things. Sometimes it can be music and the environment we are surrounded by, and other times it can be a person you’re talking with, a place you’re visiting, some specific image, painting or sculpture that gets your attention. Anything that makes my mind vibrate. The most important thing is to find a way to travel with your mind and your thoughts and let the inspiration come to you. Honestly, the times when I force myself to get inspired are the times I never find the inspiration. I think there are no rules about getting inspired, everyone has his one way. Creativity is about your individual mind, it’s about getting your thoughts to move freely… if your mind is not free I’m not sure you can be creative.
Can you tell us what you feel is needed to be successful in the industry, how does someone set themselves apart?
EM: When I started the industry was not as competitive, but over the years it’s become really hard to be successful and unique in this industry. I see a lot of really good designers, but also a lot of the same stuff. I think that more than anything the most important thing is to be yourself and follow what you really love. The saddest thing you can do is copy someone else, just because you see that kind of stuff is working doesn’t mean that you need to follow the same rules.
It is rare to find someone with an original point of view and something interesting to represent. You can put a lot of creativity into a single frame, but this only comes if you follow yourself and what you really love, otherwise you’ll just be a boring copy of something else.
The tool that can help you to be successful is yourself, not the techniques, but your creativity and your ideas. With all of the social networks and the way things are now, especially with instagram, so many people are interested and getting likes and followers so they just start to create things following the current hype, making what everyone else is making because that is the trend. I think that we need to take the time to stop and experiment by ourselves, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to step by step understand our unique characteristics that can make each of us unique, interesting and successful as individuals.
What are some of the changes and advances the motion graphics industry has seen in recent years, how is the modern industry different than say, 10 years ago?
EM: Yes sure. The industry has changed a lot. The technologies and the software right now are more accessible and easy to learn with a lot of tutorials online, and there’s huge power with the current software allowing you to develop something really professional from your home. You need to know a lot of technologies and techniques to stay competitive. The evolution has led the market to run faster and faster, and make the competition more intense, but it’s also given birth to a lot more studios and companies, which has two sides. On one side it is pretty positive since those who have talent are able to express themselves easily, and they have more opportunities to get noticed and start a career in this field. There are more work opportunities and the chance to prove yourself. On the negative side, or as I see it, is the risk of losing the creativity and originality in order to run and follow the rhythms of the market. There’s the risk of becoming just a machine that produces a product because there is less time to work on personal projects, to experiment and do what you need to in order to keep the creativity high.
How do you stay up to date on the advances in the industry?
EM: I think that really depends on what kind of jobs and projects you are looking to work on and your approach to the industry. In terms of the techniques and software, it’s starting to get harder year by year since there is alway a new release from the software house and the plug ins etc., so you just need to keep learning and understanding what’s going to be useful for you and what’s not, in order to stay competitive but also to use your time wisely and stay focused in the right direction.
You also need to stay updated about the design languages that are used in the present market. It’s not hard nowadays to stay updated on all of this. You can follow what the studios are releasing thanks to the online platforms, and some studios are more famous than others for experimenting and bringing something new that will automatically become the new trend. This is the fastest way to keep yourself up to date. But again, I’ll say that you should always continue to experiment by yourself in order to keep your mind fresh because if you lose your creativity, you’re going to lose your passion and your motivation.
Can you tell us about one of your early jobs as a designer for Fox Italy? Why was this an important stepping stone for you and what were you doing for them?
EM: I started working for Fox a few months after graduating from the European Institute of Design. At that time it was a huge company in Rome full of talented and creative people, and it was an innovative and professional environment to grow in as a designer.
I was working as motion designer for different Fox channels, creating graphic packages for their TV shows, but also short idents that gave me the chance to express myself and my creativity. The environment was amazing since the art directors let the designers freely present their ideas for the production of the graphics, and that was really important for me .
I was working with people with years of experiences so I was able to learn a lot and grow quickly, and the professional level was really high since I was working for national television, which taught me how to create and present a high level product. Fox helped me refine and improve on what I’d learned at the institute of design. I was working within a small team of motion designers and art directors, and because the team was small each one of us had the opportunity to contribute from the initial phases of a creative brief. We used to share ideas and concepts, and we had the freedom to develop and experiment both by ourselves and under the supervision of our art directors, which allowed me to express myself at 100% and push myself over the limit every time a new brief came along.
Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you worked on at Fox?
EM: I worked on a lot of projects over the course of my four years with Fox, from little graphic packages for their TV shows to complex idents and huge campaigns. My role was to create all the graphic packages that went on air with a tv show, which include elements called bumpers, end pages, elevators, and idents. All of those elements have to represent the mood of the show, so I used to take a look at a few episodes in advance, come to an understanding of what kind of graphic and animation style was most suitable for the show, and then design and animate those elements.
A project that represents my work best was the graphic pack I created for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” a TV show that was produced by Marvel for FOX . This graphic pack included a really cool ident I developed entirely by myself starting from the idea all the way to the final stages. That project was from 2014, but I’m still really proud about it and I can still consider that ident to be fresh and modern.
What do you hope to achieve in your career?
EM: I’d love to keep doing what I do with passion and love, to be able to create new art and new projects that I can devote my creativity to– my main goal is to keep being creative and to have fun with my work. I think if you can do what you love you’ll achieve whatever you want. It can be from a position within a company or on your own, but always trying to do it with passion and fun.
What advice would you give to those who aspire to do what you do?
EM: Do it for fun, for passion and for your own satisfaction, and most of all, don’t take yourself too seriously, we are not saving lives here, we are artists.