Mention Nadine Kennedy
Interview by Lyla Johnston

Motion designer Nadine Kennedy on why you should “try everything”

Nadine Kennedy’s career path to date has been driven by her curiosity. Having graduated from IADT’s visual communication course, Nadine set out to “try everything” in a bid to find her place in industry. From working with start-ups to learning about the photography process on sets, she eventually found herself bitten by the motion design bug, while experimenting with After Effects for a video production company. It led her to Dublin-based agency, Boys+Girls, where Nadine currently works as a junior motion designer. Here, Nadine tells us what it’s like starting a new job remotely, putting personality into your portfolio and why ideas are less likely to happen while sitting at your desk.

Nadine Kennedy

Nadine Kenedy


Job Title

Junior Visual and Motion Designer, Boys+Girls

Based

Dublin

Place of Study

BA in Visual Communication Design, Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire (2013–2018)

Website

www.nadinekennedy.com

Social Media

Instagram

What I do

How would you describe what you do? And specifically what you do at Boys+Girls?
I’d like to say I exist somewhere between a motion designer and art director. I’ve recently joined Boys+Girls as a junior motion designer. My role requires me to hop in at various stages of a project, campaign or production. Whether that be helping with the initial response to a brief, conceptualising an idea or adding the cherry on top at the end of the line where I’m outputting the last assets of a campaign. There are always a million things going on at once. It is a crazy and wonderful hub of diverse talents and ideas.

You started the role remotely – what was that like?
I was actually much less nervous about starting in a new company virtually than I was starting in previous positions in person. I had already gotten accustomed to working from home and smoothed out any initial wrinkles that arose in the transition. By cutting out the daily commute, I could dedicate more time to take on passion projects outside of work. I’ve found myself escaping more into my creativity and taking more risks. Above all, though, I’ve really been able to explore new interests and develop my own point of view.

“Pre-pandemic, if you’d offered me the opportunity to work from home, I’d have jumped at the chance.”

Pre-pandemic, if you had offered me the opportunity to work from home, I’d have jumped at the chance. While I’ve found that my personal space can be a great incubator for ideas, I am definitely looking forward to sharing a creative space with others after a year and a half of being by myself. I’ve yet to meet anyone from Boys+Girls in person, so I’m excited to see how accurate I was in guessing everyone’s height.

If you could pick a GIF to describe what it’s like to work at Boys+Girls, what would it be and why?
(Above) It’s my first time joining an agency, and Boys+Girls cover many services, ranging from brand systems to social and TV campaigns. I am allowing myself to ease in and learn from the people around me. It’s been great to experience the entire process behind making something entertaining. Seeing how the whole team works and the importance of each collaborator’s input; how fearless they can be in protecting a good idea to the end. I'll just be over here, soaking it all up.

What’s the weirdest thing on your desk right now?
My favourite and most definitely the weirdest is my dog, Mollie. She has an obsession with screens and I’ll often find her sitting at my desk where I should be. It is slightly disturbing how strong her addiction is and I worry it’s a reflection of how much time I spend at my computer. It’s a good reminder to take a break and for us both to take a walk.

Dashboard and welcome screen for Change Donations, 2020
Icons for Change Donations, 2020

What recent project are you most proud of?
I got the opportunity to work on a project with current students and alumni of IADT. This project was for Change Donations – a digital donation platform that enables charitable giving by linking users’ donations to everyday spending. I got to act as the team’s design lead, creating an identity system for their website and app, grounded in research and user insight.

Afterwards, I was asked back to create a launch video where I took on the role of motion designer and art director along with my pal Euan Murphy. The concept of the video was to capture the impact of a single donation’s journey after a purchase was made.

This is where I really caught a bug for motion design. This project was completed entirely remotely, across three different time zones. It was amazing to have a company trust us to tell their story.

“You were hired to bring a new perspective, not just your skillset.”

