Patrick Kalyanapu, better known through his successful branding strategy as pk, is a NY-based “multi-disciplinary creative professional”. You might be asking yourself, what the heck is a multi-disciplinary creative professional? I wondered myself, so I asked him. And now I understand the somewhat-generic title because Patrick's credits include: designing animated show packages for TV, art directing web sites for high-profile clients, creating logos/identities for non-profit organizations (pro-bono), creating animation shorts for digital signage in NYC, directing award-winning short films, competing in live design competitions, speaking on several industry panels, publishing work in an array of books & magazines and even holding a working patent for a cell phone interface. And he has done all of this with absolutely no formal training in the animation arts.
As evident by the incredibly varied list of design work above, in combo with his informal education, pk is an extremely motivated, and busy, individual. His large body of work created over the last 12 years proves just that, and earns him a spot in our Interview Series, amongst other elite individuals in the American animation scene.
To explore more on pk visit his: Twitter, Facebook page, Portfolio, Blog, (or his original blog: 2001-2011) or his "Experimental Playground'. For our readers who are teaching themselves the animation art form in hopes of becoming a successful freelancer or boutique-studio owner, we bring you Patrick:
What is your focus (and/or verticals) within the animation field?
I've been specializing in 2D/2.5D motion graphics + design.
Fill in the blank: The future of animation is _________.
ever unfolding. New technologies are continually emerging which will greatly affect the future of animation. I’m especially excited to see what people will be creating in the near future with the Kinect.
What are the best and worst aspects about working in the field?
I personally experience a great deal of satisfaction/stimulation in seeing things MOVE. It’s one thing to design a beautiful layout/scene/character, but it is something else entirely to bring it to life. Another great aspect of working in animation is that because it requires a range of skills & expertise, it can be quite lucrative once you have established yourself.
As for the worst aspects, it can be an incredibly tedious line of work that requires a considerable amount of patience. Rotoscoping, RAM previews, & rendering time...oh my!
Among your firm's achievements, which one(s) are you the most proud of?
I’m very proud of the NYC 2012 Olympic Bid animation I created back in 2004. Not so much because of the complexity of the animation itself, but more so because it played on digital signage throughout New York City for about a year. It was always exhilirating to walk around the streets of New York and see my animation wherever I’d go. I’m also most proud of my directorial debut “Make or Break” (a short film that was selected to be in the Asian American International Film Festival in 2005), the Dymo Discpainter video I worked on in 2007, and my “Dane Cook on Love” typographic exploration created in 2011.
Is there a particular school that you would recommend for those looking to enter the field?
I actually earned a degree in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern, which is completely unrelated to what I do now for a living, so I cannot recommend a particular school based on my own life experience. But I hope this very fact is inspiring to some aspiring animators out there, that you CAN achieve success as a creative professional without a formal education in design & animation.
What advice would you give to aspiring animators?
Soak up inspiration in general…whether it be animation, or just good graphic design in general, fine art, architecture, films, etc. Also, always have a spirit for experimentation. Play around, work on pet projects of your own, learn new skills and figure out fun ways to apply them. There is so much that can be done outside the realm of client work, and devoting your time & energy to creative projects you really care about will a) help you refine your skills, b) expand your body of work and gain exposure in order to help acquire actual paying clients, and c) will make you happy!
What were your most challenging projects, and why?
“The New York Times: A Century in Times Square” was quite a doozy of a project. There were decades upon decades of content that needed to be organized & presented efficiently within a very tight budget & schedule. Also, I participated in a few 72-Hour Film Shootouts where we had 72 hours to produce a 6 minute film from scratch. Quite a baffling ordeal, but...totally exhilirating.
What kind of education did it take to get you where you are today?
I'm actually self-taught in design & animation. I earned a B.S. in industrial engineering from Northwestern, but in my rare free time during those 4 years I started learning Photoshop & Flash, and that's how I got started. Once I graduated, I managed to land a job as a junior designer out in San Francisco and basically learned everything I needed to know on the job. I think in this day and age, with 4-year degrees being SO expensive, one can be better off just independently learning about whatever topics or skills you’re interested in.
What animation software packages do you prefer to use? Which one would you recommend to beginners?
Adobe After Effects is my bread & butter. I’ve also been periodically learning Cinema 4D. Perhaps 2012 will finally be the year that I master it.
Could you share with us your best story about working in the animation industry.
Well, there was the time I got to do some preliminary work for an OKGO music video. There I was, driving up to Connecticut with Damian Kulash, listening to Dolly Parton. #SURREAL.
Has the trend of outsourcing animation overseas affected you particularly, if yes, how have you dealt with it or compensated for it?
Outsourcing overseas has not particularly affected me (as far as I can tell). But what *has* been an issue for me is clients taking more of their work in-house in order to reduce costs, hence farming out less work to me as an independent freelancer. I’ve dealt with this by always looking to form relationships with new clients while keeping in touch with old ones. By having so many clients on tap, yes, sometimes it can lead to periods of major stress when I have to juggle 3+ projects at the same time, but...by having a number of intermittent clients, it usually means I don’t go more than 3-4 weeks without getting a call about a new project.
Do you think that there is an increasing or decreasing demand for animators overall? Why?
In these past 5 years of doing freelance motion graphics since leaving R/GA in February 2007, I haven’t noticed much of an increase or decrease in terms of my overall workload. So I do think that there is a healthy demand for animators. But that being said, I am always looking to expand my skillset and look into other areas of work & potential income. Whenever I find some downtime, I try to learn more 3D and also refine my art & illustration skills. It’s wise to make yourself a well-rounded creative professional. Diversifying your portfolio leads to greater HAPPINESS (it get boring just doing the exact same thing forever) as well as overall SECURITY (if one area of work dries up, there’s always other areas you can pursue).
Check out more interviews at The Animation Career Review Interview Series.