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Motion Designer Yihan Xu on animating for viral ATTN: video

Yihan Xu has always loved television and the movies, just like so many of us. However, rather than watching her favorite Disney film as a form of entertainment, she would study the way it was put together, how the characters were drawn, the way they went from sketches on a piece of paper to moving images in front of her eyes. She had always loved drawing, but she knew that rather than her art remaining immobile on a piece of paper, she too wanted them to entertain the masses.

“When I was introduced to the term ‘motion design’ I knew it was what I was looking for. It is a combination of illustration and animation. My mind was blown, seeing how those beautiful graphics moved on screen. Every frame could be a poster design. I knew then and there that was how I wanted to spend my future, combining all my interests into one extraordinary career with limitless possibilities,” said Xu.

That feels like ages ago now for Xu, who is an internationally in-demand motion designer. Her resume is decorated with many distinguished projects, such as Justin Bieber’s “Purpose World Tour”, the viral “New Rules” animation for HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, Chris Brown’s “One Hell of a Night European Tour”, the national T-Mobile training video for Samsung’s S8, and countless others. However, the highlight of Xu’s career came in 2017 when she worked on an animation for the popular media company ATTN:, where she used her craft to shine light on a political issue in the United States.

ATTN: uses animation for videos that break down complex political issues such as gerrymandering, comprehensive immigration reform and the Electoral College, to name a few. This video provides an educational explanation of the term “electoral college” in an engaging, fun way, making it easier for viewers to understand just what it means and the implications of such a system.

“Not everyone is into politics and nowadays people have very short attention spans. My approach was to use cute characters to shine light on this pressing issue. I turned each state into a fun and colorful live character that helped explain the situation, rather than just throwing a bunch of statistics at the audience. It was a good way to grab people’s attention and make sure they watched the whole video,” said Xu.

Xu was the lead designer and animator for the video. She did almost 100 per cent of the animation, which included lots of characters, shapes, type designs and camera movements. She also did a lot of background designs and pitched many design ideas as she was involved from the very beginning. She helped create storyboards and style frames, as well as mood boards, really thinking through every frame of the video.

“This project really suited my skillset and my strengths as an animator. I like to do character animation and play with colorful shapes. This was the perfect way for me to express my love of character and colors while making a difference, which is what art is all about,” said Xu.

The video was released as an educational spot about what the Electoral College is on ATTN:’s Facebook page and their website. It received 2 million views solely on Facebook in only a few days after its debut. They have been reposting it every other year, where it consistently gets a lot of attention from its targeted audience.

“It feels rewarding to know your work made a positive impact on a large audience. It feels great that people on social media like the animation and learned what is ‘electoral college’ in the most interesting way possible,” she said. “I got to learn so much in the process as a motion designer about character animation and colors and so on. It pushed me to become a better designer/animator, and every project you work on should do that. It was an unforgettable experience.”

Watch It’s Time to Rethink the Electoral College to see Xu’s thoughtful animation and learn about political issues facing the United States.

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