#NoBrief: Niceshit

Tuesday 4 February 2020

The design and animation collective share with Jelly their inspirations and aspirations for their shorts.

Ah February – the month of romance, love and passion. In an all too tenuous link we’ve decided to share three of our #NoBriefs throughout the month, chatting to our artists about creating work they love and especially the passion projects they create when there’s no client brief to stick to.

What is #NoBrief?
The #NoBrief series gives an ongoing look into our talented illustratorsanimatorslettering and type artists’ minds – focusing on the work they create when they become their own client. Previous artists to have been featured are; Neil Stubbings, Design Lad and Alice Tye.

This time we’re shining a light on Barcelona-based studio, Niceshit – a directors collective of three curious minds – who create clever stories with a bold graphic style, putting storytelling and character design at the forefront of everything they do.

Commercially, they have recently created beautiful pieces of work for clients including Ketel One, Bose, MTV, Coca-Cola, Vodafone, Airbnb, Google & Primavera Sound.

How they find time to create anything outside of their busy workload is beyond us… but they do. Their latest short, ‘The Adventures of Olivier’ features bold graphics, 2d cel animation and a naughty little olive whose butt we just can’t get enough of (watch it to understand).

Hi Rodier, what was Niceshit’s inspiration for the project ‘Adventures of Olivier’? And is this a one-off short or should we expect to see Olivier up to more mischief in the future?

This passion project was born actually in an attempt to do another thing, I think it was when we got up to 10k followers on instagram. We wanted to do a short film in a children’s cartoon tone with a bunch of characters having a party and we already had some song lyrics done. It was a great idea but we somehow realised that it might be too ambitious to make it in-between projects and the 10k was getting closer haha… So whilst sketching, procrastinating and looking for the style, Rodier made a martini glass, just because… then Guido & Carmen saw it and some funny ideas began to roll down our heads and onto the whiteboard. And Olivier was born.

Our inspiration alway starts with – and comes from – ”characters doing stuff”, so we can tell a story with it. In this case, we saw the martini glass and we instantly thought of an olive character having a swim in it, or having a dive into a toothpick inside (that was dark). But we loved the idea of it taking a leak.

I think it was funny for us to do a series with only one chapter! But we’ve thought of some sequels: there was a fun one about “whisky on the rocks”, where a glass with whiskey gets smashed by rocks – maybe we’ll make a few more, why not?

People love Olivier’s cute little butt… we’ve heard it in many a screening, talk to us about this character, his storyline, and what inspired his look and attitude?

Awwwww! That’s nice, we polished it with love!

This project was produced in a very straight forward way, I mean, there weren’t many sketches or variations on the character, we had so little free time to do it, so everything that was executed was final straight away.

Inspired by a vintage Fleischer cartoon style, this was the first drawing of Olivier, which as you can see hasn’t changed much (if at all), from the final version.

From the beginning we thought of him as a clever little trouble-maker who can’t resist to make a joke any time he can. We wanted to create acidic humour and yet still be cute at the same time.

When working as three combined creative brains, how are your character design and narrative decisions made? Is there any breakdown of who does what, or do you collaboratively tackle these decisions?

We always work together on each project. Of course each one of us is more effective and has more knowledge than another in different areas, such as design, animation or team management, but we always converge on creative direction, art direction and decision making. We talk a lot before getting our hands on the computers. Then, in every stage of production, we listen to each other and maybe have a few more discussions on how to proceed, but it’s always nurturing and we think it ends in the best creative decisions.

We’ve seen your famed studio whiteboard in action on many a commercial project, but how does it work when deciding on story, length, style, etc work in a personal project?

Well, as I said before, in this piece, the story appeared in our minds after drawing a martini glass… I think it’s very random in passion projects. It’s true that the rules and processes for a passion project are different to commercial work, it’s really hard to have a blank page in front of you without any brief… but inspiration works in mysterious ways. We just have to be sharp and know how to recognise it when it does appear. Once this happens, the rest becomes easier.

In passion projects the length is in most times directly proportional to ”how much free time do we think we have?”, or it may depend on how ambitious you feel when you wake up.

Style can be very random for us. We always try to take a different approach on how characters would look in different pieces but as said before, we talk about how we would want the style, or which style tells the story we’re about to make best.

Speaking of style and storytelling, how would you define your general style as a studio? And where do you draw inspiration from?

We are storytellers and our best tool is creating characters. Inspiration comes from everywhere, friends, movies, books, tv series and social trends, if you pop up instagram and see the existing overwhelming talent of people and studios, in a few seconds you feel the urge to do your stuff!

Niceshit are known for thoughtfully blending 2D and 3D style in their animation work. Can you tell us a little bit about the technique used to create Olivier?

Yes, we do like to blend it a little bit but, in this case, Olivier was fully made on 2d in a mix of motion and cel animation. Our most 3d-2d blended project is The Truth About Algorithms, where we use a lot of 3d but aim for a 2d look. (That one felt like it was a passion project for us).

