Samuel Day merges historical references with animation in his website design for The Quest of Evolution

Inspired by Victorian era animations and alchemic drawings, the award-winning polymath designer creates a site that journeys us through the wonders of fiction.

24 August 2023


Samuel Day has always had a passion for design and illustration. From a young age he could be found drawing, messing around with Photoshop, making music and films, and even hacking his own Myspace page. “I liked to try everything and have fun, which led to me accidentally teaching myself the tools I use today,” he tells us. Going on to study media at university, he got the chance to create short films and learn consumer and branding theory, before landing on website design. “At the time I did a few internships. The first was at a video production company, then a media planning and buying agency, a web design company and a PR agency. Funny enough the web design agency was my least favourite,” he tells us.

In one of his latest projects, some of Samuel’s beloved childhood pastimes merge to create the web design and identity for the new storytelling and collaboration platform, The Quest of Evolution. The platform seeks to provide a decentralised space for creatives to work on multimedia projects, with this particular phase focusing on novels – marrying NFTs with book creation and distribution. “My aim throughout the design was to ground it in this concept of the familiar and understandable with the new and exciting,” he tells us. References to Victorian phenakistoscopes – a toy widely considered as the one of the first forms of animation – antique book covers, etchings and alchemic-esque drawings meet to immerse the viewers, users and creators in this one of a kind world. “I wanted to make strong references to the past in the design, so I decided to fuse these different eras and styles. I thought: What if I was an animator that had to draw these animals and creatures without ever having seen a visual reference, like many artists of the past had to? That’s why you can see weird and ‘not quite right’ creatures in the design,” he adds.

The Quest of Evolution is Samuel’s biggest personal project to date, with his previous projects usually being “small one page sites that focus on getting one page perfect”. But this time, there are a plethora of pages, transitions, illustration and animation features. “I originally had the idea to animate everything like I did on my previous projects like Mama Joyce Peppa Sauce or Genesis, but in the end I don’t think I needed it, it would have drawn focus away from the site,” he adds. This rings particularly true in the opening animation where Samuel leans into the phenakistoscope style with short looping animations that welcome you to ‘discover the quest’. Although we didn’t initially grasp the full concept of the website at first, we immediately knew this isn’t a place you go to solely for information. You click a link on a page and you’ll get an animation that guides you through to a breakdown on this new NFT territory, you hover over another and a creative’s novel begins to reveal itself – but not too much, just enough to entice you to commit to clicking and immersing yourself in the characters and world.

Working full time for the New York agency Vaan, Samuel spends the bulk of his time working on “pretty crazy projects and celebrity launches with an amazing team”. Experiences like The Quest of Evolution only come around for the multi-hyphenate designer roughly twice a year, and he surely savours the joys of designing with deep historical reference and mesmerising elements. He is now moving onto a collaboration with the Berlin-based coconut water brand Fountain of Youth, lending his designs to a previously unfamiliar part of the industry. And much like the immersive navigation throughout the site that symbolises alchemy, we don’t doubt that the designer will continue growing and covering new ground in fun and spellbinding ways.

GallerySamuel Day: The Quest of Evolution (Copyright © Samuel Day, 2023)

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Samuel Day: The Quest of Evolution (Copyright © Samuel Day, 2023)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) was previously a staff writer at It’s Nice That. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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