Sit back, relax, be amazed and slightly grossed out by these TikTok idents

Over the course of three months, we’ve seen 12 creatives take on the challenge of interpreting one emotion into a short video, embodying Creativity with Humanity and the self-expression that is synonymous with TikTok.


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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.

You know what they say, all good things must come to an end and that’s also true of our collaboration with TikTok, Creative Canvas. Today, we’re chatting to our final two contributors – Natalie Liu and Greg Barth – who promise to see this project off with a bang; prepare to be entranced and also (more than) slightly uncomfortable.

First though, we’d love to reflect on what has been a compelling project, introducing us to an entirely new creative world and a whole load of creativity to TikTok. Over the course of three months, we’ve seen 12 creatives take on the challenge of interpreting one emotion into a short video, embodying Creativity with Humanity and the self-expression that is synonymous with the social media platform.

The response within the app has been incredible, and somewhat amusing; the comments section of every drop featuring 100s of POVs, usually those awake at 1am who have come to expect Sound Like These’s catchy audio accompanied by something a little different than what they’re used to in the TopView slot. There was Lucas Zanotto’s bounding logo, for example, Kenny Brandenberger’s mesmerising use of deep perspective, Margarida Ferreira’s energetic 2D animation and Parker Heyl’s straight-up mechanical masterpiece.

On 5 August, we released Parker’s response to the brief, a giant marble run, made out of interlocking TikTok logos which Parker created using wood, before turning the whole thing into a motorised sculpture. Naturally, it caught people’s attention and went on to receive over 58 million views (and counting), so we’re excited to see how the final contributions to the project go down.

Natalie Liu is a Chinese-Swedish artist and designer, based in London, who was tasked with interpreting “confusion” which, she explains, “is defined on Wikipedia by uncertainty about what is happening, intended or required, so I approached it by thinking of different situations that could cause a person to have that feeling”. Initially, her thoughts went to negative situations but the nature of the project required a “brighter touch”. So she took a different stance, thinking about a confusing scenario which could also be humorous: the classically comical and frustrating experience of helping your parents or grandparents with technology. “Based on that, I imagined a narrative where a person from another era is feeling confused because they are encountering a table of modern technology and at the same time confusingly designed objects.”

This idea is what inspired Natalie’s mix of futuristic, slick aesthetics and a 17th Century still life composition “because the art that was created in the 17th Century was obviously highly focused around objects that could portray history, lifestyles, culture and material pleasures”. On the inspirations for the objects she chose to actually have within her TikTok, Natalie explains how she looked to @uglydesign on Instagram, Japanese Chindōgu and Shenzhen tech markets. “Drawing inspiration from these sources, I came up with ideas for how to design the objects confusingly, such as a keyboard with different languages on the tangents and a phone with the same screen and numbers on each side,” she tells us. “I also mixed in ideas with confusingly designed objects that you could find in the still life era, which was a copper knife you can’t cut with or a jug with the handle in the wrong place.”

Upon initially reading the brief, Natalie “giggled excitedly like a little child,” as she really values the interpretation of emotions in her work. And a particular highlight from the project for her has been creating the behind the scenes content because “it makes you think more about how you are building things, because you’re going to post it,” adding that “I feel like there is a lot that I can learn from going through my own processes, which is really great because your goal is to teach others, but you end up learning things yourself in the process”. In turn, Natalie’s TikTok page is like a how-to guide for any budding 3D designers wanting to learn a few tips.

Rounding off Creative Canvas in what feels like a perfectly weird way is Greg Barth’s ident for the word “craving”. Being given this brief in lockdown “let loose so many ideas, frustrations and strange fantasies to play around with, the ident just wrote itself, honestly.” Opening on a man sat at his desk, we are onlookers as he watches a jacket potato (who’s also a man) dance seductively while turning in a microwave. It’s bizarre, it’s a little gross, and we can’t stop watching it.

Greg explains how this unique concept was inspired by food porn, or the lack thereof because of lockdown, which led him to explore the “depressing and solitary world of microwaveable foods”. He then “imagined what it’s like to stare at the microwave while it’s baking the said depressing meal – a hypnotising and weirdly transfixing experience”. Greg admits he’s somewhat obsessed with this method of cooking, despite not owning a microwave, “so I imagined being taken away by a fantasy while staring at our computer screen, waiting for work to happen, and imagined what if our screen turned into a microwave screen, a delusional window where our cravings came to life in front of our eyes, and seduced/terrorised us. Again, this ident practically wrote itself lol”.

The combination of lockdown, self-isolation and being asked to visualise human desire made for a very unique project for Greg, ultimately heightening his creativity and want to explore the theme in obscure and surreal ways. So much so that Greg has turned his identity into a short film which further explores “the struggles of mental health, desire, vanity and the fragility of the whole gig economy in desperate times”. His ident acts a sort of trailer for that film. “Once given the theme and having thought about how to interpret it, it was hard to stop myself diving deeper in the strange feeling of craving during a pandemic.”

Looking ahead, both Natalie and Greg are keen to continue producing work for TikTok. For Natalie, it’s the potential of sharing more behind the scenes content which excites her the most. “It’s also fun that it’s heavily reliant on music, since it assures that the people will see your content combined with the music and as a person who values motion, I’ll definitely create more content for it in the future,” she adds. For Greg, it’s a similar answer but more centred around how the app affords him the ability to break free of his usual aesthetic constraints “that usually come with a price tag in the film world”. What creating this ident has proved to him, is that “with the right idea and the right collaborators, we can make something great with very little”. He finally adds: “I love TikTok, it’s such a refreshingly earnest and WTF alternative to other glossy and narcissistic platforms, I really want to explore the app further.”

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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.

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