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Print’s latest Designer of the Week will make you do a double take. Maybe even a triple take. That’s because Alan Bibby is a designer, director, creative director and filmmaker. He uses his keen eye for fashion, art, drama and visual storytelling to work on commercials, music videos, films, fashion editorials and high-profile campaigns for a number of big clients (think Google, Budweiser and Mercedes-Benz).
Read on to learn more about all the hats Bibby wears, his experience getting started in design in New Zealand, and his thoughts on diverse education and how we should “feed and educate our imaginations.”
Name: Alan Bibby
Name of Studio: LOGAN
Location: New York and Los Angeles
How would you describe your work?
Well, I wear a lot of hats—I’m a designer, filmmaker and creative director. I’m a director and creative director at LOGAN—a production company and creative studio based in New York and Los Angeles. The dual role presents an interesting dichotomy.
LOGAN is an award-winning New York and Los Angeles-based creative studio and production company specializing in groundbreaking content creation across various media platforms. Our company is a home to creatives, designers, directors, VFX artists and producers that excel at problem-solving and helping clients bring their vision to life. Logan & Sons acts as the live-action division of LOGAN and represents a broad spectrum of directorial talent.
As a director, my job is to have a very focused and singular vision. As a creative director, my job is to manage the collective vision of a team working on a variety of projects. It’s interesting because you have to leave enough room to inspire and foster creativity among the designers, but also make sure that everyone remains focused in the right direction.
My work ranges pretty drastically, from commercials, to advertising campaigns and experiential work, to short films, to music videos and fine art. There are definite threads of what I’m interested in, in terms of image, technologies, execution and content, but variety keeps me interested.
What design school did you attend?
I grew up in New Zealand, so I actually studied on the other side of the world at Victoria University of Wellington. While I was there, I really had no idea of what I wanted to study. To be honest, I kind of fell into studying design because I had always been interested in art, photography and film.
I was lucky because previously in New Zealand, there was a massive split between studying fine art at somewhere like Elam, and studying design, which was seen as much more as a “trade.” It was the kind of thing you would get a diploma for at a polytechnic—not proper college.
The School of Design had just been folded into Victoria University as a “theory-based” degree course. It was really the first time I had seen design respected as something more than a purely executional trade. It was an exciting moment, since although the aspects of craft—typesetting, gouache, and printmaking—were incredibly strong, the concept of design as a whole was starting to be acknowledged and taught as a much broader practice.
Because the School of Design was part of the university, it also allowed me to study an incredibly eclectic range of subjects outside of pure design. Classes in statistics, economics, literature, and psychology were part of my degree, and looking back they were tremendously important. Even though the topics were seemingly scattershot at the time—statistics, economics, literature, and psychology—that variety really informed the foundation of my career and how I approach things.
A common mistake among young designers is to only look at design. But I think we need to feed and educate our imaginations with a variety of ideas, even ones that seem tangential or inconsequential. This allows us to cross-pollinate ideas and innovate rather than copy. A diverse education allows designers to really understand how what we do fits into a broader picture of society and culture as a whole.
Where do you find inspiration?
It sounds really trite, but I try to take inspiration from everything around me. Art, fashion, literature, film, obviously my friends, family, and collaborators are a huge part of this. Living in New York, I’m surrounded by a constant input stream—music, culture, food, architecture, politics, and of course people.
Looking for specific things is like trying to take a sip of water through a fire hose. Instead, I try to soak up everything and then see what rises to the surface. Often it’s the bizarre intersections of incongruous ideas that really spark a sense of creativity and innovation.
Travel is also essential. You’ve got to look beyond what you know and absorb other places and cultures. I came from a little island, so as soon as I was old enough I really tried to see as much of the world as I could. While I love cities, lately I find myself much more inspired by the natural world rather than hyper-urbanized environments.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
This is really a flavor of the day question. Recently, I’ve really been inspired by the work of Trevor Paglan. I came across him through his book I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have To Be Destroyed By Me, a collection of US military black ops patches.
Paglan does incredible work researching the secret world around us. He really succeeds in making the invisible visible. He really combines social commentary with a personal and artistic vision.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
One of my favorite recent projects was a film I made with Ben Conrad (another director at LOGAN) for Castrol called “Blackout.” The initial brief was to show the drivers and the cars pushing themselves to the absolute limit—cars racing on a track of lights set against the pitch-black darkness.
As we worked on it, the concept was opened up so we could add more concept, story, and execution. The collaborative aspect of it was incredible, both within Logan and working with the drivers, coders, and production to capture it in an intense two-night shoot in Germany. It’s one of my favorite projects as, similarly to what we did with Lexus “Trace Your Road,” we used a design mentality, but applied it to real-world tools and techniques.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
Last year we shot a film for Google Glass with WWF in Nepal. Google wanted to tell a bigger story than the personal stories they’d created before, and show how their technology can have a positive impact on the environment and the planet.
The concept was half scripted/half semi-documentary. Using this dual approach we set out to capture how the WWF was using glass to track rhinos and stop illegal poaching in Nepal. We were shooting in the remote region of Chitwan in Nepal provided a lot of logistic difficulties and opportunities. Beyond this, finding innovative ways to tell this story while remaining true to WWF’s mission was both incredibly challenging and rewarding.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I want to continue to try to make work that combines all my disparate interests—art, design, filmmaking and technology. Working in commercials is a great way to explore new ideas and opportunities, but it can also be very inward facing and hermetic, so it’s essential to work outside of that world too.
I’m currently exploring more long-form film work, as well as playing with a lot of the possibilities that new technologies afford us as storytellers. As designers, we have a responsibility to look at the social impact of what we do, and what we can do, and this is becoming more of a stronger focus for me.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Stay interested in everything especially the things you don’t find interesting.
Additional works by Bibby:
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