D&AD Meets is a regular series where we elevate the work of need-to-know creatives. Each season of features is curated by a creative who can reach beyond our established networks to help us find the new talent deserving of a spotlight, the ones to watch, and the ones to work with. Here, the current curator and interviewer Shannie Mears meets motion designer Tidiane Diagana, and talks about establishing a career within motion graphics and his favourite projects to date.
Shannie Mears is Co-Founder and Head of Talent at The Elephant Room, an agency working directly to address advertising's lack of diversity and inclusion. She also runs Girl's Let's Talk, a platform and collective dedicated to creating safe spaces for womxn. We are dedicating the space for this season of articles to exploring the work of emerging Black and POC creatives, focusing on their stories, successes, and talent.
Tidiane, it's great to be able to profile you could you please describe who Tidiane is in a couple of sentences?
Hey! I’m a Motion Designer based in Birmingham, I studied Film Production in University and have now been working in the industry as a Graphic / Motion Designer for around 5 years.
Where does your love for creativity come from?
From very early on in my life I was always interested in creating things, as a child I was always drawing & sketching cartoons as I’d watch them, then after my parents bought me my first laptop at the age of 12 I remember feeling like I was unstoppable. It started with music, I’d create grime instrumentals and share them with my friends in school, I’d then design little visualisers to go with my instrumentals, and eventually started to design mixtape covers for my peers and myspace layouts (yes, I’m that old). It was at this stage that I realised how passionate I was about being able to be creative in any way that I wanted to, it was my canvas and I loved it.
You're from Birmingham right, tell us the story there, has your environment at all influenced your love for what you do?
Being from Birmingham definitely influenced my love for what I do, as I felt like I was part of an infrastructure being built, in particular in the Urban Music Scene. There’s a strong creative community in Birmingham and being able to create pieces of work with people that I went to school and community centre’s with adds a lot of value for me. I became really close to the Birmingham Scene in my teenage years from being in youth centres all the time, always moving around the city and being surrounded by the raw creativity of my peers, this not only helped keep me away from trouble but it also benefits me now, how I think, how I approach things & my work ethic.
Do you find that opportunity looks different because you are from outside of London?
I used to believe the only way I would excel in the creative industry the way I’d hoped for was by moving to London. This may have been the case in previous years but with technology the way it is today, opportunities are way more accessible to anyone searching. It goes without saying that creatives outside of the capital might have to push that little bit harder to be seen, but it’s definitely possible with hard work and consistency.
Who/What inspires you?
As cliché as it may sound, my main inspiration is definitely my parents, as a kid they allowed me to really explore creatively and always pushed me and supported me in all of my different routes. So now being able to show my mom billboards I’ve designed or telling her that the YouTube advert she just watched was one of my pieces, it just never gets old.
I’m also constantly inspired by my peers and my community, seeing people I have known from childhood make careers for themselves as Music artists, producers, videographers etc. Seeing others around me succeed and achieve amazing things, only inspires me to do the same.
How did you know that you wanted to get into motion graphics?
To be honest, I’ve always wanted to get into motion graphics even before I was doing graphic design, but when I was younger I always thought it was way too complex and I never had a strong enough computer to run the software. Then when I first went to university I spent a large portion of my student finance on a Macbook and made it my mission to get into the motion graphics world. It didn’t take me long to realise how much I enjoyed it, mostly because I could implement my motion skills into the music videos I was shooting around that time, which helped me stand out from other videographers.
Are you self taught, or are there any courses, tutorials or anything you have found useful or you could recommend?
I’d say I’m about 80% self-taught, I did study film production at university and although it helped me learn the theory & methodology side of things, it was really in my time outside of Uni that I learnt the craft and put it into practice. When I first got into motion design and downloaded Cinema 4D & After effects; before going straight to tutorials I’d spend a lot of time just familiarizing myself with the software. I started by playing around and creating personal pieces to learn how to navigate, these software’s are mammoths and there are dozens of different ways to do the same thing, but I just explored different styles and learnt along the way. When I wanted to learn more advanced techniques, I entered the world of Youtube, where you can pretty much find a tutorial for anything you’re trying to create. Some channels that I’d frequently find myself browsing were - Surfaced Studio, Dope Motions, Eyedesyn & School of Motion, just to name a few. There are also some really good tutorials on online academy platforms like Lynda.
What is your best project that you've worked on to date?
I really enjoyed working on the Vitae London motion adverts, it’s a brand that I’ve admired for quite some time because of what they stand for and their journey. The founder William Adosi, gave me complete creative freedom and just wanted something that really communicated the elegance and origins of the Watches whilst having a fresh contemporary feel. The adverts were very well received on social media, and I look forward to collaborating with Vitae London again.
What is your favourite part of the process for you when working on a project?
I enjoy exploring ideas in the pre-production stages with styleframes and mood boards etc to set the solid foundations of the project. But my favourite part in the process is definitely being in my zone animating. Depending on what kind of project you’re on, a lot of animation can be very tedious and time consuming but I really enjoy listening to a podcast and just tackling any challenges the project throws at me, by troubleshooting, problem solving and sometimes working collaboratively to crack the brief.
What is the one thing you'd like to tell young creatives out there, particularly outside of London navigating the creative industry?
Build a community or involve yourself in a community! Being a young creative professional can often feel lonesome, so being able to collaborate, get feedback and bounce ideas off of other young creatives in similar places to you can be extremely helpful. I’ve learned so much from my peers and found resources I couldn’t have on my own, so having access to a network of other creatives is very important, especially when you are living outside of London.
Project you’re most proud of? Biggest project?
In terms of project scale, The Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 Is probably the biggest I have worked on, this is an ongoing project and it’s very exciting to be able to work on the motion for this client, particularly with it being a Birmingham hosted event that will be viewed by so many people.
As for the project I’m most proud of, it’s probably when I worked with Potter Payper. When his mixtape ‘Training Day 1’ came out 8 years ago, I was in my first year of University listening to the mixtape religiously on the way to lectures. So to be able to work on ‘Training Day 3’, a project that went on to chart at #3, it felt like a big moment for me.
What has been your biggest challenge or learning moment?
My biggest challenge early on in my career was experiencing imposter syndrome, which is a pretty common thing in the industry but it’s especially rampant when you’re also an underrepresented minority. It felt really daunting exploring a career field where no-one looked like me or faced the same challenges I did. It became hard to see what success looked like for me and resulted in me feeling like an imposter in an unfamiliar land. As time went on and as I became more confident, I started to feel more connected not only to the industry but to other underrepresented creatives who faced similar obstacles, the imposter syndrome started to disappear, I began to recognise that I indeed do belong in this industry and have as much say as anyone else, reminding myself that I am where I am for a reason.