Andrey Shugalsky: I’m in charge of producing visual honey, not of digging deep into the history

Last June, Moscow-based motion designer Andrey Shugalsky aka @dragoy was in charge of our Instagram. We met with Andrey to talk about type, both static and dynamic.

March 1, 2019

Ilya Ruderman: Hello! I would like to share the story of our collaboration with our readers. This all started because I had ran into your Instagram.

Andrey Shugalsky: The reason why I put a link to you is that I used your Druk in some of my work, and grew really fond of this typeface.

IR: That’s right, you practically baited me. You used our font, I reacted. I checked out your work, and that’s how we started communicating with each other.

AS: It took us no more than two lines: “Wanna do a collab?” — “I’d love to! I’ll contact you on Telegram”. We found each other on Telegram, and that was it. It was fast.

IR: Your answer was: “You see, I am now looking at a number of applications, so I need some time. So, please, give me six months for taking my time slowly, no rush, to prepare those videos. I’ll show up when I have enough of them”. We assumed that you would prepare yourself in advance, and then just would be rollin out one image a day for some time. But that’s not what happened.

AS: Well, let’s put it that way, I spent around three months creating these videos. You know, off the job. So back then I used to come home from work, and spent the rest of the day exploring new things and ideas, coming up with those clips. Sadly, it was all crap. Having had finished a bunch of clips, I began hating them all, and started to create new ones over and over. Eventually, I made up my mind: “It can last forever this way. It’s time to push myself out of my comfort zone, and launch the project”.

IR: Which applications have you been studying meanwhile?

AS: Cinema 4D. Yeah, that’s exactly when it all started. Later I added Adobe After Effects. There are some things that I use After for, — and there is other stuff that I create using Cinema 4D. These are two apps that go together well.

IR: Have you learned something new while applying the apps?

AS: Definitely I have. I figured the way they work, and learned to deal with this stuff: motion, graphics, FPS (frames per second). Browsing around, I managed to get the whole idea, and got really carried away. Each time I came up with an idea of composition, I already knew how to loop, how to render it, and so on. I made it all working out right away, ‘cause in each case I knew exactly what tools were to be implemented.

IR: You created lots of loops, teeny-tiny video pieces that repeat themselves on and on.

AS: Frankly, the idea was to produce the stuff that relaxes your mind and lets you rest without making you think, rather than to make some kind of a valuable video clip in terms of information. These are not meant to be ‘meaningful’, you see? They are pretty, you get stuck on those things, all while giving to them your own meaning, your own sense, — even if the author himself didn’t intend his stuff to have any sense whatsoever. People actually enjoy stuff like that, plus it’s fancy.

IR: While you were working, you often told us that originally the plan was to create a completely different kind of video, but then you changed your mind, decided to stay up all night, recompiling the whole thing for making it much cooler. How many heroic acts like this have you actually performed since then?

AS: You’re right, it really was like that, although initially all clips existed in the form of raw materials. For three months, I had been producing these materials, and finalized them after, right before the unloading — delivering a ready render. Why I choose to proceed this way? I knew in advance that, before rolling out each of the finalized videos, you have to spend a considerable amount of time considering each and every piece from a different angle — or a number of different angles. So, it all results in quite a long process. And so the moment I start hating the thing, I would come up with a whole bunch of raw clips, like about 30 pieces, and just render them on the day of release.

IR: As I take it, you wanted to see the response of the audience — and this reaction defined what the final touches to the videos would be. It seems to me that your view of what was going to be a success evolved during this month. Closer to the end, I even noticed that you were already pulling the proven strings, dead sure it would work. You reinvented some materials with regard to what you already had learned about our target audience, and its preferences. Am I right?

AS: You are not. There was only one time that I repeated myself. I’m talking about Nature. It was a sudden idea, by the way. It was a very nice scene: we were driving past a nice landscape in Belarus, me with my friends, and we made a video. Later I added some text to the footage, and this text went well together with the grass trembling in the wind. Still, I had no intention to resort to the AR too often — I challenged myself to try a lot of various things instead. I don’t know if I succeeded, or not, but I certainly managed to use AR less regularly (less often then I wanted to). Though it really is an effective and attractive tool, always capable to drive the whole thing by itself.

IR: Originally we planned to give a chance to each typeface from our collection, or at least to apply a wide range of them. But eventually what we have is a rather narrow set of fonts. Can you tell us more on this collection, elaborate on the fonts? Which of them have you tried, and which you haven’t used at all? Which types work OK, and which, well, — not so much? Tell us what you think.

AS: As you may have guessed, I’m going to speak about Druk, the typeface I like the most.

IR: For the record, you spell it wrong. It’s actually pronounced DrUck, not Drook.

AS: DrUck, exactly. But I have my reason to pronounce it exactly the way I do. This font is my ‘droog’ (‘friend’ in Russian), my buddy. He’s kinda cool, I like him.

IR: I get that. It is fancy, classy. The typeface already has its own big and devoted fun base. But what do you see in Druk? What is so great about it for you personally?

