Nice and Serious Interview

Nice and Serious are an ethically driven animation company, who take pride in animating 'serious stuff'. They tackle their work with care and produce some beautiful pieces of work. We had the chance to talk to co-founder, Ben about what they do.

How did Nice and Serious form?

I set up Nice and Serious back in 2008 with one of my best mates from University, Tom Tapper. We both studied Environmental Sciences originally, but soon realised that no-one was really paying attention to the serious issues facing our generation such as climate change. So we wanted to create stories that made people care. Nice and Serious was formed to do just that.

How many people work for Nice and Serious and what are your backgrounds?

We have a brilliant team of 22 talented people in house. The team is split amongst all-round creatives - many, like us, have scientific backgrounds - to expert crafts men and women. We work across digital, film, animation, design, print, photography and pretty much any creative medium we feel works for a project. While everyone in the team has their own area of expertise, we’re big believers in getting folks to work across departments and projects. It makes for a happier working environment which ultimately leads to better creative.

Do you ever work with freelancers , other companies or illustrators or is it all in-house?

95% of our work is done in-house. We really only team-up with freelancers and other companies when we feel it would benefit a particular project or client. For us, it’s really important to build a great culture and incredible expertise in the field of ethical communications. And this can only happen when you have a solid in-house team.

How do you find your work? Do you pitch or do you have regular clients?

We’re in the very lucky position to be a creative agency with a clear purpose. We only work with clients who are seriously committed to making the world a nicer place. That may limit us somewhat but in our experience so far, it hasn’t. Far from it. People come to us not just because of the work we do, but why we do it.Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of working with some truly fantastic clients on a regular basis. And because of the focus of our work, we get a lot of recommendations. But like most agencies, we still have to pitch to win new accounts.

Your work is normally ethically-driven. What is the reason behind this and how does it affect how you work?

We like to work with the good guys. In other words, people who seriously committed to making the world a nicer place. We don’t want to tell stories that sell more junk. We want to produce remarkable content that makes people care about the serious stuff. The stuff that really matters. Because we only focus on ethical issues, we’re very conscious of falling into cliches - which some agencies can slip up on when they deal with these subjects. One of the best bits about it is that ethical issues tend to be full of rich, emotional stories - which are the backbone of good creative work. Although one of the challenges we sometimes face is that budgets are often quite limiting with our charity clients and the sustainability teams of corporates. But corporates are starting to see the value of telling stories about serious issues, so things are definitely starting to change.

You produce both animation and film. Do people ask for a particular avenue or do you decide what is best depending on the brief?

It depends. We normally like to be involved in the stage before our client develops a full creative brief. We really like to get underneath the skin of an issue and fully understand the problem we’re trying to solve before suggesting a particular creative avenue to take. Our clients like this approach, because they know that we’re recommending what medium works best for the project.

How important do you think social media is for you?

Social media is incredibly important for any organisation these days. Especially an organisation such as ours which has a purpose and an opinion on matters that affect people and the planet. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great platforms for us as a creative agency to share our thoughts and latest work but we also love to dabble in other social media channels to amplify the stories we produce for our clients.


Where do you pick up inspiration for your work?

As a team of creatives, we really appreciate other people’s work. And not just in animation it has to be said. We take inspiration from anything and everything. Our animation team often huddles together to share and talk about trends in design, animation and motion. We also use Slack as a way of sharing inspiration between the teams. But at the same time, inspiration comes from having a brilliant team who share the same passion and commitment to producing outstanding creative work that makes a positive difference.

Who do you admire in the animation world?

We love beautifully-crafted design and super smooth motion. Combine that with a compelling narrative and we get pretty damn excited. And keeping things within the realm of commercial animation, we’ve been consistently drawn to the work of Grant Orchard, Johnny Kelly, Ant Blades of Birdbox Studio, Animade and most recently, Jack Cunningham. All their work is seemingly simple, conceptually strong, full of character and humour and rarely fails to put a smile on our faces!

Do you think there is a current trend in the animation?

Animation is more commonplace than ever, and with that everyone is becoming increasingly aware of what good and bad animation is. Because of this people are putting more value on movement and the basics of animation being done properly. As a studio we are aware of how technology can dictates style so, we're trying to embrace new technologies like Oculus Rift and the plethora of After Effects scripts that keep coming out. That said, trends come and go and the basics like good concept, good design and timing will always be important.

What has been your favourite job to work on and why?

Each job has its quirks but if we had to pick one, we’d say it was a film we made for the incredible Barnardo’s about adoption. Our client was really open to different creative routes which enabled us to create an illustrative animation of a mother’s true story, told in her own words. 

Barnardo's - Family

What would be your dream brief?

If it’s out there, this is what we’d be looking for:

- the opportunity to create real, positive and long-term impact.

- no restrictions on the creative

- nice, friendly clients who are open-minded and have trust in us.

- enough time and budget to create something amazing.

Do you feel you are still learning whilst working?

We’re always learning. Every single day. And on every single project. There’s always ways to do things better. Embracing failure, talking things through with the team and our clients during and after the project and generally having time to think about stuff all help contribute to making things better.

What software do you find yourself using the most?

We use a whole host of software here in the studio but by far the most useful in animation terms is Adobe After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator. We also use Cinema 4D from time to time.

Fun Things

What do you guys do to relax after a busy period?

We love to get together for a beer after work. We’re lucky to have loads of great pubs nearby so that’s always a nice way to relax after a busy time in the studio. We also do yoga in the office on Wednesday mornings to help break up the week. We have monthly get-togethers where one person from the team will organise an outing such as a visit to a museum, an art gallery or the cinema.

Do you have any team bonding activities?

The time we spend outside the studio is as important as when we’re in the thick of it. We always try and have a relaxed and fun atmosphere here at Nice and Serious and that helps gel the team together. However, by far our biggest team bonding activity is our yearly annual retreat. We normally like to hire a big house in the middle of some beautiful British countryside and spend an entire weekend playing games, enjoying some lovely food and wine and having a good think about how we can make life at Nice and Serious even better.

What are 3 essential things you need to have in your studio?

1 - Strong, organic & fairtrade coffee.

2 - A booming sound system.

3 - Laughter.

What does your office look like?

And where do you see yourself in a few years?

It’s hard to say where we’ll be in a few years. We’ll continue to help communicate the big issues which impact society - which may well change as our world evolves. We’ll also continue to experiment with new mediums to tell stories as technologies evolve. We hope that our hard work will pay off and we’ll be able to set up a studio in New York. We’d love to become a truly international creative agency working on major campaigns which have a global impact.

Thanks to Ben for answering our questions and getting an insight into this great company. See more from Nice and Serious here.

By: Lisa
Posted: Thu 24th Sep 2015

Tags: Interviews, animation, charity, interview, Nice, Serious


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