Gradwatch: Nathaniel Warnes

After touring this year’s degree shows, we’ve selected visual communications graduates from across the UK who we feel have produced outstanding creative portfolios, and will be showcasing their work on the site this summer. Next up, Sheffield Hallam graduate Nathaniel Warnes whose motion graphics work really stood out at New Blood this year

After touring this year’s degree shows, we’ve selected visual communications graduates from across the UK who we feel have produced outstanding creative portfolios, and will be showcasing their work on the site this summer. Next up, Sheffield Hallam graduate Nathaniel Warnes whose motion graphics work really stood out at New Blood this year

When did you first become interested in design, was it something that you were aware of as a career option when at school?

NW: I’d always enjoyed drawing and at school my favourite subject was Art, but mainly because the teachers didn’t mind me listening to music. I got more into it in A-Level Art, where most of my work was screenprinted, and I was influenced more by comics and album artwork, rather than more traditional art. I also got more into punk and hardcore at college and doing show flyers and things like that probably had extra influence on me. It meant I could draw stuff for an actual purpose, and if I could get paid for that then it sounded ace as a career to me.

Short animation aiming to raise awareness of the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, hosts of the 2022 World Cup. Please note: this is a student project, and is not an official Amnesty production in any way, it borrows their logo to help it fit to purpose as a video for a human rights charity.

We loved your motion graphics work – is that an area that you have always been interested in or did you move into it during your time at Sheffield Hallam?

NW: It wasn’t until one of the last modules we did in first year when we were introduced to After Effects and I realised animating in that way wasn’t as hard as I’d previously thought. After that I did more projects using the software, and in the final year pretty much all my work was motion based in some way. It wasn’t something I’d really imagined doing before but now it feels like the right fit for me.

MEAT. Short film based on ‘They’re Made Out of Meat’ by Terry Bisson. Made for final year Graphic Design degree. The film is made from several hundred images taken from Google, including google maps and street view. The voices in the film are computer generated.

Tell us about the Meat film (above) – how did it come about and why did you take that particular approach?

NW: The brief for that project was really open, it asked us to respond to a performance called 600 People. It focused around the Voyager satelite that contained photographs, diagrams and music from Earth as a record of humanity, which was sent to space purposely for aliens to find and learn about us. From researching the subject I came across the short story “They’re Made Out of Meat” by Terry Bisson, and I really liked the dark kind of humour in it.

My original idea was that two computers in an office at night would wake up and communicate to each other, as the alien characters. From that I ended up simplifying the idea to be just a split screen on a computer which each side communicates to the other. I pushed the computer theme as far as I could, using Google Images, maps, street view, YouTube clips and computer generated voices for the characters. I glitched up loads of the images and just kept layering and layering all the clips, and the music was repetitive and rocky to enhance the psychadelia. Adam Curtis’ films were a big influence, as well as that crazy bit at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A lot of your work is narrative-based – do you se yourself as a storyteller predominantly?

NW: Yeah, I think so, it probably comes in a way from an interest in comic books, and how you can really visually tell a story. I think I work best if there’s a story or script I can work to, and I like how you can have the contrast between the narrative and the visuals, to add depth to the story.


Entry into the D&AD New Blood competition for designing a ident for the Vice Rule Britannia series. I chose to use pin badges as a way of representing the unusual lifestyle choices of British people that the series focuses on.

What were the most valuable things you learned during your time at university?

NW: Probably to think more about the reason why you’re doing something, who it’s going to be for and what would be the best way to communicate to them, rather than just I want it to look cool. It’s sometimes too easy to just think about how your final outcome is going to look at the beginning, but by letting your research influence your decisions instead, you end up with much more interesting results. I think learning to collaborate with people with different skills to you is important too, it was encouraged quite a lot on our course.

Clips from work created over the last year.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge in moving from student life to the professional world?

NW: Making work that’s to a highly polished standard I think. Not that that’s a bad thing to do, just my work up to now has been quite lo-fi, done DIY and on the cheap, where the drawbacks and little flaws became part of the work. It’ll be a nice challenge though, and definitely a good way to progress.

What kind of work do you hope to be doing?

NW: Working in a place that has a focus on moving image would be the ideal environment I think. I’d really like to work on things that end up on a much larger scale than a computer screen, like big video walls or installation sort of things. Interactive and generative motion really interests me too but I’m no good with code so it’d be nice to learn more about that.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

NW: Something I’d like to do is work on music videos or work with bands on their live visuals, I find that kind of thing really interesting. Or if I was dead lucky it’d be good to work on full length films, warp peoples minds for an hour and half.

Nathaniel Warnes is also featured in CR’s Talent Spotting project, in association with Creative Translation, that will see the work of 20 graduates appearing on over 1,000 JCDecaux digital screens all over the UK during August.

See more of his work here

What's the story?

The Storytelling issue, Oct/Nov 2017, is out now.
We invited writers to respond to our cover image
this month: read their stories inside.
PLUS: Tom Gauld, Oliver Jeffers, Giphy & S-Town

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