Back in 2012, F&E met Mateusz Napieralski when he joined us for an internship while still studying for his Degree at Ravensbourne. Since then he's become part of F&E's extended family, having worked with us on a variety of projects, including being one of the "helping hands" for our live action spots for 4Seven and Oxfam and most notably, F&E's recent rebrand. Four years is a long time in the animation world, so we thought it was high time we caught up with Mateusz and find out what he's been up to since we last spoke.
In your last interview you had just finished University and were about to embark on your journey into the wonderful world of animation! As a recent graduate, did you have a clear idea of where you wanted to work?
When I was graduating I was unsure of which path to choose. A lot of my friends from the course had already specialised in a specific area of animation or design by the time we were graduating, whereas I was all over the map and I was interested in everything from graphic design, illustration, animation and hand made.
Where did you end up working and did you stick with illustration and animation as a career path?
My first full time job after graduating was in a small animation studio in London. I was working there as a junior designer and animator. I was involved in various stages of the process, from designing, to hands-on 2D animation. After working there for few months I moved on to a more experimental animation production studio, where I started as a junior designer and was involved in many mediums ranging from 2D animation, to stop frame, live action, events, graphic design and illustration.
How do you think university helped your quest to find a job in the creative industry? Do you think university helped prepare you to find a job, or is forging your career simply a case of getting out into the real world?
Hmm…that’s a tricky question. And I think I have two answers to it, haha. On one hand my university was amazing at bringing the industry into the building and allowing us to work with studios and companies directly. Ravensbourne has amazing industry connections, that are constantly utilised to benefit the students. The majority of briefs we worked on were live projects, which was also great. We always had guest lecturers and speakers coming in and showing us what the “real world” is like, which definitely allowed me to understand it better and try to equip myself with the right skills to meet the industry expectations as a graduate.
On the other hand, because the industry focus was so strong and there was a certain tone of voice and “look” of work that my lecturers were after, that kind of made me lose a little bit of my personal style of work that I wanted to make. I was afraid that what I really wanted to make wasn’t commercial enough and that I wouldn’t get a job afterwards.
I think all the skills that I learned during my degree, were a really good foundation that allowed me to be employed straight out of Uni. And I don’t think I’d be in a place I’m at now if I didn’t get my degree. But at the same time, I do know a lot of examples of really successful designers and illustrators, that never went to uni. They just got out there with their work, but I think in my case I certainly needed that university experience to kick-start my creative career.
Do you have any tips for recent graduates who want to get into the creative industry?
Immerse yourself fully in whatever you do. Even if it’s not your dream job, even if it’s something you don’t think you want to do for the rest of your life. Every experience is a learning experience and sometimes it takes a while to actually realise how much you got out of it.
Always be interested. Be curious and explore. Do self initiated projects, work hard, follow your heart and trust it.
How has your work evolved since leaving university?
I’m really trying to focus on my style more now, I’m always looking into new ways of applying it and really trying to experiment and play more. I’m paying more attention to shape and form now too. My line has gotten a little bit more polished, it’s not as wobbly anymore haha.
I’m still working across the same platforms, I still do illustration, animation and graphic design. What’s changed now is that I’m trying to intertwine all of them more, I’m trying to find new ways of blending these mediums together, whereas at uni they were all their own entities to me.
You’ve recently collaborated with F&E on their rebrand. Can you tell us about your process of designing and animating our lovely new ampersand logo?
Yes! I started by designing 3 directions of the new logo. Ranging from really playful, illustrative, to more conservative and simple. I was really excited that in the end F&E decided to go with the most playful design. Once agreed on the design, I explored various colour palettes.
Then it was animation time. I worked in Photoshop to animate the logo frame by frame. I started by doing roughs and then moved on to colouring it all in and adding shadows and final touches.
How do you find freelance creative briefs and managing your own clients?
I actually love it. I enjoy working on every project that comes through. I really like the diversity and never knowing what’s coming. As weird as it sounds that’s what really excites me.
When I first went freelance I found the management side of it a little bit challenging. I didn’t know how to prioritise jobs and when to say “no”, so I ended up kind of never really leaving my studio and having no life. Which obviously made everything even worse. Now I have a better idea of how to manage my projects and time, and it’s going much better. I think that I finally started applying all the skills I learned in my previous jobs, and time management and project management is a really big one. I really love and value my relationships with clients. I enjoy receiving briefs, but sometimes also working on briefs with them when they need that extra help to find out what it is that really need. I enjoy every stage of the creative process.
