Primitive Employee Spotlight: Aaron Ellison
Posted by Admin | July 17, 2020
Name: Aaron Ellison
Position: Motion Graphic Designer
I work with the video team to create motion graphics. Basically it's any sort of animated text or imagery in a video format that's not videography shot with a camera. So any actual animated characters, or a lot of vector-based stuff for a lot of vector-based graphics, I work on creating those to create value for our clients.
I went to Lubbock Christian University and I majored in digital media arts. I received my bachelor’s degree in that.
I mainly got into graphic design during high school. I took a few general multimedia classes: graphic design, some video editing - mainly broad topics. So when I went to LCU, I originally majored in computer science. After a semester, I realized that that wasn't for me so I switched my major to digital media. I intended on just doing graphic design for the duration of my college career, but during my junior year I was given the opportunity to work on some animated bumpers for the athletic department. It’s kind of similar to the stuff that you see on like Fox Sports or like Sports Center - the bumpers in between games or things they are advertising and showcasing. They would say “there’s going to be this game and here are the times” and all that. So I made these little bumpers that were intended to go on the jumbotron that they had and they would play them right before, or in between games. I worked on those a bunch and that was basically my introduction into motion graphics.
During my senior year of college, I also had the opportunity to pick up some additional credit that I needed to graduate by teaching an introduction to motion graphics course. I developed the curriculum for that class and was also the instructor.
What made you so interested in motion graphics?
Motion graphics is different than everything else. It’s not graphic design and it's not film, but it takes elements from all these different fields of study, fields of work and incorporates them together. It's something you don't see as many people doing, and so I thought, “A good way to distinguish myself would be to to do motion graphics.” If you were to consider a Venn diagram with graphic design on the left and then film and traditional animation (like cartoons and that sort of thing) on the right, I think motion graphics kind of fit in the middle segment where the circles overlap.
Tell us how you started at Primitive.
I had another internship during my last semester of college in fall 2016, but they weren't able to keep me on as an employee. So I was looking around doing some job searching and was still in touch with my academic advisor. I asked her, “Hey, do you know of any places that are hiring?” and she said, “Check out Primitive. They're a new agency but they've been growing like crazy.” So I walked in with my portfolio and spoke with the co-owner, Kade, and said, “Hey, this is me, this is what I do.” Then I kind of asked for an internship and it just worked out. I interned starting in May 2017 for about a month. Then at the end of June, I was brought on as a part-time employee up until I transferred over to full-time in January 2018.
How did you make your case that Primitive would benefit from motion graphics?
Funny enough, I didn't really advertise myself as a motion graphic designer because I had a little bit of everything in my portfolio. Primarily I advertised myself as someone who did design, but I did include motion graphics on my resume. It was actually Kade who made the decision to use me as a motion graphics designer. It was something that I never really considered doing because I thought Lubbock was the type of city that wouldn't have really much of a need for it.
What were some of the initial motion graphics you worked on here?
I had a project where I was working on a bunch of animated end cards for our clients, and so that was the first main work that I did as an intern here. Once I transferred over into a full-time role, the first big project I was able to work on was a motion graphic for our growth team. A co-worker guided me through the process of production such as how we hire a voiceover artist and all the other nitty-gritty essentials. He then went over how we do our storyboards. He already had most of the storyboard frames already created, so it was my job to go through and composite everything together.
What are your favorite types of motion graphics to create?
I like stuff that's really illustrated. One thing that’s really cool about the video team is during every single one of our weekly meetings, we’ll go through and find some inspiration. We'll rotate around on a weekly basis, so one week will be my week and one week will be another team members, and so on and so on. We each find a studio, an individual, or a piece of work that we really like and we analyze it to see how we can start incorporating some of these techniques into the work we do in the future. I, personally, really like things that are illustrated and things that tell a story. There are several big studios that just do motion graphics work and there are a few that I really look up to as far as the quality of their work goes.
To you, what makes good animation?
That’s a tough one because "good" is a really subjective term. What I find really good, someone else may not. There's kind of an agreed upon list for animators that has principle terms on it. This list has all sorts of different techniques all animators should know. An example term would be "follow through." If something is moving, good animation is fluid and feels natural. It doesn't jar you. Good animation shouldn't distract you from the overall message of the project. Rather, it should reinforce what's being said and showcased.
How do you find inspiration for your motion graphics?
I’ll look at what the client already has established as far as brand guidelines, and then I work in how we can incorporate that. I use mood boards a lot. So whenever I’m doing a mood board, I'll go through and find several images of several frames from already established motion graphics. I try and incorporate elements from all of them as I see fit...things like if the motion graphic has a lot of color in it or if their brand uses a lot of different colors. Then I'll try and find ways to incorporate that.
How do you think motion graphics make a business stand out?
I think a lot of the time it’s easier to listen. Motion graphics are very good at helping you understand or drive a point. It's a lot easier, at least for me, to scroll past a still image as opposed to an animated video, or even just film or video itself. I think that it's a good way to retain interest from a potential viewer. Another really cool thing about motion graphics is you can illustrate things in a way that you just can’t do with traditional film and video because everything is illustrated and animated. You can have things defy the laws of gravity or you can have things break all these rules and you don't need a huge production cost to do it.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I like the the creative freedom I have a lot of the time to work on some of these projects. I feel like Primitive is a really good environment that encourages creative freedom. I like that if there’s a new project I’m working on, I'm able to go through the drawing board and think about what would I like to incorporate into this video. There's that phrase that goes “in every single piece of arts or every piece of work, there's a little bit of the artist.” I don't necessarily consider what I do art, but I do think that's still true. I like that there's still the opportunity to include a little bit of me.
Do you feel like you’ve grown in your knowledge since you started this role?
