Rob Carney meets the former Precursor man behind album typography, games intros and those animal-infested idents for E4.
"I liked the fact that I could make a funeral wreath with flashing fairy lights rise up out of the boardwalk on the beach, and it would be an E4 logo." Noah Harris' latest batch of E4 stings are bizarre - brilliant, but bizarre.
Each of the spots brings an everyday environment - a barn, hotel, beach, loading bay and front room - to life in a fusion of stop-motion, 3D, motion graphics and farmyard animals. These 30-second spots feel like a stream of consciousness is being forced upon you, but it's a stream where you want to kneel down and have a drink. "I wanted to do something that was both cute and dark. I like the juxtaposition, and wanted to create something quite surreal but very appealing," he explains.
"Coming up with the ideas was a fun process," Harris continues. "First of all there is an overall theme for the spot, which is the main environment, and then there are the hundreds of events that populate the space. Initially I came up with lists and lists of events which I then narrowed down. It was a case of thinking, 'It would be amazing to actually do that on set' - like the socks cascading out of the drawer and the pillow crawling up the wall in the hotel ident."
There was another consideration: "E4 appeals to a young and very media-savvy audience. They're pretty jaded with branding and advertising - it's either condescending or it just passes them by. I didn't want these spots to feel like branding. It's also about confidence I suppose. E4 is a well-recognised brand on TV, so I could afford to be a little more flippant with its identity."
Before going independent Harris was one of the founders of Precursor, with Tim Swift and Chris Angelkov. The multidisciplinary agency, based in Shoreditch, flourished for five years, winning clients like Microsoft, MTV, Five and Sony. Nevertheless the trio decided to pursue their own interests several months ago.
"Initially I found it difficult having to be my own creative foil," says Harris. "I left an environment where there were two other strong creative brains to challenge or back up ideas. Suddenly it was just me. I found myself questioning my creative solutions more, which is a good thing I think, and part of the reason it was necessary to leave."
Harris is currently planning a few personal projects that have had to take a back seat. A short film he wrote with a friend has just been funded, and a plethora of smaller jobs fuel his desire to design - even if the fee is non-existent.
We can't finish the interview without asking about the yellow pig that crops up in each of the E4 idents. "Ah, the pig," Harris laughs. "Well, my grandmother made it many years ago." But why did it end up in the idents? "I felt the pig was a nice way of holding everything together - it gave a specific link across the idents, but it wasn't such a focus for him to become a character. It also allowed some sadism. He looks cute, but he's an alcoholic - spot the bottle of booze in the front room, and the drunken stagger in the loading bay. And he generally ends up dead."