Tomorrow Bureau builds a series of satisfying and futuristic digital robots for a gallery campaign launch

Titled The Robots Are Coming for Amsterdam-based gallery There Tech Lab, the design studio has created a series of films each exploring the possibilities of robotics.

30 March 2021


Building digital realities forms the crux of the work from Tomorrow Bureau. And this time around –with just over a year since we last heard from the digital design studio – the team has taken it one step further in producing a series of experiments for There Tech Lab in The Robots Are Coming, a new educational gallery in Amsterdam that focuses on robotics, AI, 3D printing, AR and VR. A commission by Staat, a creative agency specialising in branding, culture and design (who also worked on the graphic identity), Tomorrow Bureau was tasked to build a launch campaign themed on the topic of robot experiments. And, unsurprisingly, the outcome is more than futuristic.

Back in 2019, it’s founders James Earls and Jack Featherstone talked us through their impeccably technical two-part film titled Xtreme Scenario, an ode to outdoor camping and hiking kit. After this, the studio continued to build on its portfolio replete with client work, and most notable is the artworks for Nike House of Innovation Paris, Salomon Advanced, Chanel and various others that are yet to be released. “Both James and I have backgrounds routed in graphic design,” says Jack, with James working at many of London’ top design agencies before joining forces. “I spent years working within London’s electronic music scene, designing record covers, live visuals and music visuals.”

A past that signifies a pure passion for design and tech, it’s no surprise to hear that their working ethos gradually evolved into one that builds on the technical and conceptual. So when briefed to design the launch campaign for the gallery, let’s just say that the team were more that excited about the prospect. Not only this, but the gallery is a place in which kids and parents alike can meet robots, as well as learn more about AI and the wonders of technology. This meant that the THERE Tech Lab brief was centred around utmost joy, to “create a series of fun and engaging robot experiments,” adds Jack. “We responded with an in-depth research document outlining a visual territory for the industrial design of the robots. This helped us all to align on the overall design direction by focusing on elements such as their key features and technical capabilities, their emotional tone and their CMF (colour, material and finish).” Working closely with Staat, Tomorrow Bureau thus conceived an idea based on four specific concepts: Drones, Robot Ballet, Rolling Eye and Pincers.

Tomorrow Bureau: There Tech Lab, The Robots are Coming. Eye. Developed by Staat (Copyright © Tomorrow Bureau, 2021)

After aligning on the direction for each of the robot experiments, that’s where the real graft began. Jack explains how the process was split into two stages, the first beginning with the design and look development of the robots. To achieve this realistic quality and high level of detail, the studio worked with a team of industrial designers and 3D modellers to flesh out the robots and “give them form” – or better yet, sense of human-like behaviour and life. “We went through a few rounds of look development with the client before settling on our finished robot designs,” he notes, then proceeding to sign off and get to work on the animation stage. “We worked on many iterations for each film, crafting the movements of the robots within each edit to have as much emotional impact as possible within such a short amount of time.”

The result of which is a series of remarkably satisfying films, where each video guides you through the mechanisms and technicalities behind four of its friendly looking (and robotic) characters. For starters, a rolling eye zips and glides across the screen as it demonstrates its blink-like qualities. Another, sees a trio of sound bots as they carry their amps on wheels across the shiny surface, appearing to be setting up for an event filled with music. Then there’s the bubble robots (a personal favourite), where metallic arms pass on an angelic bubble ball until it bursts in its grasp. All of these films are short and sweet, and all that you need to get you hooked on the topic.

It’s no surprise to hear that working digitally can save its makers a lot of time and effort, but another positive aspect is that it enables you to work without physical restrictions. “The time, money and expertise needed to replicate this project physically would have made it impossible,” says Jack. “We enjoy making work that has a real-world quality in terms of both design and aesthetics, as it allows us to imagine realities that seem within reach but are actually a complete fantasy.” And this point inspires us to wonder: when will robots be more than just a digital replica, and thus enter into our daily lives? Perhaps not too long, if this campaign is anything to go by.

Tomorrow Bureau: There Tech Lab, The Robots are Coming. SoundBots. Developed by Staat (Copyright © Tomorrow Bureau, 2021)

GalleryTomorrow Bureau: There Tech Lab, The Robots are Coming. Developed by Staat (Copyright © Tomorrow Bureau, 2021)

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Tomorrow Bureau: There Tech Lab, The Robots are Coming. Bubble. Developed by Staat (Copyright © Tomorrow Bureau, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

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