Creative Lives — How picking up the phone helped Manchester-based motion designer Jordan Painter land a job

Posted 28 July 2020 Introduction by Siham Ali

Upon graduating, motion designer Jordan Painter found his emails falling on deaf ears – so he bit the bullet and began phoning up his dream agencies. He dialled Flow Creative and after a brief call, he was offered an interview, which led to an unofficial internship. Four years later, Jordan is now firmly leading the motion department at the Manchester-based design agency. Switching up tactics can often feel risky, but Jordan is a great example of what can happen when you wholeheartedly go for it. We chat with Jordan to find out what his journey has been like thus far, as he recommends some of his top animation resources and discusses how to make a seat for yourself at an overcrowded table.

Jordan Painter

Job Title

Lead Motion Designer, Flow Creative (2016–present)

Based

Manchester

Selected Clients

Arts Council England, BBC Creative, CBBC, Together Trust, Mental Health Foundation

Education

MA Graphic Design: Motion and Interactive Design, Sheffield Hallam University (2012–2016)

Website
Social Media

Jordan

Day-to-Day

How would you describe what you do?
I’m a motion designer and animator, and currently work for Flow Creative as lead motion designer. Essentially, I make things move to bring ideas and stories to life. I’ve created campaigns for brands and organisations such as Arts Council England, BBC Creative, Mental Health Foundation and Manchester City Council to name a few. I specialise in 2D and 3D animation for explainer videos, motion graphics and social media videos. It’s coming up to my fourth year as a motion designer, and I can’t imagine doing anything else!

What does a typical working day look like and where does it happen?
The great thing about working in a creative environment is that every day and every project is different. It’s exciting to get such varied projects and clients to work with.

For me, a typical working day starts in the Northern Quarter studio at 9am. We have a team production meeting where we look at the progress of new and ongoing projects. My role is very hands-on, leading the animation within the motion team and working closely with the designers. Once I leave the studio at 5.30pm, I work on freelance animation projects in the evenings for some really cool clients and brands.

Jordan’s workspace at the Flow Creative studio

How are you right now and how has this period changed the way you work?
Things are going well at the moment! I do feel fortunate that I’m able to carry on working from home. Like a lot of people I’ve had to move my nice workspace set-up from the studio to a makeshift set-up at home. But the process of my work remains the same. I’m still able to collaborate with everyone. We all make an effort to video call every morning and chat on Slack throughout the day to check in and see how everyone’s doing.

One thing that’s helped me stay motivated is exercise. Without the morning and evening commute, there’s now more time to get fit. I’ve taken up running daily which I really enjoy! It helps clear my mind and is a great way to separate my day.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
My favourite part of my job is actually when I’m on the tools animating. I love it when a project is in full swing during the animation stage and we get to see our ideas come to life.

The least enjoyable part has to be when you have to work late to meet a deadline. Tight deadlines can interrupt the work-life balance.

Work for charity, Together Trust

Work for charity, Together Trust

Work for charity, Together Trust

Work for charity, Together Trust

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What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Christmas came early at Flow when we were chosen to create Manchester’s Christmas commercial: Come Together At Christmas [below]. The storyline was about a girl who writes a letter to Santa after moving to Manchester. She goes on a journey while delivering her letter and meets many new friends along the way. The aim was to encourage people to visit Manchester and evoke local pride. It was so exciting to see the animations around the city, helping everyone get into the Christmas spirit whilst doing their Christmas shopping!

What skills would you say are essential to your work?
Software and tools aside, as an animator you need an understanding and interest in graphic design, so you know what looks good. You also need to know the principles of animation and have a detailed sense of timing because this is the basis of everything you do. But above all, you need to be passionate about your work. Passion will fuel your desire to pick up skills along the way.

What do you like about working in Manchester?
I think Manchester is a great place for any creative. The city is buzzing with creative people and agencies. And there’s a real sense of local pride which filters into the creative industry. There is no shortage of design-related events and talks to visit. There’s plenty of opportunities for emerging creatives to get involved in the scene.

‘Come together at Christmas’ Manchester Christmas commercial

What tools do you use the most for your work?
Procreate, boords.com for creating storyboards, Adobe Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Cinema 4D.

Is there a resource that has particularly helped you?

For anyone wanting to get into animation, I’d strongly recommend The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams. It’s essentially an animation bible full of techniques, principles, tips and tricks.

There’s also loads of online tutorials out there that have helped me, across all platforms. If you’re starting out and looking for some freebies, the Motion Design School has some great free animation courses. There are also some free animation project files on holdframe.com from industry professionals.

I’d also recommend exploring the design world on social media. Animators like Tony Babel and Markus Magnusson share design and animation tutorials on Instagram, and if you don’t mind investing some money into learning, you can’t go wrong with Skillshare! There are plenty of high quality courses available from many great illustrators and animators.

Work for CBBC New Year Channel Trail

Work for CBBC New Year Channel Trail

Work for CBBC New Year Channel Trail

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How I Got Here

Do you feel you need a formal education for what you do?
For me, university was great and Sheffield will be forever in my heart. It was where I discovered my passion for motion graphics and animation, which led me to where I am now. It was also where I started building industry contacts and networking. However, there are many other avenues to explore and starting a career in animation doesn’t just rely on a formal degree. Ultimately, if you have the passion, the drive and the stand-out portfolio, you’ll go far!

After graduating what were your initial steps?
I gathered my best final year university projects into an online portfolio. I decided that my portfolio should be a website, so that I could easily send it to creative agencies. I did this before I finished my degree because I didn’t want to miss out on any junior roles.

I sent emails to agencies expressing my interest and received no replies. So I decided to change gear and pick up the phone to speak to real people within agencies. I felt that a conversation with someone at an agency would be more memorable than sending emails into the abyss. From one of the phone calls, I managed to get an interview and later an internship at Flow Creative (where I work now). It all happened quite quickly – determination is key!

“I sent emails to agencies expressing my interest and received no replies. So I decided to change gear and pick up the phone.”

Would you say you ever experienced a lucky break?
A relatively recent lucky break was when I got commissioned for my first freelance gig back in 2019. The brief was to create an animated explainer video for CMS, promoting how their online platform CMS: Cash can improve change management in retail. It had to be engaging and I chose a minimalistic visual style to present a complex product as a simple solution.

The project presented a healthy challenge for me, because for the first time I wasn’t just focusing on the animation – I had to put my project manager hat on and go through the entire process involved in producing a fully animated film by myself. I developed new skills around scriptwriting, storyboarding and illustration. I took control in sourcing a voice over artist, and I was able to build a great client relationship!

How important have you found social media and self-promotion in your work?
Having an online and social presence is a huge deal these days. You need to be consistent in how frequently you post, and also you need to be consistent in the quality of work that you post. Working full-time and with freelance work in the evenings, social media is something I’ve perhaps not made enough time for, but I’m definitely looking to improve this!

Work for CMS: Cash

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to an emerging creative?
My advice would be to get yourself out there, online and offline. Make sure you have an online presence, whether that’s a website portfolio or an account on social media that you regularly post work on.

Get schmoozing offline! Make the most of all the creative events that are on throughout the week. In Manchester in particular, there’s always an event to go to! They’re fantastic for networking and meeting others in the same boat.

And don’t be disheartened if things take a while to get moving for you. The creative industry is very competitive, so it could take time to catch your first break. My advice is to stay positive, passionate and keep doing great work – your time will come!

Posted 28 July 2020 Introduction by Siham Ali
Introduction: Siham Ali
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Animation
Mentions: Jordan Painter, Flow Creative

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