Alessandro Novelli: Clarity of Concept

Barcelona-based ADC Member leads an animation studio built on personal growth

ADC’s Motion and Animation Month is back! After featuring the many illustrators, photographers, letterers and typographers within the ADC community here on the ADC blog, it’s once again time to highlight on the artists who breathe life to still images and make them move. From traditional cel animation to 3D animation, from TV interstitials to web series, July’s featured ADC Members run the creative gamut in an industry whose output is as challenging and time consuming as it is rewarding.

Kicking off a new week on the ADC Blog is an acclaimed Barcelona-based director and animator with a number of Vimeo Staff Picks under his belt and small, hands-on team to put them there.


alessandronovelliALESSANDRO NOVELLI
Barcelona, Spain



Of course most people were first exposed to animation from after school and Saturday morning cartoons, but what’s your earliest memory of being interested in motion and animation as something that people actually made?

Actually it was when I first realized the potential of the media. Something that gives you entire freedom and an infinite spectrum of possibility, where the only limit is the creator. Also the need of create things, to make them move and tell stories under different ways.

Did you study formally, or were you consider yourself more self-taught? What were some of the earliest lessons you learned about the art form?

I studied digital design in Turin, Italy, which means everything and nothing at the same time! Then I had a scholarship for SVA in New York, and from there I started working as an animator and designer. I then took a Master in Barcelona, and suddenly after that I started my studio!

Earliest lesson? that 50% of what we do is “contacts”.

How would you best describe your style? Do you fight against having a telltale style, or do you embrace it as your brand?

I have been thinking about my style quite a lot. Right now I feel that I can have quite different visual approaches, but what I’m trying to do is give a similar conceptual direction to my work, using certain constants and opening myself to different graphic possibilities that most of the time are dictated by the narrative.

What was your first big break, where this truly went from being an interest or pursuit to being an actual job?

After I got that one-semester scholarship at SVA, I had the opportunity to attend a theoretical/technic motion graphic class. At the beginning I wasn’t sure about it, but after a chat with Juan Delcan and Mark Bellncula, my teachers at the time, I decided to stay. I feel that that motion graphic class was something really special and the beginning of what I am now, as a professional.

Do you remember some of your early work? Comparing it to your latest work, the kind of projects you do now, what is the biggest change you’ve noticed? What about your work or your process has remained the same?

My first works were more like “you have to do this and that.” Right now the biggest change for me is being on the director side, getting my team involved in each step of a production, growing all together and getting better results.

Sell yourself and your style by completing the following sentence: “Clients and collaborators should come to me when they’re looking for…”

…when they’re looking for something unique and special and want to show what they do under a different light.

Are you freelancer or are you part of a regular team? What do you consider to be the biggest pros and cons of your situation?

Actually right now I have my own animation and design studio, in Barcelona. The main pro is the freedom I have in doing and choosing what I want to do and support with my work. The main con could be the big difference of being self employed and constantly looking for work and projects, as well as to be an employer and have a sort of economical stability.

Snapshot! Take a photo of your desk/work set-up. Why do you suppose you have things just so?


I spend most of the time here, on this desk, and I have another just to paint or animate on Cintiq. Production papers on the wall, headphones, sketchbook and water; that’s what I always need! Oh yeah. you can also see a weird post-it on my webcam!

Do you experiment with software/tools/techniques, or do you tend to stick with what you know?

On commercial projects I try to stay close to what I know as far as software and technique are concerned. Instead I try to express more of my style, point of view and technique on personal projects, where there are different needs. The best thing would be to get the chance to create commercial projects where it is possible to work like personal ones. This would probably guarantee better results and pieces both to clients and studios

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, which one are you most proud of? Tell us about the project, and why it holds such a special place in your heart.

Probably the “The Alphabet”. This was my first personal project at a time when I didn’t have any job. This was also my first time using a tablet. It is a simple concept: a typography hornbook, like the one in schools. I developed it while I was living in Brooklyn. First it started like a simple animation test and after a while I started developing a more complex project that brought me to elaborate the final Alphabet. I’m still in love with it, both for the design and animation I archived with it. It may be quite simple, but at the time it was a really beautiful step forward for what I was doing, and it opened a lot of doors for me, from my first Vimeo staff pick to many contacts and studios who suddenly started being interested in my work.

Motion and animation is often accompanied by sound or music. How do you approach working with audio elements? Do they help form your visuals? Are you listening to them throughout? How involved are you in this part of the process?

Great audio goes hand in hand with great motion. If it doesn’t, it can turn a great project into a lesser one. If I’m ever working on something with audio, I work hard to make sure everything is working together.

It really depends on the production. Sometimes I do the sound design direction, but we try to give a lot of freedom to the sound designers and musicians if there aren’t any client limitations. Half of a video is made by a good sound design and music, so I try to use the “audio” component to push the narrative and drive the viewer through the entire video, stressing the moments where more attention is needed or where a concept has to pass.

Where do you go to get a much needed creative jolt, whether online or in the real world?

Mostly in the real world, getting in contact and sharing with people, and in books, music or other forms of art.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about what you do?

Time, money and possibilities. Lots of people, even clients, aren’t really conscious of what animation is, how difficult and long it is to create. I feel that a lot of clients aren’t really aware of the costs of animation. They think it can be done by “yesterday”, instead of understanding the complex creative and productive process that’s behind it.

What’s the last project you did for yourself, as opposed to for a client or a job? What do personal projects mean to you and your craft?

I am currently working on my second professional short movie, Contact. Personal projects give me and my team a way to conceptually and technically experiment with things that clients are sometimes afraid of, or not really open to. It’s a way to transform what we do as a kind of “art”, and communicate concepts and stories that I feel are not explored so much, or can be ignored by mass markets and advertising.

Which of your peers, the people in your orbit, are making work that you are digging right now? What about them do you like?

Hmm, I don’t really know! I feel like I’m quite outside the animation and design environment, and at the same time I’m trying to get rid of all the visual references and research I was used to. I think that’s the way to create something unique and new, something that is inspired or drive by other needs and reflections. In general I really love people who try to do new techniques, new styles and narratives. They are not afraid of “trying”, and can propose a change, something different, that’s not the same trendy stuff.

What’s your favorite part of the entire creative process of motion and animation?

Actually I don’t have a favorite part! I try to work on everything, from the concept development to the final compositing. I’ve always worked in small teams, where everybody could handle everything. That’s the way I learned and I keep working. It makes me feel I can get a better result and a better understanding of the project itself, plus a personal growth in different fields.


Motion & Animation Month takes place throughout July, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!