How long did a project like this take and how did you manage the schedule of an internal studio project around your paid commercial work? Were you working in between projects?

It was during 4 months aprox, mostly between projects but the last 2 and a half weeks were only Olivier. Whenever we have ideas for passion projects, we try to do them between projects or free time, which Im afraid is less and less lately.

Do you prefer to collaborate with clients on a looser brief from the very beginning or do you prefer to have a brief fully fleshed out from the start?

We like to be involved as soon as possible and love to collaborate with clients the whole way, and we’re so happy that this is happening a lot lately. We’ve recently worked on some bigger campaigns and it is great to involve ourselves in the planning of it, getting our hands in the scripts, media plan, OOH illustrations and even sound design. Our best work always comes from these great collaborations.

Why are passion projects important? What did you hope to accomplish with the creation of Olivier? And what else do you have up your sleeve for 2020?

I guess it helps us remind us how fun is to do what we do, bringing ideas to life is something truly exciting and we are lucky to be able to make them happen. It’s always a great moment when one of us comes into the studio all excited with a new idea to pitch to the rest of the team and how everybody then gets immediately pumped!

We are about to launch a lil’ something related to what music we like and hopefully what our friends and peers like as well! – so stay tuned 🙂

How do you get other collaborators and friends in the industry on board for a passion project? For example, sound designers?

We usually have Rodier make the music in passion projects but a few times we have teamed up with our friend Facundo Capece in sound design. When working on Olivier we showed it to him and he was on board instantly and made such a great job!

Have you created any other passion projects?

Yes! What If,  ”How to tell a story without knowing the story to tell.” This was the main premise behind our first studio film “What If”. We are pretty structured when comes to animation process, never skipping a step of it, so in this particular case we decided to try a new exercise and do the exact opposite. Instead of having a script or a voice over, doing a storyboard or animatic, we dived in blind, and tried to create a story without knowing what was really going to happen.

After having some of the scenes animated, we composed the music for it, a moving-forward song that led the rest of the process. It was really exciting to see how the “story” evolved and how each of us constructed a different one in our minds while developing it. Hopefully something like this would happen with anyone watching it.

We also used this project to learn to work with animation in Photoshop, as none of us had tried it before this and thought it could be a nice way to learn!

If yes to the above, has this passion project gained you either new work / a paid project or a talk or just generally more attention?

I think What If  just got as much attention as Olivier but not quite as many commercial projects, maybe because we made it for ourselves and for personal fun rather than trying to catch ‘money butterflies’. Olivier did work pretty well on the commercial side, we have received inquiries with Olivier inside the reference deck, or just for the tone of humour. The Truth About Algorithms also got us cool new commercial work.

What advice would you give to people creating passion projects?

Just do whatever you enjoy doing and want to be called in for for future projects. It is an investment, Also, keep it short? haha. We started a music video last year and is hard. With the short ones you can see it “near there” sooner, so you can get excited and see it through!

Talk to us about your background, where did you learn to illustrate and direct and how did you come to be a dream trio?

It is pretty strange, actually. Carmen has a degree in Fashion Design from Milan and did a masters in animation in Stockholm, at Hyper Island. Rodier has a music and composition background and studied some graphic design but he didn’t last long there and went straight to taking commissions! Guido started off doing accounting and product design. He didn’t finish either of those and instead decided to teach himself how to animate.

Eventually we all met each other and worked together in Punga, a super-cool animation studio in Buenos Aires that doesn’t exist anymore! We became super close friends and worked together for a couple of years, after that Carmen worked at Animade for some time, Guido in Plenty and Rodier was in Punga, when we decided that it was time for us to do our own thing, the way we envisioned it, and it actually worked out!

Did you always see yourselves doing this?

Yes, but also adding things in to the mix. Making videos is super cool but you can’t pick them up! We’ve shared this feeling from the beginning and really enjoy making physical things such as pins, matchboxes, socks, t-shirts and prints. We also enjoy working on furniture and love designing spaces. We are now halfway through the process of building our new office, a beautiful 220 square meter space in the neighbourhood of Poblenou in Barcelona.

Dream client?

You, the one reading this?!! In all seriousness, we’re super happy with any clients looking for a humorous tone or who are open-minded.

Of your work, what is your favourite piece to date?

The one for Primavera Sound / Interpol will always have a special place in our hearts and we are also particularly proud of the one we are working at the moment, a new challenge for us, which is always fun and creatively inspiring, we are so very excited to put it out there when it is done!

What’s next on the cards for you?

We recently turned 5 years old and it somehow feels like a really nice turning point. With the new office, an amazing team and exciting briefs coming our way, we are just pumped, happy and just eager to create new stuff.

That said, we’re working on the new site, our new showreel and getting ready for a NY trip early in the spring.