What if your nine-to-five involved peeking over the shoulder of one of the world’s most storied animation studios? For this Thursday’s Digital Dialogues, we’re bringing in Abe Levin, Digital Design Director, and Ben Peters, Digital Strategist, from the creative agency STRUCK to talk about their redesign of the Nickelodeon Animation Studio website. What started out as a straightforward challenge to combine four divergent sites into one quickly became the agency’s dream assignment, and the team set off on an unparalleled journey into the bizarre world of Nickelodeon and creator-driven animated programming.
We sat down with Abe and Ben for a sneak peek into to their upcoming talk and to get a little taste of all things Nickelodeon.
You’ve said that the biggest challenge for this project was to re-establish Nickelodeon’s position as a leader in creator-driven programming. Was there an “aha” moment that provided insight into how you would eventually position the creative soul of Nickelodeon Studios? ?
Ben: When we were handed the project we first asked ourselves, “What are the moments that will capture this distinct narrative?” We decided to use real stories to bring the fans right out of the artists. Then it became simple. Real stories are very pragmatic.
Abe: We looked at what sets Nickelodeon Animation Studio apart, and then brought their unique creator-driven culture and craft to life. We also knew the redesign should mirror the playful and surprising energy of the Nick brand, while not over-shadowing the work itself. The site does just this?—?it mixes a clean visual frame-work, hidden artifacts, deconstructed characters, and provides the viewer with the unexpected through secret Easter eggs. It’s a place to celebrate the creativity of animation.
Can you give us a hint on how to find one of those hidden Easter eggs you mentioned?
A: I wish! You’ll have to come to our talk for that.
B: I believe it was SpongeBob that said, “the best thing about a secret is secretly telling someone your secret…”
Let’s talk content strategy for the digital age. If you could only choose one strategic element to emphasize from the challenge, what would it be?
A: One key element that helped shape content strategy is the idea that Nickelodeon Animation Studio is not Nick. We wanted the smudges, mistakes and acknowledgment of failure in the creative process to shine through. The real people doing the real work.
B: We wanted to serve up Nick’s biggest asset by positioning craft and culture first. This site needed to be a broadcast for future artists, “here you can experiment and do the best work of your career and this is what it looks like when you do it.”
Nickelodeon is peculiar and idiosyncratic. How did you ensure that you truly captured, and modernized, Nick’s beating heart?
A: This was the perfect assignment for us at STRUCK. We’re currently helping the studio bring the brand into a more modern era through the physical space. From designing coffee table books and collector box sets to the redesign of the new studio itself – it was only a matter of time before we transitioned the brand story into the digital landscape.
B: We were handed a project and then realized, “wait, this is not what we thought at all.” How do you in essence capture something that is uncapturable? We quickly discovered that it was more than just saying, “This is what the studio is like.” We were leaning over the shoulders of creators to find out what inspired and motivated them.
“Nick is the scrappy lunatic of animation, a factory powered by boogers. And we made sure that the site was philosophically correct.”
Who is your animated alter ego?
A: His name would be Abé. Ha, but really I fell in love with Breadwinners when I started working with Gary, one of the show creators. And I think I could really relate to SwaySway. I still can’t believe that Nick’s cartoons have transitioned from boogers to butts…
B: Ren, of course! [laughs]
Want more of these two and their digital antics inside the peculiar mind of the Nickelodeon Studio? Bring your own questions to ask Ben and Abe at Digital Dialogues this Thursday, April 16 from 6:00pm-8:30pm, held at Smarsh. Green slime not included.