Some things in life, you just know. You know if you want to be a chef or an astronaut. You know if you want to be creative or do anything else. It may sound cheesy, but once creative, always creative is quite a good mantra – if you start creating for a living, you'll never go back.
That's exactly what happened to Euan McGrath, now a freelance Motion Graphics Designer who knows his destiny has always been to work in the creative industry as a professional, ever since he was playing around with art, animation and movies at a very young age. Euan's career has been incredibly varied, but punctuated by one thing throughout: his love for art and film, his dedication to the craft and his incredibly humble spirit.
In this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about an incredibly inspiring professional who's had the chance to work with a great deal of different clients, from Warner Bros to BBC, from major companies to smaller (yet "equally important") production boutiques.
How did you get into the industry?
I have always been into art, animation and movies since I was a kid… The older I got the more I gravitated towards trying to figure out how to do these things ‘full time’. I studied Film and Graphic Design at college, then Film + Video making at university (whilst continuing graphic designing for club flyers etc). I made a real variety of things during his time, from music videos and animation, to more serious narrative films.
I didn’t even know what a ‘motion designer’ was when I went out into the world trying to make a start on my career, so I had to learn on the job how to do this and how it all worked within the industry. Luckily for me I had a great starting point having made and edited videos before whilst having a good understanding of Photoshop, graphic design and some experience of animation. My first jobs were very junior roles in advertising and the music industry, so I had to use a real variety of different skills to get anywhere in those first few years.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I’ve been in London since after university, so most of my work is based there. I’ve worked with quite a range of people over the years, from major Film, TV and music companies like Warner Brothers, Netflix and Universal, to much more boutique but equally important productions with companies like Beyond The Road, Satore Studio, Shockworker, UNKLE and others.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
Begging for loose change...? I honestly have no idea. I’ve always known that working in this field was my destiny, mainly as I would never be able to do anything else! Maybe I would be working with animals… As that's another big passion I think I could dedicate my time to properly.
Can you explain your creative process?
I try not to have anything too strictly laid down, but essentially my process is making sure you take the time to open your mind and consider the options creatively before pushing ahead. And to try and carefully balance the creative and imaginative side of things, with the more technical and logistical aspects... because if you have too much of one or the other the project won't work. Too many ideas and too much ‘creativity’ can lead you to missing deadlines and having to rush or scrap things at the last minute without some sense of being able to complete the task. But too much focus on just ‘getting things done’ leads to bad creative and makes the whole process pointless ultimately.
How would you describe your style?
I’d never try to be so bold… But I think I like things relatively clean and impactful generally, with a lean towards a more filmic and classic style. Bold, typographic and musically connected animations and videos with a strong and clear colour palette driving things.
Do you have any heroes in the industry?
So many… I wouldn’t know where to start! Anyone out there doing great work. You know who you are… ;)
How has technology affected the way you work?
I feel that things move so much faster now in terms of software etc and what is possible or expected. And especially in 2020 the level of remote working and reliance on video conferencing etc. just exploded! That's the big difference, I guess in the last 10 year or so. How much of everything is now online and digital, as opposed to physical or in person. I can work for months now without ever even talking to another person face to face. Which is useful during lockdown, but ultimately not ideal!
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Keep living your life. And keep consuming interesting media. I am very inspired (although less directly) by new music, so am always listening to new stuff and keeping my ears open to that. I love checking out an art exhibition, movie or documentary, not necessarily specifically art based, just something to kick start the engine! I think its all about balance though, you don’t want to inundate yourself with so much content to the point that you’ve got no space for your own ideas to gestate either. Our lives are SO full of content nowadays, that knowing when to disconnect and shut off is just as important to keeping your eyes open to whats bout their in the world.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
I must say, creating video installations from the film Roma and TV series Trust that had to be personally approved by Alfonso Cuaron and Danny Boyle, for an exhibition created by James Lavelle (UNKLE), that I also created all the trailers for, is sure going to take some beating!
How do you recharge away from the office?
Well, I loved to travel and see the world! But that was in the ‘before times’… So now it’s mainly watching old movies, DJing/Podcasting and making my own little videos for fun that keeps me going between projects!
What is one tip that you would give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?
Always check the preview/render one last time! You’ll probably spot something that could actually be tweaked that will improve what you’re working on. Other than that, be reliable, work hard and always try and make something the best it can be.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the industry?
That it still exists next year! Speaking as someone whose main employers were the film, music, live events and exhibitions industries… 2020 has been like nothing else anyone's experienced before in terms of the destructive impact on all of these. I just want things to recover enough that we can all go back to doing great work together that lights up the world in its own small way.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?
Uh oh… Don't get me in trouble!
But honestly, people knowing their role and doing their job is a big thing I’ve noticed. Allow the creative people to be in charge of the creative… And listen to the people who have relevant experience when setting deadlines/expectations etc. Don’t allow great concepts to get so watered down along the way with a ‘too many cooks’ situation happening or just trying to satisfy too many differing objectives at once when you should be nailing one.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Definitely follow @euan_mcgrath on Instagram. Ahem...
Other than that I’d just like to shout out to Simon Stålenhag, who is one of the most inspiriting creatives I’ve followed over recent years. He started out as just an artist uploading his paintings online, then self-published narrative art books via Kickstarter, now his ideas have been turned into shows for Amazon! And still while doing his own thing.