Artboard 17575: Motion Graphics Designer and Fine Artist Gianni Arone on Spec Spots and Creative Freedom

Gianni Arone | Sep. 28 2021

Before I am a Motion Designer, I am first, a multi-disciplinary fine artist.  I am self taught in all my creative endeavors, propelled by an insatiable need to create. I got into motion graphics by seeing a job posting for an animator and that weekend, taught myself how to crudely animate and created a portfolio. I landed the job and have been doing motion ever since. 
The same mentality goes for fine art and I spend most of my time working on a variety of works in different mediums and substrates that inform my overall aesthetic when it comes to my motion and editing sensibilities. I have found that this process of experiencing a wide variety of creative outlets has allowed me to, over the years, cultivate and curate my voice in a way that perhaps isn’t of the norm in the motion community, as I am coming from a place of painting, drawing, illustration, photography, poetry, design, animation, and editing. One of my favorite ways to do this is the spec commercial.
The spec spot is such a place of creative freedom because what we have really is a blank canvas. We identify a brand we love and in that identification we cull some basic tenets of the brand verticals. Their existing voice, previous campaigns, and overall tone over their years of existence. Those loose factors give us a base from which we can explore creating a voice that is perhaps currently being overlooked in their advertising offerings. It’s a world of risk taking and pure creative endeavoring. Nothing really is off limits here, from visuals, to execution, editing, color palette, music, etc. 
We allow ourselves as experts and creators to play and I believe in doing that, great things come. So often we can get locked down into brand guidelines and the analytical numbers that say “this is what we should do, this is what works and what has worked in the past.” Which of course is great, but that philosophy also stifles creative risk taking.
As a fine artist I often operate from intuition and feeling through the ether of opportunity and inspiration. It is allowing one to be the negative space where the drawing, painting, music, and other elements simply reveal themselves and evolve and form into the manifest.  Each one of us has a certain ability to tap into the flow state, where we intuitively know “YES!  This is something, there is something here.” So when creating a spec spot I really rely on intuition and being open to receiving ideas. I don’t go heavy on research, mood boards, or too much planning, but let ideas come and build off that momentum.
With this Pepsi spot I wanted to cultivate the Joy of having a soft drink. As a kid it was a treat to have a soda and there is a certain innocence in it. I had created some hand drawn animations that honestly made me laugh. That laughter and joy was an indicator of the genuine and authentic purity of what I had animated. I recorded my father doing a voiceover and as I often do, went to the creative commons zero database of music where you can find really quirky copyright free music that often no one has ever heard. It turned out to be a really sweet spot that felt timeless and made me smile, hence the title.

“Just Us Kids” is a NIKE spot that evolved from simple drawings where I started slapping Nike Logos on the shoes and outfits of the characters. In my fine art I often put the Nike logo on shoes as a cultural identifier and an indicator of daring to dream. I had found this piece of music that was just perfect and I decided to string the assets together in a simple edit for a Nike spot directed to young athletes. I adore it. 

The Maison Martin Margiela piece was just a bonkers spot. They are a high fashion brand and have created these trippy crystal facemask headpieces. I was fascinated by them and wanted to do something around them. I found a really aggressive punk track and matched it with scans of seashells I made on my scanner with footage from the Mars Rover landing. Quick cuts, jarring music, and brazenly short in total running time. You are left with an impact of what the fuck was that, and I love that. 

The Emerald Nuts “Bird and Cat” spot and the Benetton “FLY” spot were both playful in their execution. I have a lot of different illustration styles, but my favorite is the quick and raw emotive works that just get the essence and the idea out. They are not refined, but they are real, and I think that courage to go with this style speaks volumes when executed in a professional spot. Emerald Nuts is a bit quirky in the copy. It’s a quick short story narrated by three lines of text and is in no way related to nuts, but connected to Emerald’s bizarre previous commercials which is perfect. Benneton was really driven by this folk song I found that felt like a hidden iconic jingle and the spot is really hinged on showcasing it through a quick morphing animation of a short story.

Finally this Nike “Personal Things” spot was a spec I had always wanted to do of an emotional anthemic collage of great moments in sports history. I had met Umar Bin Hassan of the famed Last Poets in New York City and our time together made a lasting impression on me. I searched for one of his poems that could hopefully fit the bill as a narration to this idea I had. I came upon his work “Personal Things” and it was just a perfect match. Again music was sourced from the creative commons zero library and I was able to create something that left me teary eyed and spoke to a greater portrait of the human experience.  If you can get someone to cry or laugh, or express any real emotion from a product advertisement, I think that is the pinnacle of what we are aiming for in our craft.

I personally think spec spots should be a way of life in all agencies. That there should be dedicated hours for each quarter to create works that are creatively risky for brands the agency is currently working with, or brands that they just love. Some of my favorite commercials have that feel, a majority of them were made in the 80’s and early 90’s. There was a real art house, exploratory tone in them and they felt like they had soul.  Small pieces of cinema. Timeless in nature.
I don’t really believe in creative blockages and I think those are somewhat self imposed phenomena of the psyche, or when we are limiting ourselves in what creative expression looks like. I find it handy to cycle through different creative outlets (photography informs a poem, a poem informs a painting, a painting informs a font choice, ad infinitum). When we have a wide array of creative expressions and outlets we can find a huge well of ideas instead of a linear approach when we are tasked with executing a project. I truly believe that all of the possibilities of creative expression exist in an unseen liminal space, and that we as creators are vessels for bringing the unmanifest into the manifest. We just have to remain honest, open minded, and willing – and in doing that we cultivate intuition in our process.

Gianni Arone is a Motion Graphics Designer at The Many and recently sold his first NFT on OpenSea.
Disclaimer – The following spots are spec spots. The originator of the spots is not affiliated with, connected to, nor sponsored or endorsed by the companies featured.