For a new collaboration with TikTok, we asked 12 creatives to interpret 12 emotions

In a series called Creative Canvas, we’ll be releasing TikToks produced by a host of amazing creatives, embodying the humanity and creative potentials of the app.

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TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Its mission is to inspire and enrich people’s lives by offering a home for creative expression and an experience that is genuine, joyful, and positive.

We’re working with TikTok on a series called Creative Canvas which sees 12 creatives producing their own TikToks to live in the “TopView” slot of the app. With names like Sophie Koko Gate and Lucas Zanotto involved, each creative will be bringing a new discipline to the app, interpreting a different emotion in an attempt to reflect creativity with humanity and the self-expression that TikTok has become synonymous with.

There’s a high chance that many of you reading this, like me, are fully-fledged TikTok converts, but we’re going to take the liberty of assuming that there are also a lot of you who have heard of TikTok, but haven’t used it. Maybe you’ve seen some of its most viral posts shared on other platforms, and you’re aware that your younger sibling/cousin/friend spends 90 per cent of their screen time on the app, but perhaps you count yourself as one of the people who “just doesn’t understand it”.

Well, we are going to attempt to change all that.

Here’s a brief overview: the app was launched in 2018 and since then has been downloaded well over two billion times. Users of the app share up to 60-second video clips, all in portrait format to fit the screen of your phone and most use TikTok’s in-app editor to create their videos. Within this editor are a range of effects, filters and templates that are easily shareable and that are constantly being added to.

Another defining quality of TikTok is comedy. It’s funny, really funny. Humour and wit are valued above all else and it’s incredibly creative too. The rate at which trends spread and grow, with users riffing off one another, is incredible to witness. Return to the app after a few days away and it seems like everything is new. And while it’s forever evolving, there’s an authenticity to the content being created in which a human touch is always apparent. The comedic value alongside the DIY approach to creating ultimately means the onus really is on the people who use the app.

It got us thinking about creativity’s role within the app, where ideas rank above aesthetics.

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Also important to note is the use of sound and music on TikTok. Many a song has found success simply because it’s been attached to a trend, the example you’re probably most familiar with being Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. Right now, a scroll on the app will be soundtracked by Megan Thee Stallion’s Savage, Drake’s Tootsie Slide, Roses (Imanbek Remix) by Saint Jhn or Human by Christina Perri (among many, many others). The punchline of a joke or the reveal of a twist is always intertwined with the video’s audio – TikTok would be a confusing and incredibly abstract place without sound.

All of these unique aspects of the platform sprang immediately to mind when TikTok got in touch with the idea for us at It’s Nice That to commission a bunch of our favourite creatives to produce their very own TikToks. The series, which launches today, is called Creative Canvas and will see 12 creatives taking over the “TopView” slot on the app. It’s the first thing users see upon opening the app, filling 100 per cent of their screen, presenting an amazing opportunity to put original and imaginative creative work in front of the eyes of millions who may not have seen it otherwise.

We started by thinking about creativity’s role within the app, where ideas generally rank above aesthetics. The potential for experimentation is huge, providing something of a playground for anyone with a penchant for artistry and self-expression, let alone when in the hands of a creative professional. What could a set designer with years of experience in the fashion industry do on the app? How might a stop-motion animator approach creating work for it? It was these notions of play, individuality, breadth of discipline, and flair that eventually made it into the project concept.

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Lucas Zanotto: Final ident render

Over the coming weeks, we will be releasing collaborations with 12 creatives, each of whom has been tasked with expressing a different emotion associated with the creative process: excitement, romance, triumph, nostalgia, awkwardness, craving, amusement, interest, confusion, satisfaction, envy and entrancement. With audio produced by Sounds Like These, each creative has been given carte blanche when it comes to visualising their assigned emotion in their preferred medium, bringing exciting and new disciplines to the platform. You’ll be seeing work from 2D animators, typographers, and 3D renderers introducing an entirely new aesthetic to users’ feeds.

They’re also creatives with fascinating processes – people whose hand is always visible in their output, and who therefore align with TikTok’s DIY ethos. Each creative will, therefore, be providing an insight into the making of their TikTok and their process in a series of three additional videos, uploaded to their own account. This, when combined with the 12 emotions we have asked each creative to visualise, creates a project which is all about creativity with humanity.

We’re kicking off the series today with an artist we’ve long admired here at It’s Nice That: Lucas Zannotto. Originally from Italy, Lucas has previously lived and worked in Milan, Barcelona and Berlin, but he currently calls Helsinki home. He’s the founder of Yatatoy, which makes playful tools for kids, while also working as a designer, animator and director.

Lucas is best known for his anthropomorphised kinetic sculptures and seamless animations featuring two googly eyes. The former are beautifully simple, made with whatever Lucas has lying around, be it a ping-pong ball and a hoover or a load of paper plates. His digital works, on the other hand, are satisfyingly slick, perfectly looping clips that are as mesmerising as they are absorbing. Whether made on a computer or IRL, though, all his creations explore the transformative effect that eyes can have, injecting emotion into a piece of work unlike anything else. It’s for this reason that Lucas felt like the perfect man to take on this brief.

