03.07.18 / Designer Profile / Simon Burgin

Simon Burgin / responsve


It was a pleasure to speak with Director of Melbourne’s motion + interaction + creative technology studio responsve Simon Burgin, not just because he’s a lovely chap, but also due to his professional involvement in a burgeoning area of communication design that is, bafflingly, rarely spoken about in the design media — motion design.

“It’s an interesting space, motion, because the technology — probably more so than other forms of design — is always evolving at rapid pace,” begins Simon.

“We have platforms that are around for a few years and then they become obsolete or they change, then transition into something else. Final Cut has been replaced by hto Premiere, Shake has been replaced by Nuke. We are still waiting for something to replace After Effects! There are a bunch of new AR and VR tech being released all the time, new graphics cards, LED panels, sensors and ways of capturing data… exciting times!”

“Of course, creative opportunities arise with new technologies and then sometimes just in the combination of creative technologies with previous tech and concepts.”

“A big part of my practice is working in the transition from pre-rendered/conceived content to real-time generative content, which I think will be the next big step for motion designers and content producers more broadly. I’m aiming to find a sweet spot between motion design, interaction, and creative technology and really focussing on compelling user experiences.”

“A lot of the stuff I’m trying to achieve is around intuitive and interpretive interaction that drives a visual design or animated system. You might use a camera, gestural sensor, or a VR headset to capture direct engagement from a user and then use that too. It’s a bit different from other forms of more defined interaction design but many of the same UX principles apply.”

Before wading into the world of motion design, Simon wanted to be a documentary film-maker when he left university in 2004 — a difficult career trajectory, but one that was to lead him toward his current profession and operating at the forefront of technology.

“I made a few indie documentaries but ended up working with a company called Sauce Films — I did a lot of compositing and motion design with them,” says Simon of his beginnings in the world of moving images.

“About six years ago I got really interested in augmented reality (AR), and consequently, creative technology and the new opportunities for narrative and design. At that time in 2012 I was fooling around with using mobile augmented-reality like compositing animation and design onto real-world environments or spaces, which has become more common now, like you see a lot more of now with an AR kit and the plug-in, Vuforia.”

“Then I got involved with an experiential ad agency and got really into doing the augmented reality campaigns and creative technology-based experiential projects which we were doing, and then that’s been my own practice (as well as motion design work) for the last three years since I’ve been independent.”

“I think, for me, I’ve been concerned with really challenging myself and pushing myself out of my comfort zone in terms of what I’m doing and I’m really excited about. I’ve always been really interested in the avant-garde of where motion design, interaction, and tech can go, so I think where motion design is, predominantly, I’m just interested in what’s going to be next, and I think there’s a lot of interest in digital and real-world crossover, in a more fluid way. Design that can be live, dynamic and actively engaged within everyday environments: perhaps an interactive sign that tracks your movement, touchscreens in retail or shop windows or an augmented digital layer that can be seen with mobile or eye-wear.”

“I think the tech will be driven foremostly by user experience (our routine habits and daily needs). There’s a lot of novel tech and potentials out there but the stuff that sticks is the tech that is useful, fun, and compelling — as well as the tech that can provide ROI and tangible analytics to the clients in terms of actual user engagement.”

“You know, it’s interesting, I create creative applications, but they’re pieces of design in the own right and they respond to people, and often in a gestural or a more natural intuitive way — it’s not like where you just push a button.”

“I’ve been doing a bit of UX training recently and it’s really good to understand user experience from the web; you realise it’s really prescribed. I guess the interactions I work with are less prescribed, they can be more organic in the way that people engage with them. It’s not the case of ‘oh, you click a button and you go to this state, or this state, or this state, you know? You might wave your arms, or make a sound, or kick your leg and it, in turn, will respond to you. There are all sorts of unexplored and interesting ways that new tech can engage with people”

“I’ve just finished a 360-degree music video — which I’m kind of excited about — which was completely shot via a creative application processing Microsoft Kinect data in real-time. It’s had a really good response, especially on Facebook as that platform has had 360-interaction support built-in recently!”


“I’ve been working on a couple of projection jobs recently: one for the VR cinema in Collingwood, a creative app that allows live 360-content to be projection-mapped around an entire gallery space on five projectors with spatial audio; and another for realestate.com.au which was an enclosed four-wall projection room in which the viewer can be surrounded by the visuals. I’m also doing a bunch of R&D into capturing gestural motion data and body shapes, and producing generative motion design systems based on this data.” [attached are some images and movies]

“I do a lot of work with a platform called Touch Designer, which is gaining popularity in Australasia, but is quite renowned in the States and Europe, and has a big Russian fanbase. It’s a kind of real-time development platform for generative visuals and design, and some of the big studios that use it are Obscura Digital and Moment Factory. It’s a heady blend of design, video compositing, animation, and visual programming. It allows live programming with visual feedback on the fly — it enables me to rapidly iterate prototypes right through to producing finished applications; another application I use which is similar is called Notch, the two platforms can work together. I like to be open to work with whatever is effective for my projects.”

“We have a really good creative technology community here in Melbourne with Melbourne Media Lab and others, and a really strong motion-design community as well, with NodeFest (that Yes Captain is running every year) and the DLF [Digital Labourers Federation]. I’m really interested in being someone working and traversing skills in between those two disciplines.”

What can you provide, residing in that spot in between?

“I think there’s a real market for digital activations,” begins Simon. “In the last few years I’ve done a lot of digital interactive billboards, brand experiences that people can engage with, but then there’s also all the kinds of opportunities and builds for permanent digital works in buildings and foyers and public spaces for digital interactives. I think it’s exciting that motion design can become dynamic. It may be set up with an underlying visual treatment but then it can altered in real-time by new data or messaging, direct interaction, or perhaps even by the weather outside.”

“I work predominantly in Australia with production companies and agencies — and only occasionally with my home country of NZ — but I’d like to become more international in future. One of my mentors Andrew Quinn is based in Milan, so I’m hoping to head over there and do some stuff with him over there.”

Well, blow me down if that wasn’t the most highly-distilled and thorough learning experience I’ve ever had talking with a designer of any kind. I know some of you are aware of some of the subjects Simon so eloquently spoke about, but I hope there were some details that blew your mind like they did mine. And I’m sure that, as he keeps up the amazing quality of work and the willingness and courage to experiment with new and emerging technology, it’s a matter of time before Simon’s — and responsve’s — work is noticed and embraced worldwide. Keep an eye out.

— QS

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Heath Campbell

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