"To some, stereotyped trends are the right answer to getting wide acceptance of a brand in the mass market. But I think they often underestimate the public's taste." Computer Arts editor Garrick Webster interviews Nando Costa.
Ask Nando Costa what he's been up to lately and you'd better expect the unexpected. One of his latest projects is a homage to the creative people involved in the Situationist International movement of the 1960s. It's an experiment for Costa and the crew at his new studio, Nervo, in Portland, Oregon, in between jobs for the likes of Timex, Fox Movies and Nike.
It's not what you'd expect, but it sounds just like Nando Costa, who is known for bringing both ideas and style to a project. With his Brazilian background, Situationist inspirations and international ambitions, we had to find out more...
CA: Over the last year, you've been establishing your motion house Nervo. Why did you set it up and what's your mission with this new venture?
NC: I had been freelancing as a creative director for almost two years and I decided to pursue my main career goal, which was to set up my own design studio. Even though this is not the first studio I've started, it is the first I've owned by myself. Being able to do things exactly how you envision always makes the whole process more of a pleasure.
CA: Does Nervo have a style of its own?
NC: Over the last couple of years having a style has become less important. Being effective, versatile and creative - and in addition delivering an extremely well-executed project - have become the main trends in the design business. Many very specific styles are achievable by one group if you have the right team.
Here at our studio we all play different creative roles and feed off each other's skills to achieve whatever look we think is right for the project.
CA: When you first started out, you were an illustrator. What were the key things you learned when you made the move into motion graphics?
NC: Learning animation was a natural step for me. It all started with experimentation at home after my day job, which was comprised of mostly web and print work. At the time I was already animating in Flash so I had already learned the basics of pacing, which in my opinion is probably one of the most important factors in animation. Eventually when Flash became an inadequate tool I began experimenting with After Effects. I'm still learning and haven't met anyone who isn't, even late in their careers.
CA: Motion graphics is where some of the most interesting creativity is going on at the moment. Which of your competitors is doing the best work , and why?
NC: I am constantly amazed by the work of the team at Encyclopedia Pictura. They recently directed a Björk music video which had amazing art direction. I particularly like the work of my friend Maxim Zhestkov. I am also still amazed by stop-motion film-makers. They truly deserve more credit and recognition.
CA: One criticism levelled at motion designers lately is that a lot of projects are aesthetically beautiful but lack meaning or relevance.
NC: It's unfair to generalise, but I have to agree when it comes to channel brand identities. A lot of it has helped make the aesthetics of motion graphics banal. It takes time and money to update a channel's look, so often the identity looks outdated by the time it comes out of production. This is why you still see graphic ink dripping and splashing on many channels.
To some these stereotyped trends are the right answer to getting wide acceptance of a brand in the mass market. But I think they often underestimate the public's taste, and the work ends up bland.
CA: Your portfolio features a lot of cool brands. Do you only work with cool brands, or are they the only ones that go into the portfolio?
NC: I used to get excited about projects for recognisable brands, but I grew out of it and saw the potential of small projects for unknown brands. These sometimes have a better chance of being great because the client often takes bigger risks. For example, we have recently finished a series of animations for a new brand called Let Us Kiss. Some of the concepts there would probably never have been accepted by a bigger brand.
I am really interested in working more with European clients. The American market is great, but I think it's interesting to work with brands in other geographic areas because the result is often very unexpected by the locals.
CA: Where do you see yourself and your company in a year?
NC: Personally, I'd love to be involved with more print and pure branding projects. I am also interested in working on a music video and have been talking to a few bands. Regarding my company, I hope to add a few more key people so we can do other types of projects that I have been hoping to get involved in. I am very happy with how the company has grown over this first year of ours so what's ahead is very exciting.
CA: Which other artists and designers have inspired or influenced you?
NC: Hieronymus Bosch definitely inspired me during my early years in art school. A little later I became obsessed with MC Escher, but then again who hasn't? I saw his exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro when I was young and it really made an impression. More recently I have fallen in love with the work of Inka Essenhigh and Julie Mehretu.
CA: Since 2000 you've lived and worked in Brazil, moved to the US, gone back to Brazil and then returned to the US. What do you think is the most creative place you've worked and why?
NC: My time in New York was definitely the most inspiring because I was really young and eager to learn. The years 1999-2000 were exciting for any designer, particularly if you worked with the web. I launched hungryfordesign.com and was introduced to many other artists I looked up to, such as Matt Anderson, Erik Natzke, James Patterson and Nervo's music director Darrin Wiener.
CA: You've become something of an ambassador for Brazilian design. Who do you think is doing the coolest stuff there?
NC: I am interested in the traditional arts that are coming out of Brazil. For a while I've been a fan of the work of concept artist Josè Paulo Ruas and of the paintings of Beatriz Milhazes.
CA: When are you most creative?
NC: I'm most efficient in the early morning and most creative at night. But it changes. I often get most of my ideas when going for walks or taking a shower. I think what these two things have in common is that they help me forget and disconnect myself from everything that has happened during the day. So my mind is free to think solely about creative ideas and solve problems.