Our final project for the semester was to create a 30-second commercial for Volkswagen. In light of all of the deception they have been caught in with false emission tests and harmful animal testing, Volkswagen's brand image is in need of repair. We were tasked with creating a commercial to address their brand image and how the company can both apologize and move forward.

I personally was pretty upset by the scandal, and though many people don't care and have moved on - I find that to be the issue that aggravates me the most. Pardon my rant, but the fact that we don't care and don't hold companies accountable means that they are being told it is acceptable to behave like this. So coming from that perspective, I wanted to not ignore the problem, or the wrongdoing. From a business goal perspective, I see how dwelling on what they did wrong can be very harmful for the company. So to keep business goals in mind, while not shunning the fact that amends are needed - I wanted to take a "this is what we're doing to make it better" approach.

I've always been interested in digital illustration and throughout the past decade have done it here and there, but never on a larger scale or cohesive project. I think illustration is a way to feel approachable and lighthearted, while being inclusive of all. It allows for stretching of the imagination - enhancing of colors, romanticizing scenes, without feeling phony. VW's biggest offense arguably (aside from the lies) was the irreparable damage they did to the environment and wildlife. In a time when environmental fears are enhanced, and people have fiercely taken sides, I feel that this was an important offense to address.

I combined my illustrations with this message of protecting nature and expressing gratitude for all it has provided for us. I knew I wouldn't have any trouble finding inspiration for my illustrations as there is no shortage of beautiful scenery in the world around us, and that it could express diversity without blatantly calling it out.

My copy was designed to be a bit of an ode to nature, resulting in a message of Volkswagen's intent to do better and pledging $1,000 per recalled car to preserving the rainforest. As a nod to being the 'people's car,' I then wanted to pull it back to the relationship between VW and their customer (you) and pull the heartstrings a little with a little invitation for you to join into the spirit of treating our world better. I ended with a url to a landing page I envisioned having tips and ways for people to get involved, as well as more information about the Rainforest alliance - possibly a meter of how much they have donated so far.

Overall - I felt my main challenges were time management, tech and consistency in tone and imagery. I am not very strong in illustration currently, and it was really challenging not only sketching the scenes but also having the imagine them from a film perspective - thinking of angles and a strong composition.

My process began with rough sketches of how the frames should flow and then getting the copy in a good place. I then roughly sketched out a grand theme for each slide - like jungle scene, one involving water, etc. to make sure I was getting a diverse range of scenery to keep it interesting. When I moved into actual slide by slide sketches, I spent a lot of time digging through Pinterest and Instagram for illustrators I really admired (some of the favorites I stumbled upon: Thomas Danthony, Claudia Carieri, Camilla Perkins, Petra Eriksson, Anne Laval) By the time I actually was illustrating, I had made a Digital Illustration Pinterest board with over 250 pins. This really helped me figure out small nuances and little elements I thought I could incorporate into my designs.

A glimpse of my messy Illustrator file. I always make a "worksheet" file for each project where I can try out different things - like a digital sketchpad of sorts. When I'm happy with it, I move it over to the final file. This way I never really lose my inspiration or other options if I want to go back and iterate later.

I took these sketches into illustrator and using combo of pen tool/wacom tablet, made digital copies. I then turned back to Pinterest for color inspirations. I chose a mood I wanted per screen, trying to keep a lighthearted, slightly unrealistic/artistic portrayal of the world around us and found colors for each screen I thought carried that mood. All of this was the easy part realistically - next came the animating. I started by digging on Behance to find animators who had shared tips and tutorials. I watched a lot of youtube videos (half the struggle is finding out what the right question to ask even is when you don't have the vocabulary).

And then I just jumped into After Effects assuming I could just start animating and would figure it out. Wrong. Turns out your illustrator files have to be set up very specifically. Importing them into After Effects has to be done strategically - otherwise you can't edit the layers individually. After a lot of trial and error - animating them really came down to some super helpful youtube videos. It is really amazing how many resources are available - even simple videos that ended up helping me decrease files sizes from 80 mb to 800 kb! All in all it was a really time consuming process (and is now why I'm realizing most illustrators hire other people to animate their drawings) but I think I'm walking away from it feeling more confident in my ability to animate and use After Effects as a tool in general. Things I'd like to revisit if I get the chance: making some of the animations smoother and working the type into the designs more thoughtfully (based on feedback).

Here's the video (typo to be fixed on that last slide soon!):