President*s Design Award (P*DA) and Today at Apple bring you a series of complimentary workshops throughout the year. Conducted by P*DA recipients, these workshops will focus on different areas in design. Here’s a low-down on William Chan’s session at Apple Orchard Road on 24 November 2019.
Drawing grins as well as a few raised eyebrows, designer-artist William Chan began his workshop with a surprising confession: “I never read, I just look at pictures.”
The bespectacled homegrown talent shared that these words – which originated from American pop culture icon Andy Warhol – were key to guiding his own creative journey.
“Because I am dyslexic, it was challenging for me to learn to read and write in primary school,” he explained.
It was this fascination with pictures and graphics that led to an illustrious career in motion graphic design. Growing up, William was surrounded by a myriad of TV programmes, comic books, music and skateboarding when he was growing up in the ’80s. He later enrolled in a graphic design course at LASALLE College of the Arts, eager to create striking and effective visuals himself.
His fervent consumption of popular culture paid off handsomely. Now 46, William is a co-founder of art collective PHUNK and the brains behind multidisciplinary motion design studio TMRRW. His stills and moving visuals work have been exhibited worldwide and are sought after by international brands such as Nike, MTV and Facebook. The successful designer has also bagged numerous awards, including the 2007 P*DA Designer of the Year, as part of PHUNK.
Armed with such credentials, William had plenty to share about in the field of motion design. Each of his animations was a simple idea expressed vividly and with care.
Participants of the workshop were first treated to a series of bumper videos he made for television channels such as MTV and Comedy Central. He also shared his work for prestigious events such as the 27th Golden Melody Awards (2016) in Taiwan. Bold, edgy and witty, his videos felt like visual crowd-pleasers with a rebellious streak.
William also talked about the philosophy that he adheres to in his practice. “Stay curious and experiment; it’s okay to fail” is one of them. For him, exploring new techniques or processes – and making mistakes along the way – is an essential part of learning and growing as a creative.
Inspired, the participants then tried their hands at making short animation sequences about themselves.
They first brainstormed for ideas. Under the guidance of William and Apple’s Creative Pro, the participants each wrote down three words related to their lives and combined them to form a simple sentence. They translated their sentences into graphics on Keynote, before experimenting with different ways of making their visuals move into, within and out of the frame.
The result were quirky animation sequences that triggered amused looks and laughter among the workshop participants. There were bouncing red strawberries, a menacing skull with a blinking electric guitar, a slice of toast happily landing unto a clean plate and a burning flight of stairs.
After creating their animation sequences, participants engaged in a short question-and-answer session with William to learn more about his design practice. There were questions such as what his favourite medium is and his most fulfilling project to date. William answered them with ease, explaining how his design approach is down to the brief he receives from a client – the medium he chooses to work with would be the one that works best to solve a client’s visual problem
He also shared that his first project for MTV is also his favourite, as it gave him the confidence he needed when he first started out as a designer.
As his workshop drew to a close, William left the participants with a playful invitation. He quipped: “I hope this has sparked your interest to go into motion graphics and that you will continue to practise animation…even if it is just to boost your Instagram followers!”
Q&A with William Chan
How do you think the workshop went?
I think it went quite well! It was my first attempt doing a workshop. I am quite happy with it and with the assistance provided by Apple. I needed that, because teaching animation using Keynote is really unusual. I usually use Keynote for presentations, but I never thought of using Keynote as an animation tool.
At first, I was a little apprehensive because motion design is a multistage process that involves different players. Using Keynote forced me to think or approach it differently. It needed a very different workflow and method. I took that as an interesting challenge. Surprisingly, I think the software is quite versatile!
Tell us about your design studio TMRRW. What’s the story behind its name?
When I was trying to name my studio, I asked myself, “What is the one word that I use all the time?” Two words came to mind. The first was a swear word, so I couldn’t use it to register a company. The second word was “tomorrow.” It was an excuse I used when I was young. Every time my mum asked me to do something, like clean my bedroom, I would reply, “Tomorrow!”
TMRRW started seven years ago, with the motto “Art + Science = Wonder.” What does that mean to you?
For me, I see art as an inspiration and science as the medium. So it’s always about trying to put these two things together and see what I can come up with. I find this approach makes my work a lot more interesting.
What is TMRRW experimenting with right now?
Recently, we have been working with augmented reality (AR). We are thinking about different ways of using this technology, rather than simply feeding audiences with ideas straight away, which is no different from watching TV. This is something that we are very curious about at this point of time.
We heard about your love for skateboards. Can you tell us more about your collection?
I have about 30 odd skateboards at home now. I collect skateboards, particularly from the ’80s because that was the time when I skated the most! Skateboarding is a very important part of life; it shapes the way I think today. I’m also heavily influenced by the visual culture of skateboarding; it’s one of the main reasons why I chose to study to be a graphic designer.
For TMRRW, we have an ongoing partnership with Nike to develop visual content for their flagship shop in Shanghai. At the moment, we’re also working on a regionally rebranding exercise for a channel under Discovery Channel Asia. Apart from commercial projects, we’re working with an independent electronic music artist on a music video as well.
For PHUNK, we are gearing up to kick start our 25th anniversary exhibition in 2020 at the National Design Centre on 14 Feb. After that, we will be touring the exhibition in different forms to other cities.