Seminar: Gavin Strange, Senior Online Designer at Aardman Animations

  • When: Thursday, 29 Sep 2011 at 5.30-7pm
  • Where: The Black Box
  • Cost: n/a
  • Who: Creative & Cultural Skills and Skillset

Gavin Strange is a jack of all trades; Senior Online Designer at Aardman Animations by Day and a designer going under the alias Jamfactory by night. Working in the field of Web & Graphics primarily but also dabbling in character design, photography and illustration as well as speaking about his work at Apple stores around the UK.

Gavin has created pretty things for the BBC, Channel 4 and Howies as well as creating his own vinyl toy named ‘Droplet’. A keen cyclist, he’s turned his attention to capturing the Bristol fixed gear bicycle scene for his forthcoming documentary ‘BÖIKZMÖIND’.

This seminar is part of a series organised by Creative & Cultural Skills and Skillset.  The purpose is to inspire, learn, share ideas and create a forum for local designers, digital content providers and independent television producers to meet and develop business contacts, particularly in light of the planned increase in regional network spend by the BBC and other network providers.

Event write-up

Gavin Strange – A General(ist) in the Digital Revolution

by Ben Bland.

Gavin Strange started his presentation standing in his slippers beside a projected video of a log fire, humming Careless Whisper. He wanted us to get comfortable. But his presence exceeds comfort, seeming strangely familiar, like we’ve met many times before. Gavin conveys himself as genuine, unpretentious, making his work look easy, almost accidental, until you fall into the perilous trap of thinking “I could do that”.

Gavin describes himself as a “Jack of all trades, master of fupp all (lover of many)”. He covered his full-time work, doing digital design at the heroic Aardman Animations, only briefly. Then he ran through several of his freelance creative pursuits, insisting on not knowing how to do any of them properly, yet each time presenting intimidating creations that are confident and succinctly clever. He takes influence from a wide range of interests – various arts, skating, science, bikes (fixed gear, of course!) – through which he seems to have wandered without aim, driven fast by a childish fascination for everything. Gavin is a happy generalist, working in what may be very good times for people with such diverse pursuits.

Gavin quoted Samuel Goldwyn, “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. This is one of the great practical jokes we all face in our careers, that the future is unpredictable so we cannot write our destinies verbatim, instead we must spread ourselves out and maximise our exposure to chance. It is a sign that you are trying hard enough when people tell you that you don’t know how lucky you are. Gavin described a helpless compulsion to say yes to everything, followed typically by his amazement at the outcome. Unless you are focused on a highly specialised occupation, this kind of opportunistic optimism is not just a mantra for happiness, it is a serious strategy for success.

The generalists appear to be ascension in this connected age. As digits and distributed labour frequently disrupt established industries, and powerful tools are placed in the hands of the masses, the agility to skip trades becomes a survival skill. If you are a multidisciplinary artist like Gavin, accomplished or not, you may find more opportunity now than in recent generations. Those few who go beyond dabbling to become experts in multiple fields we label polymaths. Throughout history, the celebrated polymaths (or ‘renaissance men’) seem to be clustered around the great overhauls of culture and industry: the likes of Da Vinci and Newton in the Renaissance itself; of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Young in the Industrial Revolution. And if we are, as thinkers like Seth Godin claim, not in a recession but the latest industrial revolution, is the global rise of the generalists simply a symptom of the chaos of upheaval?

Written by Ben Bland

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