Named an ADC Young Gun in 2012, followed up by Print Magazine’s New Visual Artist ‘15 Under 30’ in 2015, this award-winning Irish-born Designer / Director is making serious waves in all fields of visual arts. Shane has created work for some of globes leading brands including Nike, Ford, Google, Pharell Williams and His Most Holiness himself… Kanye “Yeezus” West! The latter whilst working out of a basement studio in Dublin.
You were named an ADC Young Gun in 2012, did this have an impact on your career?
HUGE. It was a huge deal for me. Sunday Afternoon was born from networking through ADC. My business partner was YG 11. I feel some young creatives are so established they don’t need it. But for me it was different, I was coming from Dublin, so to have a footprint in the NY design industry scene before I even got here was an amazing asset. I met so many wonderful, talented, hilarious people through ADC, my other business partner got married at the ADC gallery recently! A lot of pivotal moments have come from that place. I’m very grateful to have won, I don’t know if I’d win now, haha! I think there’s nothing wrong with young people aiming to be at the top of their game, win or lose.
You are part of a confident and ambitious generation of Irish creatives that are working hard around the world for established agencies and high profile design teams. Is it a simple case of more opportunities abroad or a personal drive to test your self in new surroundings and learn new things?
A combination of opportunities and drive. But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, it’s all about learning and growing as an artist. I learn a new trick every day, I probably forget it the following day, but I’m still learning! That’s what keeps things interesting.
I’m always driven by seeing where my work can go, which new territory it can expand into, and what new mediums I can experiment with. I feel the opportunities are out there for the taking. Now more than ever, opportunities are abundant, the industry is shifting rapidly, the internet is making everyone closer. Instagram has been a huge tool for visual artists, and commissions can come directly from just posting up a little personal work. Location can help. NYC does open up a wide range of possibilities for me, I’ve been lucky to work on some high-profile work, and collaborate with some amazing artists of different disciplines. While there are more opportunities here, I worked with Kanye & Nike from a basement in Dublin, so, apples and oranges.
You have just recently turned 30, so I’m guessing you are going through an intense period of introspection. (haha!) But thinking back about growing up did anything particularly resonate and have a lasting effect on you choosing a creative profession?
As a kid I watched a lot of Sci-Fi cartoons, I was obsessed with Transformers, Mask, and He-Man on TV. I think their storytelling had a long lasting effect on my creative thinking. When I was a bit older I used to watch Star Trek after school every day, I used to draw the ships and try out my own designs on them. That’s so funny thinking back. I probably still do that, haha. In terms of a profession, I remember being fascinated that someone had actually got their drawings on the TV though, I couldn’t believe that was a thing you could do. Someone animated a Transformer, and then they actually put it on TV.
Obviously, I had the imagination of a pea at this age. I think it was Terminator 2 that incepted my mind the most. I remember the first time I watched that film. That changed everything. In school animation, design, or film were never taught, so the idea that this could be a potential career was so alien to me. I dropped business for my leaving cert to pick up art. It took me that long to realize! I got an A.
What level of acedemic education did you reach and how did it set you up to work globally in terms of skill levels?
I never went to college, so my education never really played a part. I’ve taught myself everything on-the-job. I never found this as an issue in Europe, it’s quite a social status in the states though.
What does a day in the life for you look like?
My studio is right in the middle of SoHo in NYC. I live in the east village in Manhattan, so I walk to work, about 25 minutes. We’ve only been in the space a few months now, so we’re still decorating.
We’ve made some banners for wall, which are quite cool! In SoHo you’re surrounded with creatives, a lot of fashion and retail, but also tucked away above all that is the studios and other artist company’s. We’re right beside The Mill, MPC, PSYOP, Art Jail, Levine Leavitt, and Grand Army. I probably meet someone from one of the studios every week for lunch, the art and design community in NYC is very social and interactive! Work-wise: My day is probably 70% creating art, 25% managing the other parts of the business, and 5% looking at other inspiring work.
Can you describe the common practices and some of the main differences between working at Piranha Bar, ManVs.Machine and Method? Actually can you tell us your professional route to your current position?
For me, the smaller Studio life is more enjoyable. Man Vs Machine & Piranha bar were great to take on more responsibility and get involved on every level of the job.