To begin the project with enthusiasm, we asked Lucas to interpret the word “excitement”. With the freedom to do this as he pleased, Lucas’ first thought “was to make an endless looping animation with the TikTok logo,” he says. The brief appealed to the Italian animator and director, who is particularly drawn to those projects in which “different artists are involved and asked to interpret something within similar parameters”.

True to form, what Lucas has created in response to this brief is congenial, smart and technically adept. Throughout the loop, we see a 3D, bountiful version of the TikTok quaver as it hooks itself around a peg, swings on it and releases itself back into the air, inflating with varying degrees of fervour every time it does so. There’s a constrained recklessness within the clip, as the logo appears to spiral out of control, before being pulled back down again by gravity. It feels joyous and energised, as if the logo itself is exhilarated, experiencing the adrenaline rush of each rotation. The absorbing interaction is then set against a background of green, red and beige.

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Behind the scenes: Wireframe render

Lucas Zanotto’s final TikTok

It was this feeling of exhilaration that Lucas was attempting to imbue within the animation, he tells us. “I wanted to capture this exciting feeling you get,” he says. “Like, for example, when you swing on something and you let go. A bit like swinging from a rope on a tree into a lake. Or jumping off a high swing. Or even dropping into a pipe on a snowboard or skateboard. It has this feeling of excitement and freedom at the same time. And that makes you burst with joy and energy.”

Creating such seamless work is never without its challenges. It requires incredible attention to detail in order to ensure the start and endpoint of the animation are exactly the same, creating an optical illusion of a never-ending clip. “It was a bit tricky to create a seamless loop of 30 seconds,” Lucas recalls, “but in the end we solved it by adding some elements to it, which made it come out even better.” On what he most enjoyed about the project, he explains that it was “the freedom” to create whatever he wanted.

Having previously never created work for TikTok, Lucas says the task “was totally new for me”. He was aware of the app through his eldest daughter, so he made an account “and I have a stunning following of eight!” he jokes. With this experience now under his belt, though, he adds: “I will start uploading some content to it, as I see great potential in it.”

“I wanted to capture this exciting feeling you get. Like, for example, when you swing on something and you let go.”

Lucas Zanotto

Lucas’ TikTok, as all the upcoming commissions will, bops along to audio created by London-based sound design studio Sounds Like These. With the understanding that sound is such an instrumental (pardon the pun) part of the app, it made sense that each creative should respond to the same track, interpreting it in a different way – in a process akin to how users of TikTok create videos themselves. “Obviously we love making sound and audio is such a prominent part of the TikTok experience, so it was great to really dive headfirst into the project,” Sounds Like These tells us. “We loved the idea of providing a musical starting point for other artists to respond to, rather than being an afterthought to the creative process, which is so often the case with sound.”

While Sounds Like These was excited to be providing a springboard for all other creatives to work from, creating audio for visuals that do not yet exist and that will embody so many different emotions was no mean feat. The brief was to make something catchy, energetic and smooth but which wasn’t overtly “pop”; it had to be neutral enough to appeal to a broad demographic. “We knew each visual artist would approach the brief in their own way, so our track needed to be distinctive yet recognisable enough to function as the common thread tying them all together as part of the same campaign,” Sounds Like These adds. The studio always aims to write music that its team would personally like to listen to, and so with all this in mind “it was a nice opportunity to take inspiration from music that inspires us and try to create something that visual artists in our community would respond to.”

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Behind the scenes: Wireframe render

“It’s a bit like being on a colourful faux city beach, happy hour is in full swing and you’re eating a pineapple that tastes like a banana and looks like a kiwi.”

Sounds Like These

The final track is playful and fun, featuring a “bold bassy hook” as a key element. With this established, the studio built up “fun percussion and vocals to keep it interesting”. It was cautious of not throwing too much at it, though, so kept everything fairly simple and clean; something which will work alongside the visuals, not against them. “We often find that once you have a solid idea, the fun (but often hard) part is trying not to ruin it,” the studio says. Finally, when asked how it would describe the soundtrack, Sounds Like These offers: “It’s a bit like being on a colourful faux city beach, happy hour is in full swing and you’re eating a pineapple that tastes like a banana and looks like a kiwi.”

Sounds Like These’s happy hour-inspired audio comes together with Lucas’ visuals in a harmonious blend of playfulness and excitement. And there’s much more to be gleaned from this audio clip by other creatives as the project unfolds. How will Greg Barth interpret “craving”, for example? Or how will Sophie Koko Gates’ work embody “satisfaction”? With a whole host of other amazing names involved, we are just as excited as you (hopefully) are for what’s to come next. So keep an eye out for each release over the coming weeks. And in the meantime, why not download TikTok and give the renegade a try?

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About the Author

Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

rbd@itsnicethat.com

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