As NFL star Marshawn Lynch rumbles through green turf wearing the latest product from Training Mask, the earth started to shake and tumble below him. This coming alive of the turf was thanks to a bit of 3D animation, the brainchild of design studio Already Been Chewed (ABC). But this embracing of digital artistry wasn’t always the case.
Now, working with brands like Nike, Under Armour, Dew Tour and Vans, ABC has embraced the use of fully animated 3D design to create all-encompassing brand assets that feature the most digitally trending designs. No longer is understanding the ins and outs of Photoshop and Illustrator enough, says ABC creative director Barton Damer, who launched the firm seven years ago. Now, operating as a full design, motion graphics and 3D animation studio, Damer gets to ply his trade in the world of sports, fashion and movies, keeping him entrenched in pop culture.
Whether working with Training Mask on the Lynch spot or with Under Armour on a recent release of the new Steph Curry signature sneaker, Damer combines his 20 years of design experience with the latest in technology. “We are able to think through the entire process with the client so we are not just a 3D animation studio,” he says. “We can design logos and build their brands for them from the bottom up.”
It wasn’t always that way. Coming from a print background, Damer knew he needed to shift into the digital world. But turning into a web developer wasn’t his deal. He did, however, find that he liked animation, but that the transition into a more digital-friendly design studio required more depth. So Damer added the Maxon Cinema 4D software to his repertoire, using motion graphics to provide a new range of abilities popular in pop culture and allowing him to transition to a digital artist.
Whether serving as the director on what will become a mini feature film for a brand or on traditional print design, Damer considers himself a graphic designer first with animation simply an extension of that.
“We will always focus on the design first and the animation second,” he says. “We focus in on creating the look of the spot in the styleboard phase. We need to develop the look first and get that dialed in with the client and then start adding animation to it. A lot of people have technical skills to animate, but if you don’t make it look good first, it won’t look good just because you are moving it around.”
Damer says to make a spot work, the design must include lighting and texture. Then, bringing animation in at that point adds an entirely new level.
A longtime skateboarder himself, Damer says the opportunity to work in the sports world excites him and keeps him connected to the latest trends in pop culture, from his personal interest in the Dew Tour to in-game experience videos for the Dallas Mavericks. And while the technology makes it so he can deliver the most cutting-edge designs, it’s often the technology that gets in the way. “Render times and computer power are always the issues in this industry,” he says. There remains a constant battle of wanting to create one way, but knowing it could take up to 10 hours to render before you find out if your solution actually worked. “We are always battling with deadlines, render time and finding solutions,” he says.
Even as ABC tussles with technology, Damer knows he needs to continue to embrace motion graphics and whatever emerges as the next trend in digital design. He recounts how just two years ago he rarely did social media-based posts and now the motion graphic work has squarely moved into mini feature films for social. Whether holograms, augmented reality or virtual reality, as a studio already looking to the future, he says the focus will remain on content creation. ABC will always plan to partner with the experts on technology, so they can remain the experts in content. That’s the way of a digital artist in the fast-moving world of sports and pop culture.
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