Behind the Studio – Nathan Monaghan
Behind the Studio, where we look closer to home and find out more about the people behind Nomad, this time with Nathan Monaghan, Junior Motion Designer at Nomad.
What’s your journey in the industry so far?
When I was younger, around 9 or 10 years old, I was really into animation. I was making little flipbook animations in Flipnote Studio for the Nintendo DSi, stop-motion music videos in Windows Movie Maker, I even wrote an essay for a Year 6 English class about how I wanted to be an animator when I became a grown up. So you’d think I was destined to do this. But then I just… kind of forgot about it. This isn’t a story about how this was my dream job since I was 10 years old. I quickly moved on to a new obsession, and a new one after that and so on, before finding myself in the classic situation of really loving art but not knowing what I can do with it to make a living. Through a combination of work experience and University Open Days I found out that Graphic Design was a thing (it was never offered as a subject at school), and I went on to study Graphic Communication and Illustration at Loughborough University.
I was trying to stave off insanity by keeping busy during the summer of the first Lockdown, when I rediscovered animation and quickly fell back in love with it all over again. It opened up all these new possibilities for my design work, and most importantly it was fun. So I specialised in Motion Design during my final year, where I worked on some cool projects with some cool people. I kept practising and learning after graduating – I owe a lot to YouTube tutorials, eight-year-old forum threads, and a PDF copy of The Illusion of Life.
I was working as a Junior Motion Designer at a digital publishing company, when the mysterious ways of the Instagram algorithm put me in touch with the amazing people at Nomad. After meeting some of the team, it was a no-brainer. And now I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.
What do you love to do?
Two staple activities of my week are swimming and going to the cinema. Beyond the superficial reasons you’d expect, I realised recently that I love them both for the same core reason; I can’t multitask or get distracted by something else. When I enter the pool or that dark screening room, I’m promising (or forcing) myself to give that activity my complete and undivided attention.
I think it’s really important for my mental health to make that time for myself where I have a singular focus...
...and it’s also helpful to completely step away from whatever I’m working on and come back with a refreshed mind.
Who’s your creative hero?
Like probably every other designer ever, I love music, art, filmmaking, fashion, literature – really any form of creative expression. And within those fields there are so many talented people who inspire me. But one person stands out above the rest, and that’s Prince. He was just insanely, unbelievably talented on a technical level, and he pushed music forward with his visionary songwriting. His music is just so quintessentially him. He was prolific in his output. And he just didn’t give a fuck what people thought, artistically or socially. I grew up listening to a lot of Prince thanks to my Mum, and then one day I just got it and fell in love with his music for myself. It has been a huge influence on me.
In the graphic and motion design world, my major inspirations are Paula Scher, Saul and Elaine Bass, and the numerous artists working at Walt Disney Studios during the Golden Age of Animation who did so much to advance the art form.
But instead I want to talk about Ben Marriott, the Sydney-based Motion Designer who makes some of the most engaging, insightful, and entertaining After Effects tutorials on the internet. Not only have I gained so much technical knowledge from his videos, but motion theory too. I think it’s really important to make the insights gained from our expertise as accessible as possible, and I really respect people like Ben Marriott dedicating so much of their time to helping future generations of designers. As I continue my career and develop as a designer I want to find ways to pay this kindness forward.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?
I remember being told multiple times at University: ‘make the work you want to be paid to make’. It’s a bit cliche, but I guess it’s cliche for a reason, because it worked for me. I spent my free time making little kinetic typography animations for Liverpool fixtures and my favourite players.
Now I get to work on stuff for the Premier League. Of course there were many more factors at play, but if I hadn’t been making that work I wouldn’t be where I am now.
What does being creative mean to you?
I always struggle to answer this question. Probably because it’s not something I really think about in the moment – it’s innate, intuitive, subliminal. If I had to properly define it, I’d say that for me being creative is like being at play. Allowing yourself to engage in a childlike pursuit of new ideas.
Whether you’re trying to come up with the solution to a complex problem, simply entertaining yourself, or a revolutionary new way of animating a Lower Third, creativity is channelling everything you know and don’t know and don’t know you know while disregarding convention and holding off on evaluation to bring something new into existence.
Okay I’ll stop being pretentious now. Mostly I just enjoy it. I feel a rush.