As if the year 2012 didn’t have enough reasons to celebrate, with the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it is also the 40th anniversary of influential design agency Pentagram.
To celebrate 40 years of inspirational work Pentagram’s London office set themselves the challenge of making a short animated film showcasing their impressive portfolio.
We caught up with director Christian Carlsson to find out the story behind ‘The Forty Story’…
The first thing that struck me as a viewer was that the entire piece ‘felt like’ Pentagram. When speaking to Christian it became clear that this was an aim integral to the piece from the very beginning, asking the question: was there something quintessential that they could feature to stay true to the identity of Pentagram? In my opinion they achieved this perfectly.
Initiated by Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani, Christian was asked to work on the project and from the beginning it was a collaboration with the copywriters and creatives at the company. As you can imagine, the Pentagram archives are a gold mine. “The archive is a vast vault in the heart of the west London Pentagram offices. Most of the projects are very well documented with film negatives, books, and the actual product where possible.”
The story documents the brands that Pentagram have worked on in the past 40 years, sequenced in chronological order. On closer inspection you can see the care that has gone into getting the details right. “I loved the little challenges of finding the appropriate numbers from each era to fit in the different chapters, 1972, 1983, etc…” Christian explains.
Christian says he tried various locations around the building, “to eliminate my concerns that it might become somewhat stale to keep the camera locked off, but as I developed the animation technique and saw the script getting tighter, confidence grew that the right thing to do was to stick with the one setting and make the best of this.”
After shooting a few test versions the style was set. To represent the 40 years, 40 clips holding blank paper were shot in the Pentagram London offices – 27 photographs each of the single sheets. These were combined to produce the texture, so the shadows are real but the animation is all After Effects. “It felt important to stay true to the tactile quality of paper, the heritage of print and combine it with a modern technique looking into the future.” It’s not just happy chance, that the timelessness of Pentagram’s work is reflected in the animation technique.
Like all good ideas, imitations soon follow and interestingly enough Sky Sports ripped off the style for a Formula 1 promo soon after. Whilst a stop-motion feel and hanging clips are not unique on their own, if you saw the promo you would instantly recognise the similar elements such as the numbers of years, the narrative and music.
I knew Christian’s work as he also studied at Ravensbourne and his simple, bold, typographic style always reminded me of Pentagram, so it is interesting that he has gone on to work on a project like this. Clearly his multidisciplinary attitude to working is very similar to the philosophy of Pentagram.
Christian tells us, “I am still amazed by what is achieved by people using Cinema4D, plug-ins, 3D-printing and other softwares and I want to keep learning how to make things, but in the end, great ideas is what people remember. All I want to do now is to produce great work and work with great people – there is so much talent out there. The awareness and demand for good design and communication seem to reach no decline, which is great for all of us in the business!”
Credits: Writers: Naresh Ramchandani and Tom Edmonds, Director: Christian Carlsson, Additional Animation: Simone Nunziato, Sound Design: Iain Grant and Wam London, Music: Graeme Miller, Titles: John Rushworth, Design: Pentagram, Voiceover: Daniel Lapaine.