Our top 5 animation tools

Number 1

iPad Pro and Procreate

An expensive option and I guess a sketch book with some fancy pens/pencils would still do the job. But an iPad with Procreate is the first thing I use when it comes to animation. It’s great for scribbling down my nonsensical ideas and the amount of brushes you can download for it, make it super accessible. Procreate now has a fairly good frame by frame animation preset which helps to roughly plan any motion aspects of the sketch. I’ve also got Youtube and Netflix installed on the iPad, for inspiration purposes and cartoons. It also makes you look super professional and cool when you whip it out in your favourite hip coffee shop, ordering your almond milk flat white.

Procreate Illustration Process
Number 2

Boords

This handy online tool, is the next port of call and I’m guessing this makes it into most animator’s top 5 lists. Its incredibly easy to create storyboards for yourself or for any client. Lots of really cool features like being able to convert storyboards into animatics as well as an integrated royalty free stock image library for the times when you struggle to draw something. Like a horse, horses are hard to draw!

RMS Boords Storyboard
Number 3

Spotify

Another cliché choice, but if your not working to some background music, then you’re just sitting there in silence listening to the sound of your keyboard taps, mouse clicks and your own your breathing. Stick some banging songs on to help get you motivated, whatever makes you happy. Sing along and out loud too, even in a studio environment, nobody will mind… everybody likes Abba right?

Number 4

Plug-ins

Now we’re getting in to the nitty-gritty aspects of animation. Plug-ins are essential for any animator, to help speed up work flow, discover animation techniques and generally making animation life easier. Some can be free, others can be bought from websites like Aescripts or from independent developers. Understandably not everyone can afford to drop £’s on several plug-ins, so try and do some research first. Find out what works best for you and your animating needs. Overlord is super handy if your using Adobe Illustrator with After Effects. Duik and Joystick N Sliders for character animations are my go to at the moment.

Process GIFs
Number 5

Soundly and Adobe Audition

This is a recent discovery, I think I was really slow to this one, but this has helped make any of my little animations more fun. Soundly is a sound effect platform which helps you find the perfect sound to use in your animation. It works in conjunction with Adobe Audition to help mix and edit the sounds into your videos. There might be a better way to do this, but this is working for me at the moment.

Sound On!
Bonus

Honourable Mentions

I’m always constantly trying to learn new tricks and skills, anything to do with animation. Youtube has a lot of awesome tutorials by a lot of great motion designers and animators. Motion Design School and School of Motion also have some amazing courses too. I’ve also signed up to a couple of Patreon pages from some animators I admire. They dish out some useful tips too!

Thanks for taking the time to read all this waffle.

There are lots of great agencies out there so it can be a difficult decision for brands to know who to work with. At one end of the scale there’s multinational ad agency groups with hundreds of staff, and at the other end there are agencies of just a few people. But what does this mean for clients?

We pride ourselves on being a smaller, flexible creative team here at Flow. Here are the top five things you can expect from working with a smaller agency like us, and why that might be the right fit for you.

 

You get direct access to the right people 

From the get go when we’re onboarding you as a new client, you’re speaking with Karl, our founder and creative director and Sarah, our production manager. These are the two people you’ll be communicating with on a daily or weekly basis that look after your project – from initial briefing to managing each stage of the workflow to delivery. There’s no smoke and mirrors, or any other barriers – the design and motion team will be involved in the project, and you can talk to them too – but you’ll always have access to us two. Karl is responsible for the creative treatment and Sarah makes sure it gets done! It’s as simple as that.

We ensure we make budget stretch further 

We understand that businesses don’t have unlimited budgets, and need to see a return on their investment. Smaller agencies like ours tend to not have the same level of overheads as bigger agencies, so we can often be competitive in our pricing. One way to ensure you get good value for your money is by making content that can be repurposed, reused and ultimately, make sure you get the most bang for your buck. If you’re investing in a brand film for your website, we can’t just consider that as the only output that helps communicate your message. What about shorter cut-downs for your social channels? Or using illustrated assets that you can share in an email or newsletter? We make sure we consider all possibilities right at the start of a brief, without charging the earth for it.

Our team collaborates together, daily 

Our creative team sits round a desk together daily, and knows each other’s ways of working incredibly well, and as a result we’ve developed a really efficient and reliable working process. We’re not dotted around remote locations (or remote floors) where there might be an opportunity to misinterpret the brief. If there’s a question or an issue, we huddle round a sketchbook or screen and figure it out together. Questions get answered faster, and we waste less time and budget in lots of back and forth, meaning a better end result and better value for our clients. Winner! 

