Matthew Young found himself immersed in the world of graphic design at the tender age of 14. “My school let us do one lesson of graphic design a week for a period of six weeks,” he recalls. “I remember designing and illustrating my own video box – yes, it was the days of VHS rather than DVD – and redesigning the Weetabix packaging,” he continues. “Most of the other kids in the class thought it was a big waste of time, but I loved it, and I remember thinking, ‘this is what I want to do with my life’.”
Young graduated this summer from the Graphic & Communication Design course at the University of Leeds, and is already the proud recipient of a D&AD pencil. His animated film entitled The City won him a first prize in the moving image category of D&AD’s Student Awards this year.
Looking through Young’s portfolio, his design skills are strong, though we can’t deny that it is his animated filmmaking skills that drew us to include him in our selection of talented young graduates in this issue. This is perhaps surprising considering that, until 18 months ago, Young had never created any animation.
“It was during my second year of university,” says Young, “we were given a choice: we could either do a module on animation and motion graphics, or a module on web design and Flash. I picked animation on a whim, and it turned out to be a rather good decision. The first animation brief I ever got was to create a series of stings, advertising a radio station of my choice. I chose to do Classic FM, and I animated the whole thing with white paper and card, stop-motion photography, and some seriously dodgy homemade lighting.”
Citing previous CR One To Watch director Johnny Kelly, and also Montreal-based imagemaker Julien Vallée as “obvious heroes”, Young confesses to falling in love with animation whilst working on his first film.
“From then on I tried to find excuses to create more animated work wherever I could,” he says. “In my third year, all of our briefs were quite open, and we could take them in any direction we wanted. So they all ended up involving animation in one way or another.”
One such brief was set by London-based design studio, Elmwood, in conjunction with Leeds University. “The brief was simply to make Elmwood remember my name,” says Young, who recognised that the brief was essentially an exercise in self- promotion – and also that doing his research in order to add a personal touch would stand him in good stead.
His response was to create an animation (over which he provides a narrative voiceover) which lists several potential responses to the brief, beginning with how he found out that Elmwood’s design director, Ben Greengrass, likes to go running, and how Young had thought initially he would place self-promotional propaganda along Greengrass’ morning run route. The animation runs through this and various other elaborate plans for making Elmwood remember his name before revealing that none of those ideas came to fruition, and that the animation itself is the response to the brief. Elmwood remembered his name. In fact, they offered him a work placement to reward his efforts.
At the time of writing, Young is a busy chap. He is currently working on his first freelance commission since leaving college – as the animator on a commercial brief. He’s also about to start a six-month placement at Leeds-based creative communications agency, Brass.
So, having studied on a graphic design course, does Young have ambitions as a graphic designer or as a filmmaker? “In all my animations to date, I’ve been the designer, copywriter, animator, director, sound engineer, and, unfortunately, the voice-over artist,” he says. “It’s been very much a one man, hands-on job – although I’ve had copious amounts of assistance from my girlfriend, who helps out with all the drawing and scanning. With the exception of sound engineer and voice-over artist, they’re all roles I’d be sad to say goodbye to – as I’ve been enjoying the whole creative process. Ideally, I’d love to find that happy place where I can be both designer and animation director.”