Q&A With Motion Designer Barton Damer

Designer: Barton Damer; AlreadyBeenChewed.tv
Specialty: design for new media, interactive, print and broadcast
Location: Dallas, TX

Under his studio moniker Already Been Chewed, Barton Damer designs in a variety of mediums for print, web, live productions and broadcast television. His digital illustrations are influenced heavily by his motion work. He was named Digital Artist of the Year by Computer Arts Magazine, Intel and 3D World Magazine, and he’s the recipient of the Veer Creative Catalyst: Design for Change award that encourages artists to create for nonprofit organizations that are helping to do good around the world. He primarily uses Maxon Cinema 4D in conjunction with Adobe products—both of which will be exhibiting at HOW Design Live in Boston this June—to create his award-winning work. He recently spoke to HOW about his influences and his shift from print to interactive design.

Check out Damer’s motion design reel.

HOW: Tell us a little about your background and the type of work you do today.

Damer: I am a motion designer and digital artist that transitioned from print design into motion design for broadcast and other growing forms of new media. With over 14 years of experience, I continue to design for print with a focus on digital artwork for branded campaigns, book covers, magazine illustrations and album covers. My transition into motion design really enhanced my ability to create digital illustrations. I began using Maxon Cinema 4D to bring my ideas to life that were previously limited by what I could pull off in Photoshop and Illustrator. Today, I create under my studio brand, Already Been Chewed (aka “ABC”). We focus on developing creative content for ever-changing mediums. This includes design and animation for print, web, broadcast and live productions. We are a two-man studio—myself as the creative director and John Davidson as the business manager. I work with direct clients as well as partner with other post-production studios, agencies and agents.


Who are your clients? Is there a common theme among them?

barton damer motion designI work with a variety of clients but have had a lot of enjoyment connecting large brands to popular culture markets. Lil Wayne, Rob Dyrdek, DGK, KR3W Denim, Wolfmother and Owl City are some of the popular icons and brands I’ve worked with that have helped to land gigs with larger corporations such as Nike, Malibu Boats and Scion. Additionally, I enjoy creating branded motion graphics packages for a variety of production studios and networks including Discovery, Military Channel, Fox Sports, CBS and the Outdoor Channel. A diverse range of creative work is something I strive for in my folio so I really enjoy the wide range of clientele that comes along with it.


You started out as a print designer and moved into 3D and video work, primarily using MAXON Cinema 4D. Why do you like using this software? Is there any other software you use in combination with Cinema 4D?

Because of my knowledge of the Adobe Suite, Maxon Cinema 4D made it easy for me to make the transition. Vector paths from Illustrator import right into C4D and can be used for modeling or animation. Additionally, layers from Photoshop can be imported and used as textures, displacement maps, or even compositing photos into a 3D scene. Cinema 4D made it easier for me to expand on what I like to do—graphic design. Other 3D programs were a bit intimidating and felt as though I would be heading down a new career path of 3D modeling/animation rather than easily enabling me to add motion to my designs. C4D’s Mograph tools are incredible as well. I’m not one to use Expressions in After Effects unless I’m forced too; and most of what I was trying to accomplish with Expressions can easily be done with Mograph tools in C4D.


What’s inspires you and influences your work, in general?

I am a longtime skateboarder, so music, fashion, art, photography and videography are all a big part of the culture. We tend to look at the world a bit differently, and I try to approach commercial projects the same way—with a different perspective. More specifically though, I’m incredibly inspired by mograph studios like Psyop, Shilo, Buck and Stardust. Those guys are doing some of the most inspirational work out there—print or motion. I was kind of uninterested in my design career and almost gave it up after six years or so. To this day, I remember the first time I saw Shilo’s motion reel and it changed everything for me. I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my design career.


You recently won first-place in Veer’s Creative Catalyst: Design for Change competition for your “Malaria Kills” piece. What motivated you to take on this project and what did you draw from to create the imagery?

barton damer motion designI have worked with a lot of different nonprofit organizations over the years, and this particular piece was originally created to help Sevenly.org raise funds for Malaria No More. When I discovered the Veer competition, I entered the piece knowing it had the potential to raise $2,000 euros for Malaria No More on top of the $3,500 that was raised via Sevenly. Here was my thought process behind the concept: At first glance I want it to look like the continent of Africa. Next I want you to notice a beautiful African Queen. Then I want you to notice that there are a lot of disturbing things about this “Africa,” malaria being a big one. So you have this tension of a beautiful African queen, but on further observation you notice some of the disturbing elements that make up the artwork.


What’s your absolute favorite project you’ve ever done and why?

barton damer motion designI’d have to say the Wolfmother Australian tour poster was my favorite project, mainly because of the circumstances. At that time, they were releasing a new album. They were my favorite band. Andrew Stockdale (the lead singer) loved the work so much that he asked me to work on the album cover. The piece went on to win Digital Artist of the Year in 2009 and really sparked a confidence in my work that I had never had before. Today, it’s not necessarily one of my favorite images that I’ve created, but the circumstances around it make it great.


Do you have any advice for print designers/illustrators hoping to transition to 3D and interactive work?

Focus on the design first. Motion second. I believe my background in print trained me to start with solid design so that when I began to add motion, the work was easily enhanced. If it doesn’t look good to begin with; it won’t look better just because you start moving it around. I would highly recommend learning design principles and applying them to a working knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator first. Then, move into After Effects; then pick up 3D. I see a lot of 3D artists who don’t know how to do motion or composite their 3D renders. If you have a strong start with design basics, you will be able to adapt that knowledge and apply it to 3D space where lighting and depth take on a new role in the creative process.

Are you looking to make the leap from print design to interactive design? Check out these great resources from HOW: