Friday, 28 November 2014

Phil Loeffler Talks Freelance Graphic Design and Illustration

Artwork by Phil Loeffler
Phil Loeffler is a talented designer, artist and animator, who came to Animation Apprentice to broaden his range of artistic skills and master the art of character and creature animation. Before he began studying with us, he had already established a successful career as a freelance graphic designer. We asked him to talk a little about his work, and what is involved in making a living in such a fascinating but competitive field.

Digital artwork by Phil Loeffler

You do freelance graphic design and illustration - tell us what’s involved

Phil: In a nut shell: Graphic design and illustration involves the creation of visual communication on screen, online or in print, specifically tailored and designed to answer a client brief.

For the most part, the brief is the framework of any project; it outlines the client’s ambitions and aims and formulates the parameters for its solution.  A brief should highlight the challenge in form of a question, which, when answered creatively, means the success of its design solution.

Whilst I spend a great deal of time writing or re-writing briefs after an initially meeting with the client, I also look at their budget and formulate fee proposals and costs based on the workload involved and - more importantly - the workflow. The rest is a simple process of creating ideas in context (or concepts) for the process of elimination until you reach the desired solution. At the various stages of designing, from design concept, detailed design development to final artwork, client feedback is vital.

One of the trickiest things in this process overall is finding a solution that not only answers the brief but goes beyond and sets the client apart from his or her competitors.

3D Artwork by Phil Loeffler

What sort of clients do you work for?

Phil: My clients range from a dental practice, consultancy company and a restaurant to architects, advertising agency and a commercial production company.

What are the highs and lows of being a freelancer?

Phil: Being a freelancer means you need to wear many hats. You need to be a consultant, accountant,
chase up payments and invoices, promote yourself, seek talent and advice in the field’s of expertise that that you are not accustomed to, whilst also being a great designer and artist.

You have to do everything that you take for granted when working for a company or studio that employ people to do this for you. The rewards are that you learn a lot about how the cog wheels of a business work and that it’s necessary in order to do the fun stuff of designing and creating. The low points are that this can take you away from actual design time and being creative.

I am sometimes anxious about getting my next project and - effectively - my next pay cheque. Although moving around from client to client, and learning to work with many different creatives and clients, allows for diversity and flexibility, the creative industry has (and always will be) a collaborative industry. Sometimes I miss being a part of a team and a collaboration of creative people that allows me to instantly bounce ideas and concepts off of one another. Being in an environment of constant creativity, reaching a common design solution - and finishing a project as part of a team - can be the best work environment. Freelancing can get a bit lonely sometimes.

3D artwork for ident by Phil Loeffler

What projects are you excited about at the moment?

Phil: I’ve recently won work to refresh the visual communication and graphics of a private children’s dental practice. This involves looking at their whole range of visual communication, from their identity to their whole range of dental literature.

What is exciting about this client is that their brand identity revolves around a bear, a character they use as a method and a means to take the fear and anxiety out of children when visiting the dentist.

After having met them I quickly realised the potential and core role of their bear. It sort of reminded me of Aleksandr the meerkat and the genius creation that drove Compare the Market’s branding and marketing to such a huge success.

The kids love the bear. At this stage we are slowly developing the vital role of this character within the brand identity and have already started incorporating his presence more within their branding and marketing material. I am excited about developing his personality and bringing him to life for the children to to engage with. It’s pretty cool and I’m very anxious in finding out how far I can push the client.

How does your existing work tie in with animation?

It’s primarily about the process. Any creative work involves a brief, planning, and creating a solution to answer that brief.  In the case of my current project of creating a series of booklets that illustrate varies dental procedures, the work is exactly like planning and storyboarding for animation.

I am faced with depicting the concept and story within a set of 6-12 illustrations. I am telling the story in a series of key frames, each of which need to convey the idea and concept perfectly without ambiguity, while engaging the audience.

From composition, staging, layout and look, the creation of illustrations for these booklets is parallel to the planning and creation of animation, with the only difference being the medium. In fact animation and design don’t really vary at all. Whether you are presenting concepts and design solutions or animating, you are inevitably telling a story.

What’s great at the moment is being exposed to a different skillset, one that animation brings to the table, that I can use in my current work, until I find a permanent position as an animator in the industry.

To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link. For more information on finding work and surviving in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business. Also see our post about freelancers and taxes.  

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