When the pandemic first reared its ugly head back in March 2020, it threw almost all aspects of our lives out of whack, virtually overnight. Despite its damage to jobs and social scenes, newfound freetime was at a premium, offering artists a sliver of a silver lining to hone crafts they previously might not have had time to take on.
2D type animator Mat Voyce is a poster child of this pandemic productivity. He used the UK lockdown as an opportunity to devote himself to mastering his animation skills and type style by providing literal words of encouragement to his growing community of followers on Instagram. Voyce took advantage of the widespread desire for virtual connection by churning out bite-sized social media snippets of bouncing, flouncing, and twisting phrases almost every day.
Years later, his freelance career is now flourishing. Voyce has been commissioned by heavy-hitters such as the United European Football Association, Instagram for Business, and Ed Sheeran and Lil Baby for their “2Step” music video. Below, he talks with us about his art practice and creative journey.
How would you describe your animated type aesthetic?
There’s a huge amount of childishness to my work. It’s all a bit naïve and rough cut. My work represents a huge range of illustrated typography that infuses letterforms with character and personality.
My style taps into that nostalgia that people who were born in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000’s feel and can relate to. The illustrated type in the old TV shows and films I watched over and over as a kid still sit in the back of my mind, and serves as a permanent reference point.
How did you develop this style? What have been your biggest influences?
I grew up in the era of Rayman, Ape Escape, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Ghostbusters, and I was obsessed with the typography in these games and shows as a kid. It has always had a powerful visual effect on me.
I trained myself as an illustrator who designed static type as a side hustle, which gave me a huge skill boost when I started introducing motion to my work. I learned plenty of character animation to animate fun little walk cycles and emotions. The combination of my approach to give the same emotion to letterforms just became something totally new.
One of my biggest influences has also been the website Art of the Title. It’s dedicated to title sequences and animated type, collected from pretty much any film or show.
Movement is obviously such a critical part of your work. When you’re creating an animation, what’s your process behind deciding on the movement of a particular word or phrase?
Depending on the project, it can really vary. For example, if I’m working on a client project, I always try to propose a range of motion ideas through simple storyboards, providing reference links to similar motion styles or ideas. But if it’s a personal design, unless I have already seen something I want to try, it’s just experimenting to see what I end up with. It sounds a little unrealistic, but because I’ve been doing this for years now, both as a hobby and career, I can just jump straight in with creating and come up with a motion style or animation as I go.
In terms of finding the perfect word, I still have a note on my phone that has hundreds of phrases and single words I can reference. This is something I add to on a daily basis as soon as I either see or hear a word, or have an idea pop up in my head. Walking down a city street feels like a moving reference board— seeing all of the type out there and imagining how it could come to life.
Your work is so positive and upbeat. Where does that instinct come from? Have you always wanted to create art that would spark joy in others?
I originally started messing around with animated type during lockdown. Here in the UK, lockdown was pretty heavy, just as it was in most places, so there was a lot of negativity. Plus, people were spending a hell of a lot more time on their phones and on social media, basically relying on the digital world to keep them entertained or to stay positive. That’s when I started animating fun little type-based badges and words that expressed themselves both through their illustrated style and animation. I wanted to create positive things; things that would jump out at you on screen, and quite literally make you smile or emote.
Soon, this became almost a daily practice during lockdown, meaning I essentially had almost two years of everyday practice creating different styles of animated type. It was like a crash course in my passion. Looking back at it all now, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love how everything I am today started through a couple of positively animated words.
What is it about animating type, words, and letterforms specifically that you enjoy so much?
Typography is one of my true loves in life. Being able to bring life and character to lettering— something that is so universal— is pretty damn special. Making a word show an emotion through movement, styling, and animation holds a unique quality that I find addictive. Words have so much potential. We see lettering, words, and typography every waking minute of the day— it’s on the streets we walk, it’s on the packaging of the food we eat, and it’s on every single phone screen across the globe— so why not bring the static to life, and give it a second visual meaning? That can make one hell of a difference. I’m making myself a path to create that difference, which feels amazing.