Naomi Atkinson on inspiration, Animatable and more

Designer and co-founder of the Animatable animation app Naomi Atkinson answers your questions on what she finds inspirational and how animation can support accessibility

This article first appeared in issue 222 of .net magazine - the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

@glenwheeler: I was looking at your breast cancer design. How did you decide on those colours?
Naomi Atkinson: When working with an established company (or charity, in the case of Breast Cancer Care), it’s expected that they’ll provide a set of brand guidelines to adhere to. These specify brand colours as well as things such as typefaces, rules around logo usage, and use of photography or illustration.

Breast Cancer Care had a successful, recognised offline brand (leaflets, advertisements and posters), following their brand guidelines. It just hadn’t been successfully applied online. My job was to consume that branding and style it for an online environment – including their existing colour palette.

@SparklinGuy: What is the one thing you’d never want to design?
NA: That’s a great question. I’ve had some difficult projects: a betting site (a huge amount of learning had to be done); banking (huge limitations in the UI and functionality that could be used); public Wi-Fi providers (the company was too big and decisions too dispersed to get the right thing live); through to working with an architects’ firm where too many designers spoiled the pretty soup.

I’d like to think, now I work for myself, that I wouldn’t take anything on that I didn’t believe in. That’s hard when there are bills to pay, but I try to keep to that sentiment wherever I can.
Back to your question, I can’t think of anything that I’d never want to design. I see a challenge in everything I’m thinking of (a site or app for a reality show, a taxidermist, a police station, adult content, the local gardeners’ club, pencils, or bacon ...) Where there’s a challenge, there’s an urge to try it!

@Chris_Krammer: What do you find most inspires you?
NA: Our world. It sounds corny and obvious, but the thing that has always inspired me the most is my surroundings. Whether that’s a breathtaking view of a country I’m new to, or the pattern of a shadow on my desk or in the marble tiles of a bathroom, it inspires me on an equal level.

I’ve always been extremely visual, in my learning and understanding of something, in my (vivid) dreams and imagination, and in the way I often explain or remember things. So everything around me directly affects and inspires me – my work, my mood, my creativity, and my productiveness.

@addy_osmani: When will Animatable finally get a release date?
NA: As soon as it’s ready. We’re all very excited to get Animatable released; however, the most important thing for us is to get it right.

@JamieKnight: Does animation support accessibility; how can we move the web forward without leaving people behind?
NA: Animation can support accessibility by using clean semantic markup. Take a look at the code used for this animation: animatable.com/demos/madmanimation.

If all animations end up being created in this way (which is the main driver behind why we’re developing Animatable – a web app to easily do so), we’ll be successful in moving the web forward. There will always be languages other than HTML5 and CSS3 to create animations, but once people really start to see the benefits of a fully accessible animation for their brand, service or product, they’ll be determined not to be left behind.

@whiteboxwebby: Did you start your career thinking that you would start your own agency, or was this something that developed over time?
NA: I had absolutely no idea that I would start working for myself – I spoke more about this in my recent interview at thegreatdiscontent.com/naomi-atkinson.

I only felt the pull towards working for myself after gaining experience at other agencies spanning just over six years – I certainly wouldn’t want to change my path into self-employment. I learned a great deal in that time, much of it subconsciously, that has only come to light after dealing with something now, on my own.

@DanielDiggle: Do you still make your tea ridiculously milky?
NA: I do indeed. I used to claim it was ‘northern tea’, but have since come to realise that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever – what I actually drink is ‘baby tea’!