AS: I’m really into wide fonts. I have a thing for them, really. And Druk Wide is fat, huge and hefty. It’s perfect for a composition, since this typeface fills the whole space all by itself, the entire page. It has very clear, distinct forms and character strokes… It’s loud and clear, so simple and so cool! I enjoy things like that. Although, for that matter, its narrow styles is also very well-suited for square graphics, for example, — the ones with a moving swipe! But I still go with the wide.

Or, let’s talk Kazimir, it is great in our clip with a flare. Let me put it this way: I prefer sans serifs. I find them clear, simple and truly modern, up-to-date. As for serifs, I use those much less often. Though I did paid tribute to serifs in my work, expressing my respect for the mere existence of such fonts.

IR: But you wouldn’t opt for it in your own work?

AS: I wouldn’t. For me, a serif font is something, you know, old-fashioned. Wise, huge, a real veteran. Whereas sans serifs are fancy, fast, cool, clear and simple. That’s how I see it.

IR: Look, and which sans serif do you like the most and use more than other ones, which one is your favourite? Do you maybe apply some font right away, by default, upon getting into a new project?

AS: It would be Open Sans, I guess. Because it’s a time-tested thing, in the reliable and proper manner, fulfilling its relevant functions.

IR: Plus, it’s free.

AS: Plus, it’s free, clearly (that’s right). This fact accounts for 50% of its popularity.

IR: Listen, and are there any fonts that you have tried, but it just hasn’t worked out?

AS: Naturally, there are.

IR: You did well with our Graphik though, I gather?

AS: I did, yes. Because it’s a sans serif as well. But not with CSTM Xprmntl 01, no. The thing is that it’s too experimental, so to say. That’s exactly why it hasn’t worked well, for any of my works. The stencil fonts don’t work for me neither — they are not at all about the digital, the motion graphics, about the 3D. Same thing with Karloff. Karloff Collection is way too high-contrast, capable of stealing the whole show.

Naturally, I tried to use all kinds of typefaces. I swear that I’d spent a plenty of time looking through all types, trying to pick the best suitable option… This one is serif, the other one too, and then all of a sudden it strikes me… Damn, it’s Druk! That’s the reason why we had so much Druk applied for these videos — it’s that serif fonts don’t go well with my clips. They just don’t. I mean, my videos are more about the speed, some sort of plasticity and agility, plain and simple, you know.

IR: Listen, you still had overlooked a few more in the range of our sans serifs, namely BigCity, Navigo, Brioni Sans. It is a decent selection to choose from, but you decided not to…

AS: BigCity, yes, one could have chosen this one. Why haven’t I? Because it’s a narrow font. I like my letters to be proportional — proportional enough to be at least fit into square. But this one doesn’t. It’s a bit condensed elongated, and for that matter this typeface is much like Roboto. And I opted for something large, extensive, bulky. Something that rhymes with the whole video.

IR: Which work is your favourite of all our videos posted? Top three, maybe?

AS: Clearly, I liked LOL very much. That’s my number one. Then I just loved Lava. The third one, perhaps, would be Me — You.

Let me tell you about this last one, Me — You. This entry was even commented on by DIA Studio! — They are the guys who allegedly set the whole trend of using kinetic typefaces.

IR: Yes! And this was a reproachful comment, something like ‘Looks familiar’.

AS: Right, of course. It was an allusion to their work, or rather an adaption of their work. Among other things, I build my own experiments on the works of others — of the guys who already create great things. I challenge myself whether I am able to repeat it, or not. I start to look at the image more carefully: is there anything wrong? Or is it actually right? And what’s right, exactly? What were they thinking? And how did they come up with this? Or this?

And you keep thinking and thinking on and on, then you start making things and you realize that you’ve been doing it all wrong. You remake. You reassemble the whole thing while getting an idea how it should be done. That’s how you learn. I have played out this image — in their work it was meaningless but beautiful. The best part of my work is meaningless but beautiful, and here it’s the other way around: I gave the meaning to this image, I inserted the meaning into the image. That is why I’m not ashamed of having added this meaning, not even a bit. Let’s say, I improved it rather than just took it and cloned it, or copied.

IR: All right, let them remember us this way.

AS: But that’s a good thing! They should be glad with the setup: their works are copied, people learn from them, they are being looked at. On the contrary, this should only evoke joy and excitement. The guys have had to come to my post and leave a comment like ‘Wow, that’s great! You’ve been able to replicate, you did a good job!’

IR: And please tell us, haven’t you ever wanted to try your own experiments in this field of type design, thanks to our collaboration?

AS: Actually, this was Misha Gusev who implanted me the love of typography. We used to work together at Yandex, where we sat right next to each other at one table, and had lots of fun. He is such a mad lover of fonts! And this love is tough. It seemed to me that it was, but I guess it really is. He taught me what was right, and what was wrong… Till then, I had no clue what this all was about: types-schmypes, spacings, kernings, body sizes, serif, sans serif… Back in my web designer’s days, I used to create my stuff driven by my own inner sense of the beautiful only.

Misha gave me the love to the plain typographics, the composition of characters… Well, this man has had a strong influence over me, and I was, like, — man, oops, there’s such a thing as typography! And so I started to dig into this: books, video tutorials, typeface-themed Pinterest boards. Then, about a year ago, I added 3D to the equation, — and the rest is history.

