Since we last checked in with illustrator and animator Saiman Chow two years ago, he’s been quite the busy bee. Racking up some big jobs for Nike, Apple and Adult Swim, the expert in humorous, psychedelic scenes is stretching his legs into ever-more surreal pastures. As well as stylistic growth, for Saiman the past two years have spelled some other adventures into “being old as heck”. He’s switched from Mac to PC and set up some constructive boundaries to keep him on track with work. “For better or worse, staying focused has always been something I’ve wrestled with,” Saiman tells It’s Nice That. “This development has helped me gain more freedom to work independently and creatively, which has always been my goal… everything else is just icing on the cake.”
For Nike’s Air Max Day at the end of March, Saiman developed a 90-second animation which intertwines iconic 90s Air Max trainers with important historical and cultural moments of the time “like a moving time capsule”. Featuring cake-chomping boxing gloves, potatoes with eyes and (we think) the Titanic, you’ll win mad respect from the It’s Nice That team if you can decipher the numerous historical references from the blur of characters and colours. “I wanted to think of it like a family photo scrapbook and assign each Air Max member it’s own personality so it can stand on its own but also come together nicely as a family,” Saiman says. “With the scrapbook idea in mind, the design and animation can be a lot more loose, like a moving collage.”
Working closely with the Nike team and sound designers Antfood, the production timeline was incredibly tight. This gave Saiman no choice but to recalibrate his process further, enforcing strict creative rules and boundaries in order to get it done on time. “The truth is limitation can be quite liberating when you have to hit the ground running and there’s no time to overthink anything. So, yeah, that’s some art school 101 stuff I have to remind myself of. Stop thinking about what you going to make, just make it.”
Saiman has an ongoing working relationship with Adult Swim and most recently created the idents for show Mostly 4 Millennials a lowbrow comedy satire that pokes fun of millennials, the internet and social media culture. Saiman’s take on the ID centred around the idea of a lost internet connection and error 404 page. “I used a speedy motorbike going rogue to symbolise this lost connection and the show’s ‘millennial falcon” gives chase and eventually capture the 404.” With that loose framework in place he then had fun with the narrative and found an interesting visual language that got him excited. “There are some subtle throwbacks to sailor moon and after dark screensaver references that I love in this piece. “
As well as creating 3D pano animations for studio Burn & Broad and an animated version of some of the drunk voicemails US beer brand Langunitas got left (called Mumble Phone), Saiman has been experimenting with creating animations just using illustrator. “I’m not sure what to call it, the process is a partly automated but it’s quite a tedious process to generate it. I wish I knew how to code, but the idea of leaving my hands out of the process and be surprised by the result is very exciting.” We can’t wait to see where Saiman goes next.