What kind of skills are needed to do your role?
Keep an open and inquisitive mind from your first day. It’s important to learn from others, but trust your gut and stand by your opinions. You were hired to bring a new perspective, not just your skillset. Any technical skills can be picked up on the job. Being able to connect with your team and make great work together is the most important thing.

On the technical side of things, motion design skills are becoming ever more sought after in junior design positions, so it’s good to expand your horizons. The school of YouTube tutorials will always save you in a pinch.

Storyboard for Change Donations launch video, 2020
Opening scene from Change Donations launch video
Scene from Change Donations launch video

How I got here

How did you land the job?
I knew that the application process would be completely remote, so I really focused on creating an online portfolio that was personable. I’d been following the work of Boys+Girls and I just knew it was the right place for me to be, so when I saw that they were on the hunt, I made sure to introduce myself.

I focused on showcasing my best work within my portfolio and used playful copywriting and design to reflect my personality. It’s not only important to showcase your best projects but tell the story behind your ideas.

A section of Nadine’s portfolio used in her Boys+Girls application

What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
Not quite. After graduating, I was focused on recovering after a burnout. I struggled to find my place in the industry, and what I was happiest doing. I started working in a bar to support myself and took on some freelance work for local start-ups. I gave it all a go.

I found myself on a photography set and falling in love with different processes, such as lighting, retouching and editing. I then started to work full-time in a video production house where one of my tasks was to make opening titles for a video. I then found myself working in After Effects a lot and started to scratch the surface of what I could make with it. Curiosity eventually led me to the world of motion design.

“After graduating, I struggled to find my place in the industry, and what I was happiest doing.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
As challenging as this field can be, often it has been the external factors that have presented the most significant challenges: imposter syndrome, financial difficulties, hustle culture, burnout.

Deadlines can have you frozen at your desk, trying to deliver an amazing idea briefed this morning but due the day before. You can freeze and lock yourself away until you return with an idea, but ideas never just come to you at your desk. They arrive from a conversation with a friend, a disruption to your day, reading a book, or just doing anything other than being at your computer. Make sure to check in with yourself and your wellbeing. Someone said that art is a reflection of society. You need to be present in the world to reflect it accurately.

Animation from 36 Days of Type Series, 2021

What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
How you think is just as valuable as the outputs you create. Design thinking can offer a lot of value to a business or brand. Design is not often positioned as a business thing, but translating the vocabulary of design into words a brand understands is a valuable skill.

It’s important to not only measure the success of a project based on the visual output or the beautiful experiences you’ve created – but by showing the growth of the business, the boost in online engagement, or the increase in returning customers as a result of your creative work.

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t take anything personally. While in uni, I created work that reflected my personality, topics I cared about, and it needed to be critiqued and graded. It felt impossible not to take criticism as a reflection of myself or my abilities. After I graduated and started working for clients, I learned to separate myself from the work I created by working under a company’s vision. That’s not to say that I don’t put myself into my work, but I now know that a single project does not define my abilities or creativity.

More recently, I’m starting to follow up on the things I’m interested in. I’m making sure to not only solve creative problems for others but focus on making my own stuff as well because it’s fun, and I like to tell a story or two.

“A single project does not define my abilities or creativity.”

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Move at your own pace and look at everything as a creative opportunity, no matter how small or boring the task is. I graduated in 2018, so I’ve been out in the world for a while. Working for freelance clients, start-ups and video production companies offered me a variety of skills that I picked up along the way. Try everything, sometimes you will have some awful results, but it will help you find the thing that catches your interest. Once found, take the time to nurture those interests.

I’d also say not to worry about the level of your portfolio. Small budgets and outcomes can still contain a priceless idea. So make sure you’re getting that thinking across.

Finally, if you’ve found an agency or studio you love, investigate their work, people, and process. Of course, admiring a company’s work is always a good start. Still, your goal is to collaborate with people. So try to work out if the environment you’ll be entering is one you’ll thrive in. Oh, and find the head of design’s email. It makes things a lot easier!

Nadine’s workspace and her dog, Mollie

Mention Nadine Kennedy
Interview by Lyla Johnston