By: Caitlin Dover | June 1, 2007
Impromptu decision-making, we hear, has its virtues. If anyone bears that out, it’s Masayoshi Nakamura: After this unassuming motion-graphics designer moved to the U.S., he landed in his current profession through a combination of happenstance and off-the-cuff life choices.
While growing up in the suburban town of Nishinomiya, Japan, Nakamura first wanted to be a cartoonist. He took art classes and rigorously studied life drawing. With no certainty, as a teenager, about what to do with these skills, he was open to a friend’s suggestion that graphic design was the way to make a living from art—even though, as Nakamura puts it, “my understanding of graphic design at the time was movie posters.” Simultaneously, he developed the notion of moving stateside. “I was in high school, trying to decide what to do, and this just came to mind,” he says. With little English, and few U.S. connections, Nakamura boarded a plane to Boston and eventually moved to New York to get his degree; he chose the School of Visual Arts because Keith Haring had gone there. Not until he took an After Effects course in his junior year did he discover an interest in motion graphics: “It has all the elements I like—movies, images, and music,” he says.
Nakamura’s ability to act on his instincts finds its creative apotheosis in his quietly joyful animations. A stop-motion film made with a collection of cloth dolls opens up a world where the tiny figures wobble, raise their stitched eyebrows, and cause an explosion (rendered ingeniously with painted cotton balls). His music video for Earlimart documents a day in the life of the band with a series of shifting photographs, an effect Nakamura produced by actually cutting up his footage with scissors. “I like to make things imperfect on purpose,” he says. “I like the unevenness that you can’t get using the computer.”
Nakamura’s first chance to apply this aesthetic after school was at MTV—a job that ended swiftly when the company opted not to sponsor him for a work visa. With only a month left before certain ejection from the country, the post-production house Spontaneous agreed to sponsor him. His three years there produced a range of work, including a graceful animation evocative of scroll painting for the Chinese classical musician Wu Man. The piece, for which he scanned rice paper to layer under a computer-based graphic, appeared as a backdrop during her concerts. (“We got to see my work at Carnegie Hall!” Nakamura says.) Lately, he has embarked on life as a freelancer, helping to rebrand Nickelodeon’s program TEENick at New York design firm Adolescent. While he enjoys the work, he longs for the kind of life where he can balance his interests more fully, rather than saving passions such as music (he plays in a rock band) for the evening hours. “Right now, it’s the whole night-and-day thing,” he says. “I’m hoping everything will come together one of these days."