You become part of the team

When you come into the studio for briefings, review meetings or simply for a brew!, you’ll get to meet the full team. (You can’t miss us, we’re all on the first floor of the studio!) You’ll get an idea of how we operate by being in the space – there’s always a killer playlist on and we also have a mix of creative collaborators in the studio who hot desk with us. Let’s not forget Iggy too, our resident friendly Cockapoo!

Every client for us is valuable 

We always aim to deliver standout creative that helps our clients achieve their business objectives, but we also want you to enjoy the experience of working with us. As a smaller agency one of our biggest goals is building great relationships with our clients. We love telling the stories of our clients’ brands and if you feel looked after, then the work is all the better for it and you’ll be happy to recommend us, so everybody wins!

The end of 2019 saw us take on two new additions to the Flow motion team – Inês, our motion intern from the summer (you can find out more about her here too) and Winston aka @the_quirks on Instagram. We thought we’d give Winston all 652 days of January to settle in before we find out more about him.

Tell us about yourself:

I started out as an optimistic graphic designer, stumbled my way into becoming a self-conscious illustrator and miraculously emerging as a plucky motion designer. Aside from making shapes move, you can often find me wearing my cap backwards (super cool right?) watching horror movies and eating noodles. 

What made you interested in Motion / Design?:

I thought it would be nice to see my illustrations and graphics move. It was daunting at first, trying to figure out what frame by frame was and all the intricacies of After Effects. But through lots of trials, and many, many errors I succeeded in making my work move. Albeit a little clumsily at the start.

Fave Flow Project?

The RMS brand film is my pick. Love how loud and quirky the visuals are. Anything outrageously abnormal gets my vote.

Who’s your animation inspiration?

I get most of my inspiration from movies and cartoons. The more weird they are the better.

We attended a panel session hosted by Ben Martin of Royal Flush Marketing, which looked to uncover those things that make for a great agency and client relationship. It’s a relationship that, when it works, can lead to the delivery of amazing creative with excellent results for the client. But like any relationship, there can be frustrations that result in road blocks and a less than satisfying experience for everyone involved.

The speakers were a mixed bag of agency folk (Neil Marra of Creative Spark, and Sarah Lawless of BIG Partnership), marketing managers (Sarah Glynn of Kuits Solicitors and Nick Copeland of Premex Group) and those who get to see both sides of the coin (Mike Carter of Orchard).

Here are a few things we learnt from the session.

Openness, honesty and communication

It’s not rocket science – often it’s the softer skills that make for a successful agency/client relationship. Both sides need to be super transparent about their processes. Whether that’s agencies being honest about how big their team is, or being upfront if they need to act more as a consultant in some areas and bring in specialist support. Or clients being open about their payment process from the start so that the agency isn’t left puzzled post project delivery as to why their final invoice hasn’t been paid yet.

Be proactive

As an agency, are you getting under the skin of your client’s business or brand and really understanding what they do? Clients want to feel reassured that you get them, and that when you recommend things it’s because you feel it will work for their business specifically, not because you want to up-sell additional services. They want to feel wowed that you’ve come in and told them things that they wouldn’t have thought about themselves.

Likewise a client needs to be proactive in getting feedback from any senior members of their team, and pushing to drive the project so that the agency doesn’t feel abandoned or that their work is falling on deaf ears.

 

Pitching is always going to be tricky 

A marketing team aren’t necessarily looking for an agency with the biggest clients on their roster when you pitch to them. They want to understand how you’ve solved problems and challenges for previous clients and understand how you’d make them feel valued.  On the flip side, agencies shouldn’t be expected to pitch ideas just to be part of a beauty parade. It’s pretty soul destroying to put your all into a pitch only to find out via a quick email that you weren’t successful, or sometimes not even receive a response at all.

Chemistry and culture is key 

From both sides, a huge part of the agency/client relationship is about chemistry and culture fit. Take time to go and meet your client, or your agency, before deciding on whether to work together. If conversation flows and you get on, it’s like any other first date – you’re going to want to see them again! If you feel your business values align and your personalities click, it’s going to make for an easier, more fruitful working relationship moving forward.

It’s been a great year at Flow. We’ve grown the team, set up the new studio, hosted some cool events, and created some awesome work for our clients.

A big thanks to all our clients, friends and collaborators who’ve made it ace. We’ll be back on 2nd January to help with all your branding, animation and design needs, until then….

