CCS: Communication Design (Graphic Design) Programs
Jennifer and Ellerey Gave never imagined that three years after graduating from the graphic design program at CCS they would be the owners of Capacity, a thriving motion graphics studio, with the power to land projects with major television networks and other big name clients through their revolutionary concept design, branding and visual storytelling.
“Ellerey and I first formed a special bond working together as students,” said Jennifer. “After experiencing a range of environments among the professional design community in Los Angeles, we realized that the only way we could truly affect the culture of a company was to start our own. So we co-founded Capacity with the intention of creating an atmosphere where people could grow, learn and flourish.”
Prior to launching Capacity, both Jennifer and Ellerey worked as senior designers at IF (Imaginary Forces) and Jennifer later accepted a position as an art director at G4 developing show packages and network promos while establishing new technology work flows. The blend of their professional backgrounds with the birth of Capacity led Ellerey to take on the role of creative director/lead animator, while Jennifer manages the business side of the company as executive producer/chief financial officer.
“Our biggest challenge was to establish ourselves as a major contender among all of the talented design studios,” Jennifer explained. “In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of motion graphics companies spawning all over the world. It seems to take an abstract combination of talent, sales and marketing, exposure and luck to rise above all of the clutter.
“We patiently waited for our break—being faithful with what we had in our hands and using any downtime to develop our team and our own branding. It was the great response to an end product we developed with NBC that really projected us into a position of respect and acknowledgment among those in the industry.”
After months of determining the direction of a Fall 2006 Rebranding package, NBC Magic (the internal agency at NBC) hired Capacity to help refine the look, determine how on-air elements were going to move, and figure out a way for them to be unified yet still as diverse and fresh as possible. Their mission was to give the network a unique interactive feel. One concept that emerged was the use of a peacock feather (taken from the logo) to serve as a mouse pointer to access information, select characters and navigate between shows before returning to the logo.
“During August, we created countless storyboards and animation tests— barely discarding anything and instead building upon each element which gave us a deep vocabulary to work with when it came to creating the actual elements,” Ellerey explained. “Most of September and part of October were spent creating hundreds of specific elements to get through multiple premiere weeks. I still don’t know how we finished everything on time! It was definitely one of the toughest jobs we’ve ever done, but it was extremely rewarding.”
In addition to NBC’s rebranding project, Capacity has designed motion graphics for the NFL Network, NFL Replay, Cartoon Network’s Master Control, Cartoon Network’s Foster’s, CMT Top Cowboy, MTV Score, Honda, VH1 and Ubisoft. Their current project is scheduled to hit the airwaves in September/October of 2008.
Most of Capacity’s projects have been the result of networking, media attention, the Internet and on-air visibility. Because of the company’s structure, they only take on two or three projects at a time to maintain their team’s dynamic.
“Our newest challenge has been to grow the team enough to be able to take on some of the many projects that are now coming our way, but still maintain the family atmosphere and boutique-style structure,” said Jennifer. “The biggest lesson we've learned over time is that our people need to be the main focus. We discovered that if we created an environment where people could grow and flourish, where they felt like they were a part of something, that they would actually look forward to coming to work.”
As part of an identity piece for Capacity, the team will launch the animated short film “Upgrade + Mobilize” this summer. Their previous branding piece, “Planted,” received worldwide recognition for its experimental, playful 60-second clip based on the Biblical parable of the sower. A typeface (Capacity Light) designed in-house for the project became a major element of Capacity’s online and print branding.
“Our inspiration has gotten a lot more diverse recently: music, anime, toys, people, life—I cringe at having to list it because it seems dangerously close to being cliché,” remarked Ellerey. “When it comes down to it, each project brings with it its own vocabulary of inspiration. It’s our job as designers to be inspired by the appropriate things at the appropriate times, otherwise there’s a danger of having our personal voice speak louder than the voice of the story we’re trying to tell.”
Although professional experience and an insatiable drive to succeed have been the driving forces behind the couple’s accomplishments, Jennifer and Ellerey credit CCS for bringing them together as professionals, business partners, husband and wife, and soon-to-be parents.
“CCS prepared us in ways that we could have never anticipated. It’s amazing to think that we barely scratched the surface on motion design while in school, and now we’re running a successful company in that industry. The lesson in that has to do with the foundation we received at CCS, grounded in conceptual thinking, design principles and solid typography. Those skills transcend the boundaries of various media."
"They’ve also brought us opportunities that many other motion graphics companies haven’t been able to experience such as multi-platform branding. To this day, we’re constantly referring back to things we were taught by our instructors, including but not limited to Doug Kisor’s unofficial design and typography mantra, ‘it’s all about the small spaces.’
“Personally, our focus is quickly shifting toward goals that have to do with our new baby. We would like to have Capacity running in a way that allows us time to raise our child and build an awesome family at home. Because we don’t really consider ourselves entrepreneurs, we’ve always viewed Capacity as an extension of our personal creativity. It’s never been about explosive growth or reaching certain quotas. The most important thing to us as our team grows is that we maintain our culture as a company and continue to create interesting and compelling work.”