Meet our creatively curious Extra Nice mascot, created and brought to life by Animade
You may have spotted a cheerful, cheeky and creatively inquisitive new character gracing It’s Nice That over the past week. Here’s how we developed this embodiment of Extra Nice in collaboration with Animade.
Over the past seven days, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning about a new venture of ours: Extra Nice. A new way to support creativity in yourself, the wider community and in us as well, Extra Nice represents a new arm of It’s Nice That. And representing Extra Nice is a characterful identity conceived, designed and animated by London-based agency Animade.
Centred around one singular character, who jumps to life in new and unexpected ways across Extra Nice, Animade’s identity is one that we feel represents It’s Nice That wholeheartedly. Eager, inquisitive, a tad silly and helpfully informative, the Extra Nice mascot is like our very own version of Microsoft’s old office assistant Clippy. Over the past year our creative team has been working alongside Animade to create this mascot, who we already hold dear and hope as Supporters you will too.
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Animade: Extra Nice identity, initial concept development
With Animade’s senior account manager Katie Nash keeping things running smoothly and providing expertise on how the agency’s designs would be delivered across Extra Nice, the conception and character design was led by Ryan Bird, with animation skill supplied by Dev Joshi, George Judd and Frida Ek. Keeping an eagle eye on all creative happenings was Ed Barrett, Animade’s executive creative director, who helped refine Extra Nice’s personality across both design and motion. Last of all, and importantly keeping us at It’s Nice That in the loop, was Flo Layer who produced the project internally at Animade, helping to nail the technical requirements needed for the identity to live across our website, social media and everywhere else.
For our team, wanting to work with Animade on visualising Extra Nice stemmed from the agency’s ability to utilise animation in magical ways – a recent example being its work for Mailchimp, or its own refreshed identity. But the task at hand presented a new challenge for the agency as “a shift in how we think to design something for an identity,” Ryan Bird explains. “Designing a character that is more than something that is watched once through in a video format was exhilarating and a great creative stretch!”
To start, Animade’s main task was to take the three pillars of Extra Nice – Extra Search, Extra Perks and the Extra Nice Fund – as well as the feel of the offer, and distill it into a character which not only represented this, but It’s Nice That’s personality and history too. “For us, it was about taking that information and combining it with our expertise in charming motion and creative storytelling,” says Ed Barrett. In turn, Ed set his team the goal of creating “a universally appealing suite of characters (which was sort of one character) that would tell the story and shout the message of Extra Nice.”
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Animade: Extra Nice identity, character development
The result is a joyfully sweet character who dances between different movements, depending on what section of Extra Nice (Extra Search, Extra Perks or our Extra Fund) is being discussed at any given moment. To kickstart the design, the Animade team spent time discussing It’s Nice That and our readers as a community, “and what it might mean to be an Extra Nice Supporter,” says Ryan. “It’s all about backing creativity, being a part of a networked community, and contributing to help your own creativity and that of others. Pretty inspiring stuff!”
With this in mind, the creatives at Animade focused on creating a character that captured the “interconnectedness” of the Extra Nice offer. Taking on literal “architectural dimension in the design process”, its team translated the pillars of Extra Nice into bricks and arches during early development, portraying “structures that are both beautiful and incredibly useful,” says Ryan. At first this took the shape of an elephant with many legs, then several building-block characters illustrated as joined at the hip, through to a singular character with gigantic hands ready to rummage through creative content.
The final design is an amalgamation of all these initial ideas. A small, sweet character with a block for its torso, those statement hands and a bobbing head, who shape-shifts into looking under a rock when presenting Extra Search, a wrapped-up gift for Extra Perks, and merges into two characters giving the other a leg up to represent the Extra Nice Fund. “The characters have been through a lot to get where they are!” continues Ryan. Reducing their initial ideas down to “simple blocky shapes, big hands and solid feet,” these visual decisions are signifiers of the character’s “utility and generosity”. The result is a mascot that “stands firm and solid as a kind, supportive character – you can depend on them.”
However, Ryan also adds that our mascot’s ever-changing sensibility presents a character with a “wildcard spirit,” as he puts it. “They are inquisitive and welcoming, they love to express themselves, and they are utterly playful.” It was also key for Animade to add an actual face to the character, a nod to It’s Nice That’s branding featuring a smiling face. “There was something really lovely about re-engaging and almost doubling down on that playful legacy,” adds Ed.
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Animade: Extra Nice identity, final animated characters
With our mascot’s illustrative temperament decided, the team then began bringing it to life via animation. A 2D character only ever really rendered in black, and on a white or brightly coloured background, the team’s ability to boost character in movement is shown throughout Extra Nice. What should be a simple switch in frame when discussing a pillar or a way to support, is elevated in a “lively and joyful” animation technique. As Ryan adds: “Supporting creativity is a totally joyful and generative act, after all!”
To get to this point, the team at Animade at first began experimenting with animating in a “super blobby and bouncy” style, before settling on just the more bouncy approach designed mostly in Photoshop after drawing the frames by hand. “The lines are super smooth,” says Ryan, “but with that all important human touch.”
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Animade: Extra Nice identity, final animated characters
Overseeing the project, Ed also adds that this approach evokes “whimsical visual moments” in aid of demonstrating “something surprising and joyful within the Extra Nice brand and in doing so, making it really memorable”. Most of all, both It’s Nice That and Animade hope that the cheerful smile and excitable movement of our mascot “reflects the enjoyment we had in creating it and pouring all the attention, love and detail into the little character that lives in Extra Nice.”
You can view Animade’s Extra Nice visualisation in more detail (and learn more about how Extra Nice can foster creative in you, in the wider creative community, and in us too) over on our hub page here. If you also decide to join Extra Nice as one of our Founding Supporters, we hope this eagerly helpful character of ours will sit with you on your next creative discovery.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.