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The purposeful works of 3D & Motion Designer Csaba Molnár | #MemberSpotlight

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Freelance Art Director, 3D & Motion Designer Csaba Molnár has been in this industry for over 10 years, more than enough to develop a broad range of skills that embraces modelling on a number of levels.

It is enough to take a quick glance at the beautiful and atmospheric works below to realise that, perhaps, talent does apply to some people. His 3D works are nothing short of amazing, they are incredibly polished and betray the eye for details that only a senior professional in this industry could boast. Csaba defines himself as more of a technical person than an artistic one, and believes all works should have a defined purpose – be it tell a story or illustrate meaning. Of one thing we're sure: he is a master at approaching any of those.

In this Member Spotlight, we are learning more about Csaba Molnár and his striking talent for anything 3D.

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How did you get into the industry?

I have been fascinated by computers since I was a child, but strangely enough, I haven't used them for creative purposes until I have finished university. Even my bachelor's degree didn't reflect my future career path, I graduated as an English teacher. While in school, I started learning Flash programming, and basic graphic design. Finally, I found 3D, which opened brand new opportunities for me. In 2008 I was employed as a junior motion designer at a local creative agency that had broadcast design and animation for TV channels in their portfolio. There I immediately got the chance  - basically thrown into the wild - to work on real life projects for huge global brands, and meet some of the veterans in the field. It was quite frightening at first, but I learnt a tremendous amount about the industry there.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I live and work in Szeged, Hungary. I work as a full-time freelancer for both agencies and direct clients such as Comedy Central, Netgear, Satechi, or Telstra. Nowadays I do mostly product animation videos but once in a while I get to work on title sequences and other broadcast projects. My big favourite however will always be TV channel branding and ident / promo production.

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

I'm sort of a tech junkie so I'd probably do something with computers, maybe just something less fancy.

Can you explain your creative process?

Unlike most design professionals, I arrived to the scene totally self-taught. I was never good at drawing, and I'm still not. I used to say jokingly, I've learnt making it in 3D just so I don't have to draw it.

Consequently, my creative process is 100% digital. Most of the time I work on client projects , so there is a starting point in terms of concept, design, or layout. Once I have the initial brief, I like to spend a few days doing nothing with the project, just have it rest in the back of my mind, letting my unconscious do the research. It's sort of building on the Baader–Meinhof phenomenon, where you learn about something for the first time and suddenly start to see it everywhere. 

A funny thing about my process is that I never arrive at the look I had in my mind initially, so the end result is as surprising for me as it is for the outside world. This is what I enjoy most in each project. I never give myself clear-cut limitations and I love the freedom of it.

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How would you describe your style?

I would say I'm a technical person rather than an artistic one, and I believe design always needs to have a purpose, so I'm constantly trying to narrow my vision down to how the end result would work in the way it is intended. 

I see my style anchored between the realms of realistic rendering and semi-realistic illustration, with conscious use of filmic effects. At the end of the day, I consider myself as a designer rather than an artist and my body of work is more of a functional entity rather than something I would consider art.

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Speaking of early inspiration, I definitely need to mention Alex Roman (The Third & The Seventh – https://vimeo.com/7809605), who has made a deep impact with his vision in the early days. And then there was Mr. Furry :) (https://vimeo.com/5395669). This TV ident was part of a channel rebrand of MTV made by Universal Everything, and it made it absolutely clear for me that this is what I want to do with my career.

Other heroes and inspirational figures would be:

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If you had to pick one ideal client/employer, who would that be and why?

My ideal client thinks of the project as a cooperation between two equal parties based on mutual respect. When this is the case, there is no problem with feedback, deadlines, deliverable assets, etc. because he/she treats me as he/she would like to be treated.

How has technology affected the way you work?

I can work a lot more efficiently, which means I can finish a given project faster, have more time to play and experiment with new methods, and eventually get more confident in taking on projects that are out of my comfort zone. Hardware and software technology have evolved so much in the last ten years, it's just mind-boggling to think back at a project that took several weeks to develop, and now it would take literally an hour. It's insane.

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What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I try to take every project as a new challenge, either from design or a technical perspective. I love solving puzzles and design in general is about problem solving, so that's a perfect match. 

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

Most of my clients come back to me after our first project, and I feel this is a bigger achievement than any award. In fact, I have running business relationships that started 6-7 years ago, and we are still working on new videos. Some of my clients, I have become good friends with as well. Since I'm working remotely, it's often easy to forget that there's a real person on the other side of the line but these instances bring the human element back, and it's much more rewarding to work this way. 

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How do you recharge away from the office?

I literally move away from the computer, and then even the most mundane, everyday task could be a way of recharging for me. And of course I also try to spend as much time with my family as possible. As a beginner freelancer, I made the mistake of working 24/7, and then often felt burnt out, so now I have a strict schedule for 'office hours', and after that, it's family time.

What is one tip for other aspiring creatives looking for work?

An essential ability to learn is objective criticism. Once you can critique your own work from an outside perspective, you won't be embarrassed when your client does it. Be conscious about your design choices and be able to formulate them so that your client will understand them as well. Ask yourself the questions your client would ask you, so you can make your design better. Design is all about communication after all.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

I think too few creatives realize that being a freelancer in this industry has a business side as well. Surely, it would be nice if clients realized that you have office hours, bills to pay, or need more time for revisions, but how would you expect them to know these if even you haven't figured this out? I don't believe in bad clients, I believe in bad communication, so that's what I would try to change in the industry.

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Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

The most important book I remember reading was 'Design First for 3D Artists' by Geoffrey Kater, which tackled all the classic design principles, and how they could be integrated in your 3D workflow. It truly was an eye-opener. Nowadays though the internet is full of training and tutorials, so just to name a few:

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