Oh boy, yeah.I just compared a few projects from my past, recently, and it's really interesting to see how much some of the work has changed. I look back at some of my older projects and, now knowing what I know, I’ll think, “Okay, here's what I could have done differently. Here's what I could have done to speed up the process, or here's a way to improve that piece.”
What do you like about the culture?
I like Primitive because it's a job that I actually look forward to going to. I like the fact that what I do doesn't feel like work to me. It really just feels like I'm just playing around for eight hours a day and I really enjoy that. The fact that it's able to bring value to our clients is a plus. I like how everyone here, too, genuinely gets along.
Why are you committed to Primitive?
At Primitive, I’m able to do a job that I really don't think exists otherwise in Lubbock. I'm fairly certain that there's not a lot of people in Lubbock that do what I do. So I really enjoy that I'm able to do what I do here. It’s also a good environment for personal and professional growth. I'm sure there are so many different studios that only focus on just getting the work done, but here there's an avenue for you to kind of experiment and try out new things that you wouldn't necessarily get in a typical corporate position.
Is there anything you’re excited for in Primitive's future?
I'm just excited to get to do more motion graphics. I'm happy I'm able to keep learning and teaching myself about this while I'm at Primitive. I'm looking forward to any new projects in the future that I can experiment with and try new things on, like new visual styles or techniques with animation.
Okay, now let’s talk more about you. What’s your daily routine?
I'll get up in the morning and I typically tend to come in to Primitive around 8:30 or so. I work and then head home around 5:30, usually. Whenever I get home, I spend some time with my cat, Murpo. Lately, during a lot of my free time, I've been trying to teach myself better animation techniques. I don't do client work at home, but I still do a lot of personal projects. I'll typically put in a couple hours a day working on some of that. I'm trying to learn traditional hand-drawn animation right now, where you actually go through with a pen or pencil, or in my case a large monitor drawing tablet that I'm able to draw on. So, I'll use one of those and kind of just practice different animation techniques in a frame-by-frame manner that I don't typically do up here at work. It’s all been the type of stuff I want to incorporate into projects later on here.
Do you have a playlists you listen to while working?
I tend to listen to podcasts more than anything. They're actually like really boring podcasts too, now that I think about it. It’s like public policy and that sort of stuff. There are also some animation podcasts that I listen to as well. There's this great online resource called School of Motion and they'll have some podcasts as well where they meet with industry professionals and discuss techniques for inspiration. These are people that have been doing motion graphics for 10 to 15 years...a lot longer than I have, so I really enjoy listening to those as well.
Do you have any favorite TV or Netflix shows?
I don't really watch a lot of TV, But, as far as favorite movies go, one of my favorite ones is called Ex Machina. I like a lot of films that ask questions, pose social questions, and make you think. I really like what would be referred to as near future sci-fi, so stuff that doesn't take place too far in the future and could actually happen. Black Mirror and a lot of movies and TV follow that same format.
What do you like to do outside of the office?
I really enjoy cooking. I find it enjoyable because it’s a different kind of outlet for creativity. I think it's something you can consume afterwards, too, which is great. You can learn from cooking, quickly, because you can eat something and think, “Okay, now what should I have done here? Did I put enough salt?” I really like baking, especially bread. Other than that I'll typically go hang out at a friend's house or something like that.
So are you a dog or a cat person?
Here's the deal with that question. There's two types of people: people who like dogs and cats, or there's people who hate cats. I love dogs and cats. There's no cat person who hates dogs too, I think. I have a cat, but the reason I have a cat is I wanted a roommate and not a child. A cat is so much lower maintenance than a dog and I don't have to take a cat out to use the bathroom all the time. He just does what he wants and I like that.
How do you balance work and personal life?
I don’t really have a technique for one because I’m lucky enough that my work doesn't really need to follow me home. So I’ve never really had a problem with it. It's usually pretty easy for me to leave it up here, but I might be at home and think of a project and wonder, “Okay, how should I improve that?” But typically that's where it stays.
What is something not everyone knows about you?
A hobby that I'd like to start getting into more is collecting vintage 70s and 80s synthesizers for electro music. It's like a music keyboard, but you're able to create electronic sounds from it based off of different types of soundwave forms. They're pretty ubiquitous in music nowadays, and a lot of them are used through computers. I bought my first a while back and it's going to need a lot of repairs. I don't even play them really, but I'd love to spend more time learning it. At the moment it's just not something I've been able to prioritize.
Who do you admire?
There's a lot of people I have never met that I look at their work and I think, “That is incredible.” There’s this artist whose name is Peter Hahn. He teaches at this concept art school out in California and I follow him on Instagram. This isn't even motion graphics work, it's just drawing art. But his work is really phenomenal, so I look up a lot of his perplexes work.
How do you stay motivated?
I try to be disciplined in making myself do something every day outside of work. I’ll use motivation for whenever I want to experiment with a new art style, like if I look at something that'll motivate me. But really, I think it's best not to wait for motivation to come to you. I think that discipline is really a lot more reliable than motivation. So even whenever you're not feeling creative or you're not in a good groove, just make yourself work regardless. Make whatever art, graphic, design or whatever you’re making...even if you’re not feeling it right...make yourself do it and get into a routine of doing things consistently and then you'll be a lot more consistent at the things you do. It's the idea of it that takes you 10,000 hours to master something. Well, you're never going to reach those 10,000 hours if you're always waiting on the right time. Instead, make the time yourself.
Any other words of wisdom you would like to pass along?
If you want to go anywhere or do anything, then you need to make sure you’re surrounded by people that are always trying to better themselves. That's one of the really cool things about Primitive is everyone here is trying to get better at what they do. I don't really think for anyone here it's just punching a card, doing your work, and then clocking out at the end of the day and not caring. You need to have the mindset to always keep improving yourself, because you’re either growing or you're dying.