And now I started practicing calligraphy. I surely admit that currently this is a global trend — but it’s the trend I like. I’m making things that I like, I repeat the things I like. I remake a plenty of things, I copy a lot of people, I do it all the time. I’m a fast learner, I discover something new, something different. The process of recreating makes me start figuring this out. You take the work of some designer, perhaps a type designer, you look into it very carefully, you get into the details, you try to figure out the way it works. At some point, the thing start to make more sense, it becomes clear and obvious to you. Later, you apply the stuff you’ve learned to your own work so that it looks more cool.

If you look at my Instagram posts, you will get an idea that since the summer there’ve been very unusual and funny things going on in my life. I got carried away to some pretty weird place. So, having rolled out our collaboration, I went into acid.

IR: Yes, I got that.

AS: Now, the acid has become a global trend. I keep saying this word not because I want to pursue the trend. I don’t. But because it looks really cool. Let’s put it like this, it’s a return to the the roots, or back to basics. The basics of web design, and here I’m talking the mad crazy, really huge glares, buttons and convexities, chrome. As for now, it all got pretty much mixed with what they call ‘black-core’. And it looks rather brutal — and still very beautiful. I like this kind of things very much.

You have a lot of that in typography. Type designers really delved in depth with those letters, starting to contort them in every way possible — and creating fantastic shapes.

Black-metal lettering varies stylistically from one band name to another. The common points are bizarrness, decorativeness and total illegibility – because of that, posters for black metal gigs tend to look like a set of white blots against black backdrop.

Yury Ostromentsky: So, our collaboration made you get into a new genre… My understanding is that it is called ‘kinetic typography’. Is there a different term for that? Is there a specific term for that at all, actually?

AS: Let’s call it the motion typographics.

YO: The youngest of all graphic design genres. Have you learned its history? Do you see what direction all this is heading towards? Do you have any idea where it is going to? What it will become in years ahead?

AS: I find it difficult to answer questions like that. I’m in charge of producing visual honey, and not of digging deep into history. When I start to get interested, naturally, I ask myself a question: like, where it came from? I definitely am familiar with DIA Studio who took advantage of all the hype. I’m aware of other guys who followed their lead, starting to produce stuff like this. Some of them succeeded — while for others it didn’t work out so well, so easily. Same with me. To me, DIA Studio are pioneers of the area. That were through their work, namely, that I have discovered such a great professional approach in terms of typography, composition, animation. Those people inspired me, their expertise encouraged my experiments.

YO: And what way is this heading to, do you know? What will it become in five-ten years?

AS: In five or ten years it will certainly shift into the AR field — we’re talking a different sort of interface where the typographics would interact with the outside world. That’s for sure. It’s a bomb, a flash, an explosion. This is our future.

The moment the typography takes some part of motion design offline, characters will turn dynamic. For instance, you have a waltzing sign at the local pizza place: five letters start to form up into the shape of a slice of pizza. Perhaps that’s how it will look like.

YO: And the fonts, will they eventually have to adapt to this new reality?

AS: Not necessarily. I believe that the type will remain the way it was, since the legibility of a font is a very big deal. The readability plays a major role in all this. No, I think that the typography as such won’t change, it will stay the same as before. But we’ll use fonts for creating pretty cool things. It will cease to be static.

IR: Are you familiar with variable fonts?

AS: Sure I am, yes.

IR: Being 2D-designers ourselves, we believe this to be a giant leap into the future of fonts and the typographics in general. The typefaces, finally, will stop being static — they will sort of come alive.

AS: Exactly. This raises the question: why didn’t the types become variable earlier? Why only now? I mean, it’s just numbers we’re talking here. Just patterns. Just the rules that, with the use of certain variables, can be changed, manipulated, twisted and played with…

IR: You are 100% right, I’ll give you that one. Funny fact: the specification updateupdating that took place two years ago was feasible already 15 years ago. Why hasn’t the typographic community undergone this revolution earlier? — That’s a real mystery. Everything was all set, all set a long time ago.

AS: My guess is that there was some pretty lazy designer who didn’t feel like drawing a lot of fonts. So he came up with just one, and somehow programmed it. Then the guy was like ‘Wow! It’s a variable font! Out of just one typeface, you can get 15 more! Now, I won’t have to spend a rest of my life working on it! A single move of the slider gets you a whole new font!’

IR: You’re wrong about that, I’m afraid. Unfortunately, the type designers still have enough on their hands, and even more. Andrey, do you feel like summing up our conversation? Perhaps, giving us some kind of a final feedback on our collaboration project?

AS: I would like to share how grateful I am to all of you. Thank you for having me, thank you for your contribution. By all accounts I get, the project turned to be the huge success. I’m showing the work to all my friends, telling them about the project, and the people who know me and who see the collab, they all say the same: ‘Andryukha, you did really great! It’s just WOW!’

Bottom line, in the end a designer gets everything. Huge success, lots of money, pretty girls, fancy cars.


Mentioned fonts