What has been your favourite commission to date? (This is not a trick question….)
Ha! Like I said, I love every project I work on, and I’m not sure there is one that really stands out so far…
I really enjoyed working on the Glug 17 poster for United Nations. Not only because it was a very open brief, but because of the good cause of the project. It also allowed me to connect with other designers and illustrators working on the project too which was great, and at the end of it there was a show with all the artworks displayed!
You do a lot of self initiated projects which we think shows a massive passion for your art. Why else do you think self-initiated work is so important in the commercial world?
The longer I freelance, the more and more I realise the power and importance of self initiated work. I think sometimes it’s really easy to lose yourself in the commercial work (especially when you’re freelancing and are experiencing high numbers of commissions). Obviously being busy with client work is amazing and the best thing ever, but I think it’s important to take the time to step back sometimes and express yourself in a more free, experimental way. I think that’s the only way to develop your work, to really dig deep inside and try new things. Keep your work fresh and exciting, constantly evolving.
I think the danger of not doing self initiated work is being stuck in always doing the same thing over and over, as many clients don’t trust you until they see evidence that you can do it. That’s why it’s even more important to not only develop your skills for yourself through this work, but also to show the world what you can do, so you can start being commissioned for those things that you’re really interested in.
You’re always hunting down new creative and unusual events and websites. What are your favourite sources of creativity at the moment and are there any new (or old) events we should know about?
Yes! That’s my favourite thing! Although I love being visually stimulated, sometimes it can be a little bit damaging for my work, as I find myself being influenced too much by what I’m looking at, so recently I started exploring other ways of getting inspired.
Iget really inspired by people’s stories, their experiences and journeys. I love reading The Great Discontent which is a print and online magazine focusing on interviewing artists and makers on their journey, creativity, taking risks and all the emotions that I can totally connect with.
Another source of inspiration for me are podcasts. I especially love the On Being podcast which is similar to the Great Discontent actually. It’s a huge library of amazing interviews with makers, scientists, poets, designers, doctors, artists, inventors about creativity, inspiration and what it means to live a creative life.
I also stumbled upon a new event which I attended a couple of months ago. I went to Element Talks which took place in Warsaw. It was my first time there and I absolutely loved it. It’s a design conference set up by 2 graphic design students from Poland, they started it as part of their degree project. Every year it grows so much, this year it was their third edition and they welcomed almost 2000 visitors! I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone.
What's your favourite piece of work (created by someone else) that you've seen in the last year?
Hmm…I’m not sure it is be the best thing I’ve seen in the last year, but I saw this amazing mural by Andre Neyer few months ago and I absolutely love it. I like the scale of it, I love the style of the illustration and also the idea of it being a public sculpture piece, which looks different depending on where you look at it from. All these things packed into one project!
How important to your work is having a good presence on social media?
There are some days when I feel that I wish I was more involved in social media, but I don’t have the need and time to always be on top of it. And most importantly I really don’t think it’s important to me at the end of the day. The only social app I’m using regularly is Instagram to share my work, but that’s about it. I will occasionally scroll through Twitter. I feel I’m better off without using social media really, haha. It’s too much to absorb for my little brain without feeling overwhelmed.
3 years ago, we asked what you’d like to achieve in the next five years. Your answer involved learning new skills, working on self initiated projects, entering the freelance world and maybe even set up your own practice. With two years to go, how have you got on? (You also said if you achieved it all you’d become a Polish superhero and give everyone lollipops with a Polish flag on it to make this world a better place - we will hold you to that!)
Haha, I think those lollipops will have to wait a bit longer… After working for 3 years as an in-house designer, last summer I went freelance and have been focusing on that ever since. Right now I’m working on client work and I’m trying to do as much of self-initiated work as I possibly can in between projects. The goal is to have that design practice of my own, so I’m now working towards that too.
Dare we ask… what do you have planned for the future?
Haha, I wish I knew that myself! I don’t want to think too far ahead, but I really would like to continue trying new things and keep experimenting. Right now I’m researching ways of building sculptures, I’m excited about working in a 3D environment with physical objects. I also would like to create some sort of interactive web-based project, and constantly evolve and develop my style, and get as many happy clients as I can!