Sunday, 23 June 2024
UK Charity Week 2024 - Sponsored by Sinclair Method UK
Sunday, 23 June 2024

An interview with Karl Doran, Creative Director of this year’s Children in Need commercial

Flow Creative is a Manchester-based design and video production agency that specialises in brand campaigns and animation. 

Clients include the BBC, Ministry of Sound and Arts Council England among others. This year Children in Need and BBC Creative worked with the award-winning studio to make an animated TV commercial for this year’s campaign.

Karl Doran, Flow’s Founder and Creative Director, tells us more about the campaign, creativity, and crafting stories.

How long have you been in film?

My career journey has not been a straight road. After studying fine art, graphic design and photography at college, I dropped out of a fine art degree to get a job in marketing. After a year in this role, I started my own marketing company at the age of 21 and ran this for 7 years. We had offices on Portland Street and about 35 staff at its peak. In the economic downturn of 2008, I decided to start again and re-trained in animation.

I chose animation and motion design as I found it had the most exciting creative possibilities. It sits at the intersection of lots of creative practices I was interested in – design, illustration, animation, music, film, and the best motion design works combines all of these things seamlessly and beautifully.

I studied for three years, graduating from Salford Uni in 2012, and started to do bits of freelance work at the same time. I worked as a freelance motion designer for a year, then in-house at an agency for two, then back to freelance for another year until I started Flow in 2016.

Why did you set up Flow?

As an in-house and freelance motion designer, I got to meet lots of super talented people, and work in a variety off different agencies and creative studios where I was able to learn a lot about the process of managing animation projects, and about the creative process for making awesome moving content.

But I also saw a lot of inflated costs and waste, especially with some of the bigger agencies. I started Flow to create a design-led motion studio, with a collaborative approach with clients, that was honest, transparent and straightforward to work with, but that could also compete with those bigger agencies in terms of creative output and quality of work. No one wants to see budget wasted, but this is especially important for charities who might be working with limited resources.

I’d ran my own business for a number of years too so it seemed like the next logical step for me to start my own studio.

I wanted to make the studio that I would have loved to work at – one that values creativity and originality, one that genuinely cares about our clients and providing them with awesome creative that makes a real difference to their organisation, and one that people love to work at – where everyone’s valued and every member of the team plays a crucial part in our collective successes.

What makes you different from other agencies?

I think it’s our approach to working together with clients, getting them involved with the creative journey, and making sure that everything we create together is authentic and original. When we work with a charity we really get to know them and bring them along with us.

We’re not interested in creating mediocre content for boring brands. We love to work with ambitious charities and businesses that genuinely want to create something outstanding, and are willing to be challenged by a creative partner. 

We’ve been really selective about the team we’ve put together and have some amazing talent in the design and motion teams. If you want to be the best you have to hire the best. The same goes for our partnerships. It was a delight to work with Tom Percival on the Children in Need animation, as his illustrations are beautiful. We worked very collaboratively with Tom, storyboarding and visualising his story, as well as animating his artwork. And it’s been a success.

Something that often sets us apart from other agencies is that our work sits across brand and motion. Our experience and expertise allow us to create contemporary brands that work in the modern world. Brands are not accessed on letterheads and business cards anymore, they are accessed digitally on screens and we’re able to create brand toolkits and systems for our clients that optimise them to work as well as possible in this setting. Many charities do need to use both online and offline communication tools, and we provide the framework and resources for a consistent brand.

Key to a lot of our work as well is storytelling. Whether that’s bringing to life a brands story through it’s branded collateral, or creating animated films that reach an audience and make an emotional connection we’re always looking to tell our clients stories beautifully and effectively.

That’s why it was such a good method for Children in Need. People are so used to seeing the typical dry corporate video content that we can mentally switch off a bit. We all have fond memories and associations of animation from childhood that makes us instantly warm to animated content, in a way that some of the more traditional appeal and fundraising videos don’t.

What does creativity mean for you?

There are lots of ways of being creative, and there’s no right or wrong way. It’s about experimentation and finding your unique voice and method of expression.

For Flow creativity is essential to what we do. In this media-saturated world to get through to an audience you have to engage with them on an emotional level, you have to create something that cuts through that constant noise of social channels and endless scrolling through online content. In order to do this, you have to create work that is beautifully designed but also tells a story that people can relate to.

Our work must be human-centred, we don’t make content for brands, we make content for people. Moving content that moves people. This is crucial for charities who need to connect with supporters in a way that is both emotionally resonant, and results in them taking action.

Why should charities use animation?

Animation is a great way to tell a story without the restrictions associated with live-action shooting – actors, sets, lighting etc. You can create fantastical worlds and scenarios, amazing characters filled with humour and personality, that evoke an emotional response in the viewer to make them feel anything from sad, joyous, nostalgic, excited. You’re limited only by your imagination. It’s a very effective way to communicate complex ideas and information in a way that’s easy to access and enjoyable to watch. The stats show that when a message is delivered in an engaging and well-designed way the information is absorbed and retained better. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual – animation uses this direct access to peoples minds to create a visceral and powerful response that is emotive and long-lasting.

These are challenging times for charities with many of their usual fundraising activities severely hampered or impossible due to COVID-19. In this context, it’s even more important than usual that they still connect with supporters. Charities need to tell their stories in an engaging and impactful way that commands attention and connects emotionally. And smart charities know that the way to do it is through film. It’s about creating a connection, and the best way to do that is using the power of visual storytelling.

We know that right now is tough for charities, and that’s why they need to embrace storytelling techniques that really excite and engage the viewer. Animation is the perfect way to do this.

Find out more at Flow’s website or on Twitter @we_are_flow or Instagram @weareflow


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