Inspiration

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Letting Our Demons Run with Leo Uehara

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Sure, commercial work is great, but have you tried unplugging with some personal projects?

It's too easy to get caught up in your daily life and in a loop of constant work for others, but freelance motion designer Leo Uehara believes it is important to be yourself every once in a while. This involves listening to your wishes as well as your fears, and possibly finding that sweet spot in the middle where the two worlds meet.

For this Member Spotlight, we are getting to know a graphic designer who turned to motion design for an unexpected twist, an ambitious freelancer with plenty of advice for newcomers in the industry.

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How did you get into the industry?

I started my career working as a graphic designer in my hometown Rosario, Argentina.

On those days, Flash was the king of the internet, so I embraced the technology and started experimenting with animation and audio, creating websites and music videos.

Born of Japanese parents, after some years I got curious about Japan and moved to Tokyo where I lived for 4 years as a graphic designer. I worked with different kinds of media, from printing to digital, and from branding to editorial design. I was lucky enough to work in such different areas and see the wide panorama of graphic design, and I didn't know back then, but animation was always my preferred field.

In 2008 I moved to São PauIo, Brazil and kept working online for the agency I had in Japan. Some years after, I took a one-year motion graphics course in Spain and when I came back to Brazil I decided to start a career as a freelance motion designer. In 2018 I also started a career as a motion graphics teacher here in São Paulo.

I now mainly work for advertising agencies, motion graphics studios, artists and production companies from Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Maybe I'd be doing music or something related with the creative field and arts and crafts, such as calligraphy, photography, carpentry, writing…

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Can you explain your creative process?

It all starts with an idea. It could be a commercial briefing or a personal project.

I like to spend some time thinking about what would be the appropriate way to render a concept in an effective and impactful manner.

Once I decide the tone of the idea, I start looking for visual references, not only on the internet but in anything outside the digital world. I compile them in a mood board and send it to the client to take a look. I like to approach an idea slowly and do changes and considerations with the client to make sure we’re on the right track. If I’m working on animation I also start to think about other details and ask me some questions like: what kind of music will fit this project? What will be the rhythm of the animation? How is the transition between the scenes going to be? 

Once I get into production, from time to time mistakes occur and if I am lucky enough, these happy mistakes cause a twist on the images leaving a mark that will spread in the whole project.

But otherwise I’m pretty disciplined working with design. I decide beforehand the colour palette, the font family, the textures (if there were any) and the geometric forms.

If I’m working on a personal project I let my instincts speak up. It has to be a fun project, and most of the times I don’t have a clear idea of how this is going to develop. In this kind of work the process itself is as important as the final result.

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How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

When I was studying graphic design, the analog world was shifting to digital, so I went from designing everything with my hands to doing it with a mouse. For all of us technology represent a huge universe where it seems that anything is possible, but I think sometimes it can be soulless. I really dig images where both analog and digital intersect, and I try to mix the two worlds in an artwork whenever is possible.

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What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I look for new technologies and sites related to the art world. It could be overwhelming the amount of produced artworks today, but I think you should stay focused on your own interests and try to do something with the knowledge you learn.

Some time ago I was interested in contemporary art and I did a lot of research about this subject, which inspired a personal project called Inscape.

I keep coming back to music for inspiration, I think that is connected with motion graphics in many ways. I also go to art exhibitions anytime I can.

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What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I’m proud of the latest project I participated which it's “Planeta Startup”, a TV show from Brazil screened at Band TV. I was in charge of the art direction and we had a lot of freedom in this project, we created everything from logo to the smallest animated pieces for the show. It was exhausting but I was pleased with the result. I worked with a small team of motion designers but basically all the styleframes and pieces of the package were designed by me.

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How do you recharge away from the office?

Lately, spending some time with my little daughter. It really pulls me off from my work and somehow reconnects me with my own childhood.

A few years ago I was deeply involved with analog photography and hand-made collage. You can see some of these works on my Instagram profile and my own website.

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What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

Create a stunning portfolio!

Don’t worry if you don’t have enough commercial projects at the beginning, create your own personal projects and focus on the techniques and subjects you are more interested in. Be very critical choosing your own work and only upload your very best shots.

After you have some projects, send emails to your favourite companies in the market, ask them to take a look and try to schedule a meeting. If you don’t get any feedback, don’t give up, keep sending emails to other companies and promote yourself on social media. Someday you'll be surprised by somebody who decides to give you an opportunity.

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