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Love

Team Flow

 

Last week we put our out of offices on and headed to the Design Manchester Conference for a day of inspiration and team bonding. This year’s theme was SMART and featured a range of speakers from across the world talking about their creative journey. I thought I’d round-up my favourites from the conference.

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion

The day started with a thought-provoking talk from Extinction Rebellion about the true extent of the problems we’re facing in terms of how livable our planet will be and how close to extinction we really are if we don’t act now. 

 

They encouraged us to sign up to be a rebel and to try and promote real-world political change. They definitely made us come away wanting to do more.

Hansje Van Halem

Hansje Van Halem

Next up was Hansje Van Halem, a renowned typographer from Amsterdam who, after seeing her typeface used on a book she wasn’t commissioned to produce, decided she wanted to be in control of how her typography was distributed.  

We loved seeing how versatile Hansje’s type design is, and how it eventually evolved into moving brand design for Lowlands Festival.

Heatherwick Studio

Neil Hubbard (Heatherwick Studio)

Heatherwick Studio are an architectural team who’ve designed show-stopping buildings, often working to preserve the old and add the new. One of my favourites was Vessel; a centrepiece for the public in New York. They wanted to create something that would not only be an impressive structure but also a space in which people could interact and enjoy. The result is a series of steps that creates a beehive effect, with both internal and external viewpoints. 

 

They also ran us through their thought process when designing. One example of this was their redesign of the London buses, and the thinking behind the experience passengers are having, the amount of light they need, how colour impacts their journey and why the seats are shaped how they are.

The Vessel
Paula Scher

Paula Scher

The conference ended with design legend, Paula Scher. Of the three phases of Paula’s career I really enjoyed hearing about her paintings, and the collaborations she’s done with schools to translate her paintings of maps and flight paths into large scale murals. It was interesting how her work has evolved from designing record sleeves for Columbia Records to design for the physical environment.

We spend the majority of our adult lives at work, so it’s important to make that environment as inviting and happy as possible.

 

The beauty of working in a creative agency is that we get to work on cool, interesting projects that make our brains fizz with ideas and get us excited to collaborate as a team. Our job centres around communication with each other, so we need to make sure we’re happy working together and feel a sense of connection. Not only that, but we also need to be helpful and clear as a team – being each other’s biggest supporters but also honest feed-backers. 

 

So how do we encourage a great culture here at Flow?

Shared interest in our industry 

Team Flow are a curious bunch (in many senses of the word!) and we’re always keen attendees at any motion or design event. We love Motion North, Design Manchester, Pecha Kucha and Glug to name a few! Not only does this broaden our creative knowledge but it gives us the opportunity to discuss things we’ve seen together and are passionate about. We’ve also introduced a Lunch and Learn session where the team suggest inspirational creative speakers that they’d like to invite to talk at the Flow studio. Take a look at our latest visit from Craig Black here.

Recognise the big stuff! 

We’re all for celebrating a big life event with the team. Whether that’s our work anniversaries, birthdays or buying our first houses, we love an excuse for a team lunch! Pizza is the optimum choice and we’re often found in Rudy’s or PLY in the Northern Quarter. It’s good to recognise important things happening in each other’s lives and not just the day to day work stuff.

Flow Lingo 

Our fearless leader is a man of many catchphrases, and the team have subconsciously taken on a new lingo through working together. You won’t be far from a despairing ‘Santa Maria!’ if Illustrator crashes, or a supportive ‘Guuurlllll!’ if we’ve had a project signed off by a client. We even created Karl his own print where his famous catchphrases are immortalised in ink.

Witness the fitness

As we’ve said before, we’ve quite a few fitness fanatics in the team! The week isn’t complete without our boxing session on a Tuesday afternoon taking out any project stresses with a swift right hook! We also recently competed in an agency dodgeball tournament in which we were terrible, but it gave us the opportunity to dress up as hardcore 80’s aerobics instructors and take to the court! Even though it didn’t go our way it was a shared experience and one that’s brought the team together even more.

Last week we held our first industry insight event here at Flow HQ – ‘Moving Brands: Video Marketing Masterclass’. The night was a huge success and we’ve received some amazing feedback from our attendees about how useful they found it. 

 

We had four excellent speakers talking about a range of the challenges that marketers face when using video for marketing. 

 

In case you missed it, we’ve put together a round-up of some of the key learnings from the night here.

Mike Pye, a marketing consultant with over 10 years experience, kicked off the talks by discussing the power of video, with some compelling stats showing the effectiveness of video as part of your marketing strategy. Mike stressed the importance of repurposing video for a variety of uses in order to get the most out of it, as this can be one of the main challenges marketers face when looking to commission video. Mike’s final thought was, “you don’t have to be good to start, but you have to start to be good”.

