International Motion Art Awards: Sagmeister & Walsh

By David Schonauer   Thursday July 17, 2014

Ampersands everywhere, but have you ever thought about how important they are? They bind together names and ideas with graphic sturdiness and style, And throughout history—the modern can be traced back to the 1st century A.D. and the Old Roman cursive—ampersands have been relieving mankind from the tiresome task of writing the word “and.” When the New Republic magazine asked New York City design duo Sagmeister & Walsh to create an ampersand illustration for the opening page of its "Books and Art” section, the designers realized the logo would also appear online as well, so they decided to make a motion version. This they did with earthly materials—iron filings and magnets—that bind together elementally the way that ampersands bind together words. The result was an intriguing and beautiful motion illustration that went on to win an International Motion Art Award.


International Motion Art Awards
Motion Illustration for the New Republic
By Sagmeister & Walsh

You will never take an ampersand for granted again once you’ve see the motion illustration created by New York City design duo Sagmeister & Walsh (Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, joined together graphically by a you-know-what) for the New Republic. The venerable magazine of politics and culture was undergoing a redesign and re-launch in 2012 when it contacted the designers and asked them to re-imagine an ampersand for the opening page of its “Books and Art” section. The designers also understood that the new version of the magazine, now owned by Facebook millionaire Chris Hughes, would have a robust online presence. So they decided to create a motion version of their design to be used on the magazine’s website.

“The studio has always been interested in making animations and films for different purposes,” note the designers, who create everything from brand identities and TV commercials to websites, apps, and objects for clients. For this job, they wanted to pull off the illustration using two earthly materials that evoke the kind of elemental binding that the ampersand stands for—iron filings and magnets. As they put it, “From a purely formal standpoint, these two materials combined can produce gorgeous results.”

The piece was done in the Sagmeister & Walsh studio in Chelsea. In the video, gently sprinkled iron filings, controlled by a magnate, sweep across a piece of paper, gently gathering and clustering into the shape of an ampersand. The entire project was shot with a Canon 5D Mark III. 

The designers apparently like to have fun with ideas. When Adobe asked them to create an interpretive graphic of the company’s logo, the studio responded by staging a game show.They are currently working on a documentary project about something as basic to human emotional life as iron and magnates are to the physical world: Happiness. Called The Happy Film, the documentary makes use of both animation and live action video.




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