Kim Dulaney’s skill set is as diverse as her collection of awards. This year, alone, she picked up a Golden Lion at Cannes for Best Design for her OFFF titles, was named in Lrzer’s Archive magazine’s ‘Best 200 Illustrators Worldwide’ and chosen as an ADC Young Gun to boot. Currently based in Brooklyn – her workspace lined with Archigram posters as inspiration – she’s using her vast experience and expertise to branch out as a successful freelancer.
“Collaborations with motion graphics firms account for most of my work,” she begins. “When I work individually with clients, I tend to be commissioned to do illustration or print design. My favourite types of project are the ones that bring new concepts to the table, which in turn expand my visual vocabulary.”
Dulaney’s love for graphic design began in 1999, after being introduced to the field by her uncle while experimenting with illustration styles in high school. “I believed print was an industry I could be challenged with creatively, yet in which I could still maintain my illustrative style.”
Her first big break came in 2008, updating a professional online folio of work for award-winning creative production company Stardust Studios. “I had a lot of creative freedom,” she says, “and helped to create branding for the company as well.” Her projects included a commercial commissioned by Finnish agency Sek & Grey Oy for coffee brand Paulig Presidentti, and a billboard for Hugo Boss, on which she was the lead designer. Already, Dulaney’s original ocular style was being noticed. “Working at Stardust after studying print design really expanded my ability to see design in a dimensional space. Stardust taught me the vital skill of time management while tackling a great deal of work,” she says. “ I was lucky to collaborate with many talented people on dense artistic landscapes for commercial projects.”
After Stardust, Dulaney spent two years working full time at prolific animation, design and visual effects studio Psyop, where she was involved in huge campaigns – for Nokia’s ESeries and Stella Artois, among others. There, she also worked on her biggest commercial project: a video short, directed by Marie Hyon and Marco Spier, for the China Olympics in 2008. TBWA\China’s brief demanded a poetic, sophisticated and awe-inspiring campaign that embraced the idea that ‘impossible is nothing’.
“We wanted to create something epic, but as something understated, intimate and big at the same time,” recalls Dulaney. “This is why we wanted to blend live action – the recognisable athlete and human emotion – and pencil, a softer delicate quality.”
She continues: “There were about five different spots for this job, each showcasing a different athlete. All of the spots took about a year to produce, and were created with traditional cell animation and augmented through the 3D program Massive. It was a rare job because the clients were flexible when it came to suggesting fantastical ideas to add to the script. While working on the project, I also took a cell animation course at the School of Visual Arts. I ended up contributing an animated segment of feathers flowing in the wind. It was very tedious work, but very rewarding in the end,” she smiles.
After working on such complex, fulfilling projects with Psyop, why then did she decide to go freelance? “Though I was challenged at both Stardust and Psyop, I never felt like I had time for personal work,” she explains. “I would receive inquiries for projects that I didn’t have the chance to create in a motion graphics firm. I wanted to branch out and start doing non-digital art, such as painting and drawing. I also wanted to nurture a newfound interest in jewellery design [one of Dulaney’s major personal projects]. This choice gave me the freedom to be open to more opportunities with different types of companies outside of the realm of motion graphics.”
Armed with paper, some pencils, a Wacom tablet and Photoshop, Dulaney found that she could take on whatever brief suited her interests and eye for a fun challenge. “I try to work off-computer as much as possible, depending on the timeframe of a job,” she says. “Sketching out the concepts first is key. Sometimes I like experimenting with other media that might complement an idea. For one project for Cirque du Soleil I used a scanner to create abstract images. I captured abstracted light refractions on a broken DVD case to use as light elements, and then accentuated the results by adding droplets of water between the case and the surrounding thin layer of plastic.”
Dulaney has recently worked with Passion Pictures New York to make a short for the Red Bull Music Academy. “It’s hard to pick one project that represents me as a designer, but this short that I made with Passion Pictures’s Pete Candeland would be it,” she reflects. “It was a three-minute video representing music in eight different cities. Each city had a different director, style and animation technique. I helped direct the spaghetti western segment of the short, which was set in Rome. In it, I was designing a war between cowboys and zombies, which was a blast to make; creating the visuals would often have me giggling to myself in a quiet corner. Working on the Rome section was an amazing collaborative experience. The absurd spirit of the project made it very fun for me. It taught me how to enjoy designing characters, and making them interact successfully with each other.”
Ask Dulaney what she’s working on at the moment and the answer is typically diverse: “I’m currently busy with a spot for the 2012 Olympics with Passion Pictures, as well as concentrating on my jewellery line, Fortune. After being inspired by miniature sculptures and working with tangible materials again, I’m using supplies that are either rare or vintage, so most pieces are one of a kind,” she smiles. “I’m also working on a large mural – I haven’t painted for a very long time, so I’m excited to get back into the game.”