The bigger Studio juggernaut like Method is a huge adjustment, everything moves just a little slower, although people have more defined roles, skillsets etc, so you’re getting access to an incredible wealth of talent. I started off about 11 years ago at a post company called The Element in Dublin. There were two guys in the graphics department working on motion graphics commercials. I remember seeing one of them doing a McDonalds spot with raining particles in Maya, my mind was blown. I moved on to Pirahna bar, and began to take on full jobs by myself. They always had great designers (Stephen Kelleher, James Price etc) who were a big influence on me. I ended up in Screenscene learning things from a more VFX stand point, which was hugely beneficial later down the line when design and 3D began to merge. I spend a few years in London at MvsM, before freelancing & directing. With my eyes set on the states, I moved over on an O1-B Visa, then applied for my Greencard, which allowed me to open Sunday Afternoon.
How has your working process changed since you first began? Does the process for each project really depend on the team you are collaborating with?
Big time, the process has really changed immensely! I mean I used to start designing right away! No reference, no concept, no nothing, haha terrible! Now, I’m much more structured. Time management has been the best thing I’ve learned in the past decade. I’ve worked with so many designers over the years that come in at 11.30 / 12 and leave in the middle of the night. In a collaborative job, this gets very frustrating. With my own projects, I tend to have a clear image in my head as to what the end product will look like, so I’ll mock up the idea very quickly, then go back the beginning, and start all over again with that mock-up in mind.
How much preparation goes into planning a project such as National Lottery Million Euro Challenge before a camera is rolling?
Lotto was a very tricky job with a lot of moving parts. When DDFH&B came to me with the idea, it was pretty impossible, then I added some more elements and layers to make it extra impossible. The only way to get a client like lottery to sign off on a job like this, is to show it to them before it’s done. Don’t get me wrong, they were a brilliant client who really understood the process! But a job like that is a big risk, and we had to make sure everything was perfect.
So a lot of pre-visualization went into the pre-production process. 3D mockups, photoshop comps, camera moves, illustrations, even 3D prints. Design wise, I started with a 3D model of the pyramid, and offset in space to create a forced perspective illusion. I began to build the layers or stages of the pyramid from there. Even layer represented another destination you might go to, or another luxury item you might buy if you win the million euro prize.
When each element was roughed out, I created a camera move with a motion-control dummy rig in Maya, that mimicked the movement of the real camera and flow of the commercial. More than just a creative tool to visualize, the motion control rig allowed us to figure out how big the space needed to be, and the physical limitations of the camera, as it’s about 20 ft long.
We worked with a studio in Toronto who had some experience building these Rube Goldberg machines. We provided designs, schematics, and blueprints for them to physically produce, and had weekly check-ins with them on the progress, as well as two studios visits. They used countless amounts of mediums to produce the set, miniatures, 3D prints, hand carved wooden elements, magician paper, edison bulbs, proximity sensors, the list is endless!
When on set, we key-framed the motion control camera to match our pre-vis camera.
I think we shot 96 takes.
You have worked on some high profile projects with Pharrell and Kanye West. How does that work? Do you meet and work with the artists themselves? Do you jump at the chance or think of all the eyes that will see it and freak out?
I rarely work directly with them, on some projects I have, but usually there’s 15 middle-men, so I don’t really freak out any more. Not trying to act cool or anything here! Although, I had a fan-boy moment a while back with Mark Zuckerberg, that was embarrassing, I was totally star struck! Pharrell signed a book for me, but I never got any Red Octobers… thanks for nothing ‘Ye!
What other work of yours, commercial or otherwise, represents a real breakthrough?
The Sneakerball sculpture for Nike was a breakthrough moment for me. Nike trusted the vision and understood that my work could be taken into the physical realm. That was a great learning experience in terms of process, and an interesting exercise in space and scale. People interacting with the work was something new to me, taking selfies, snapchats etc. That was great, I learned a lot about how the physical medium translates so much more immediately than the screen. I see a lot of artist looking to move into that area now, curious to see where it will go.
How important are non-industry/work related influences on how you think and produce work?
I feel like a lot of my influences now come from outside design and motion. 10 years ago, I would of said the complete opposite. Compositionally, and structurally, I draw a lot of queues from architecture. With colors and moods, I’ll draw a lot from fashion photography. I heavily lean on concept now days, much more than I used to, which occasionally makes the work simpler. The internet makes art and design so consumable nowadays, it’s a mile a minute, stimulation overload, there is so much sub-conscious influence, I don’t know where to start.