For yesterday’s talk On [Narrative] we were joined by Mikey Please, Maria Smith (of Studio Weave) and Kate Stanners, Saatchi & Saatchi’s executive creative director. Each of them works in remarkably different disciplines, so it was fascinating to hear them discuss how narrative informs their practices across animation, architecture and advertising.
Mikey Please opened with his beautiful BAFTA winning animation The Eagleman Stag. Listening to him explain how he crafted the story left us slightly in awe (he is seriously intelligent and articulate).
As Mikey expressed beautifully, our understanding of time, and the way we quantify it shifts and evolves as we get older. His story started as a graph (a parabolic curve) in order to visualise the idea that time seems to speed up as we age. He illustrated this rather cynical perception of human finitude with an animated image showing how “each new moment is being dwarfed by shadows of our past” – one argument explored in his film.
It took him five months to make the animation, but only after working on the story for two years, during which time it went through a staggering number of iterations. In one stage Mikey rewrote the script everyday for over a week, which he admits was excessive but the distilling process was important, leaving him with just enough to communicate the sentiment and to develop a palette of people and places. The story became a swan-song of the protagonist’s memories – similarly the process of writing it turned into a journey (of discovery).
“Story-telling is the meat behind this little shell of images,” he said.
Studio Weave describe themselves as an art and architecture practice and you would be forgiven for thinking that architects are not generally in the business of working with narrative. Maria explained how they have found storytelling to be a very useful and powerful tool for designing everything from small follies to large-scale buildings and public spaces.
Talking about inventing fairytales could sound a bit twee but Maria was anything but – mixing inspirational ideas with convincing conviction.
She suggested architecture schools often fail to recognise that architecture is about human interaction with people and places. In Studio Weave’s experience, designing around a story allows people to engage and relate to a project in a more emotional way.
Stories are also useful ways of communicating projects in a universal language, justifying design decisions and getting things approved, she said.
Part Two, on Kate Stanners’ talk and the question and answer section is here.
Images: Steve Stills for Red Bull Co. Ltd.