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Creative Strategy in Animation: Part 1 – What is Strategy?

Story - Design - Animation - Sound Design - Final Exports

That’s the typical process for most animation companies. There’s many companies that swear by this approach to animation because it leads to beautiful results. After they’re done, they send off to the client for them to share it with the world.

That’s where things get a little cloudy. What exactly is a company supposed to do with an animation? Do they just put it on their homepage, promote it on Facebook and post it to youtube and expect the sales to start pouring in?

Imagine a world where it’s possible for a company to spend thousands of dollars on a brilliant piece of animation and see $0 return on that investment. Believe it or not, this happens in real life every day with not just animation, but all kinds of creative work.

The saddest part about this is that the company that created the animation usually has no idea of how bad it has failed. They’re proud of the job they did, but what happened is no reason for celebration. they accepted money from someone, but didn’t provide the expected results. It can be argued that that is a type theft. The basics of selling anything is that the perceived value of a product holds more value than a person's money. Nobody would perceive $0 to have more value than thousands of dollars.

When I first started my career, I assumed that everyone was profiting massively off the work I was doing. After awhile I started seeing that it wasn’t always the case. There were plenty of times where good, honest clients wouldn’t see the types of returns they were paying for. At first I blamed it on how they were using the things I was making, but over time that feeling of blame turned into guilt, sort of like I was stealing from someone.

So, I started my company on the idea that EVERYTHING is our responsibility. When someone came to me for a project, I wanted to make sure I did everything I could with the abilities I have to make that happen.

Shortly after that, I found there was something missing in the process that would help clients see the best results possible with the work we were doing. That one step is right at the beginning and it’s called — strategy.

In this 3 part series, I’m going to talk about using strategy in animation. Starting with this episode on what strategy is exactly, I’ll then go into how to assemble a strategy and then lastly, how to use strategy to help people grow their investment.

So, let’s dive into, Part 1: “What is strategy?”.

In the simplest of explanations, strategy is a plan designed to reach a specific result.

The best people in every activity use strategy to grow their ability to become more effective. Think about it: In Chess, reacting to every move isn’t enough if you want to win, you need to have a strategy to base those moves on, sort of like a long term goal to win. The same is true in all sports, business and — animation. The key here is that strategy is a sort of treasure map. You might have a piece of paper with an X on it, but if you don’t have any context of WHERE exactly it is, you’ll never find it.

Think about what you’d need to know on a treasure map. You need the X, but you also need to know terrain, landmarks, things to avoid and most importantly, the path.

If an X, is the goal of a project, the terrain might be the audience, the landmarks might be existing metrics, things to avoid might be brand guidelines and the path is a collection of the decisions you plan on making to get to the goal.

Putting this map together is definitely no easy task, it can be time consuming and frustrating at times, but only once you have it can you be sure that you’re taking your client in the right direction to meet their goal.

Let’s get back in the real world here for a second and talk about what this really looks like for an animation project. If a client's goal is to double profits next quarter, every decision you make along the path should match that goal. That includes story, design, animation, sound design and the delivery.

However, there’s a lot more information you’ll need to be able to put together an effective strategy. We’ll talk about those next week, in Part 2: How to create a strategy

Watch Part 2 -Watch Part 3

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