Flow’s owner and Creative Director Karl Doran was up next. He focused on 5 key principles to create good branded content: know your audience, quality counts, have a brand style, tell a story, and be authentic. One of the most important points Karl focused on was the balance between quality and quantity, and how high quantity, low-quality videos, although the algorithms might love it, can actually damage a customer’s perception of your brand. Karl also recommended 5 pieces of video content that every business needs: a brand film, testimonial videos, social teaser films, explainer film, and onboarding/training videos.

Rich Wood, Director of Six & Flow, mixed it up by talking about conversational marketing (such as chatbots) and how using it as part of your strategy can help improve the quality of leads and increase conversion rate. Rich explained that customer expectations have changed and people now expect much quicker, if not immediate, responses from brands. Replying to customers a few hours after they’ve emailed you dramatically reduces conversion rates, because they’re no longer in a ‘buying state of mind’. Hence the shift to market-disrupting chatbots which have proved hugely successful in increasing conversion.

Del Parsons, a business growth specialist, closed the night by discussing using LinkedIn as a lead generation tool. According to Responsive, native video uploaded on social media generates 1200% more engagement than images and text combined. Del stressed the importance of using subtitles on any video posts so you don’t miss out on audiences who listen without sound. Del’s key takeaway from the event was to ALWAYS use a call to action – a post missing a call to action is a missed opportunity.

All in all a great night. Huge thanks to all our speakers and attendees. We’re looking forward to hosting more events here at the studio. Check out our Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles for regular Flow updates and to find out when we’re hosting more events.

We recently split our creative team in two and asked them to reimagine what they would do with a well-known brand’s social media strategy. Team one chose match.com (see the case study here), while Team Two, featuring Josh and Jordan, chose betting app Betfred.

betfred social media content marketing strategy instagram content created for reimagining Betfred
The Challenge

The team were tasked with reimagining an engaging social media account for Betfred UK. They had to factor in the strict laws around advertising in the gambling industry whilst still feeling relevant and appealing to their target audience. Betfred’s Instagram account has around 2,500 followers and currently focuses mostly on imagery from sporting events.

The Solution

The team understood that the target audience was mainly young male sports fans, and decided to focus on shareable, fun content using meme culture to increase brand awareness. The team created a series of original animated and still memes, bringing a sense of humour and play to the brand. 

 

This also needed to be balanced with content that promoted Betfred’s betting odds to get people to make the jump from Instagram over to their app. As the brand is already so recognisable, the team kept the current red to blue gradient as well making sure a wide range of sporting events was represented. 

 

Another key feature of Betfred’s current social media strategy is using player stats, which is something the team were keen to retain but visualise more consistently with the rest of the brand. Having these stats displayed boldly is something that their audience might find useful when considering placing a bet on, increasing conversion for Betfred and leading to them being considered a reputable source of information. 

Results 

This resulted in a social media strategy that focuses on what their target audience are looking for with a balance of sport and shareable content. This should then help to engage their current audience and grow their following.

On the 17th October we will be running an event for the tech industry to help demonstrate how video can be used in your marketing strategy. Buy tickets here!

About The Event

  • Do you want to create a marketing strategy that engages your audience?
  • Do you want quality content but you aren’t sure where to start?
  • Are you unsure of where video could fit into your current marketing plan?

90% of consumers claim a video will help them make a purchasing decision.

According to research, our attention spans are constantly shrinking. The average attention span is now shorter than a goldfish which is largely due to the amount of content we now have at our fingertips – we can’t consume it all. This means your marketing strategy needs to be more engaging than ever, to capture the attention of your audience.

Founder and creative director of Flow Creative, Karl Doran, is joined by guest speakers to discuss how video can help engage your audience, explain your company’s product or service, and generate leads. The event will also cover how to incorporate video into your marketing strategy, humanise it and the different ways you can use it.

Who should attend?

This event is exclusively provided for tech companies who are looking to incorporate video into their current marketing strategy, and want to know more about the different ways video can be effective for your company.

  • CEOs
  • Marketing Directors
  • Marketing Managers

About your hosts

Karl Doran is the founder and creative director of Flow Creative. Flow are a multi-award winning content creation studio specialising in animation and branding. The help businesses tell their stories, explain their products and services and communicate better with their audience.

Their clients range from tech companies like Netacea and Kalibrate to online platforms such as BBC Three and Open Study College.

Guest speakers to be announced…

 

Tickets available here

Flow Creative
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