Interview with Dress Code
Dress Code are a New York based design company with a team of directors, producers, designers, illustrators, animators, writers and editors led by founders Dan and Andre. We had the opportunity to ask them a few questions to get an insight into the way they work.
How did Dress Code form?
Andre: Dan and I started Dress Code when we were in college at CCA in San Francisco. We happened to live in the same house and often collaborated on projects. When I needed a second opinion or an extra hand, I’d turn to Dan and he would do the same. One of the projects we collaborated on won a design award and we needed to come up with a company name to put on the award certificate. We thought the name Dress Code sounded cool and from there it just stuck.
Did you study motion graphics, or did you come into design through other ways? i.e graphic design, illustration
Dan: We studied traditional graphic design in college. I was interested in branding and apparel design, Andre focused on web design and video production. Our education wasn’t particular to any medium, though it was more theoretical or conceptual. We learned how design is a way of thinking that can be applied to any medium.
You have a portfolio that spans from documentary to 2D work, how does this work within your studio. Do you have specialists in each area?
Andre: Our studio has a design backbone in that 80% of the people who work for Dress Code have graphic design backgrounds. The roles are pretty fluid and typically everyone wears a lot of different hats depending on the day or project—from directing, to producing, to designing/illustrating, to construction, to animating, to writing, to editing. 2D animation has always been a large portion of what we do, but it wasn’t the only thing we were interested in personally. Documentary has always been a passion of ours. About five years ago, we got the opportunity to produce and direct short documentary profiles on recipients of the AIGA medal. That project opened up a lot of doors for us and we have evolved over the years to produce better and bigger documentaries. We still work with the AIGA on the medalist videos and have done over 50 to date. And as we learned the in’s and out’s of production, we started to get opportunities to produce and direct studio shoots. These are usually meticulously art directed and involve anything from working with actors, to stop motion animation, to heavy compositing of a number of different animation techniques with footage.
Explain your typical work process from brief to delivery.
Dan: Regardless of the medium, it usually starts with a script. Every project has distinct pre-production, production and post-production stages. Pre-production for animation includes styleframes, rough storyboard and motion tests. The production phase is usually the traditional animation aspect, while the post is mainly audio and finishing. In the case of a documentary, it’s a series of topics or questions that we want to the subject to answer. After a brief conversation with the client, we develop a creative treatment and a bid. For documentaries, the pre-production involves research, pre-interviews and location scouting. The production takes anywhere between one and five plus days of on-location filming. The crews we work with vary between five and thirty people. The post-production involves editing, color, sound and finishing. For studio shoots, we typically start with the script or brief of what needs to be communicated and then we develop a treatment outlining our vision for the project. These shoots typically have an interesting production or camera trick, and get pretty technical so there isn’t a typical production process. All three categories of work take anywhere between four and twelve weeks.
How do you begin to plan the seamless transitions we see so often in your work?
Andre: Seamless transitions are the key to making good animation into great animation. The planning of transitions are typically done by either our designers or animators. While our designers tend to be responsible for the storyboard and styleframes, they usually have some ideas for transitions and work hand in hand with our animation team to bring the work to life. The best ideas for transitions typically come from our animators though, because they think through a different lens.
What tips do you have for easing and creating smooth animation?
Dan: The obvious way to create smooth easing is to learn the graph editor. Some of our animators use DuIK or Newton for character or physics. However, the best way to create seamlessness is to really plan out the transition in the design or animatic phase. Understanding conceptually and visually how to connect scenes is the key. Anyone can learn the technical stuff, but understanding what makes sense conceptually or from a design sense is the tricky part.
How do you decide whether to use 3D or 2D Animation?
Andre: Most of the time, it’s the client’s brief that dictates whether they want a 2D or 3D approach, though sometimes we can push things one way or the other. What we like to do is mix the two animation approaches seamlessly. Very few of our projects are exclusively 2D, 3D or Cel.
How important is sound in your work? Is it considered before or after the animation process?
Dan: Sound is an incredibly important part of our work, and we’ve been lucky to have a great working relationship with a studio in Brooklyn called You Too Can Woo. We’ve been working together for the past eight years and they work on 90% of our projects. Sound in general encompasses original music, voice over and casting, sound effects and mixing. We try to loop in the sound studio as soon as the project kicks off. Sharing our visual references with them helps set up a context, and they love being part of the brainstorm early on.
Where do you pick up inspiration for your work?
Andre: Anywhere, really. We both look at a lot of design, art, photography and movies. It can come from anywhere. Our designers and animators are also very in-tune with the latest animation and design blogs.
Who do you admire in the animation world?
Andre: We love the work of CATK, RBG6 and Johnny Kelly.
Do you think there is a current trend in the animation?
Dan: The trend over the past few years seems to be a return to design-driven 2D or cel animation. We only did one true 3D job last year. But tides shift pretty fast, so who knows what will be hot in a year or so.
What has been your favourite job to work on and why?
Andre: Production wise, we recently finished a short documentary on Emory Douglas, the art director of The Black Panther Party and that was a pleasure to work on. On the animation front we are really proud of the spot we did for Terminix. And we did some studio shoots for Google around the holidays that we had a lot of fun with.
The Black Panther Party
What would be your dream brief?
Dan: We love producing our own content and that’s what excites us the most. We are currently working on a couple of short documentaries that incorporate live action and animation.
What do you guys do to relax after a busy period?
Andre: We have a company soccer team that a lot of us play on.
Dan: And I do some art stuff here and there: https://instagram.com/dancovert/
What are 3 essential things you need to have in your studio?
Dan: Snacks, snacks, and more snacks.
Thanks to Dress Code for the time they took to answer our questions. To find our more about them, visit their website.
Posted: Tue 21st Jul 2015
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