Jimmy Simpson Wants His MTV

Our newest ADC Member and New York-based animator creates a new ident for MTV.

Whether you were a fan, are a fan, too old to care or too young to know, MTV has probably made an impact in your pop culture education. Though in recent years its taken a frustrating turn from all about the music to all about the moolah, MTV will always carry a special place in our collective American nostalgia. Like blue jeans, fast food and Coca Cola, this export from the USA is the focus for Jimmy Simpson’s latest project, using MTV’s history, desktop backgrounds and dated technology to create something truly TV-tune-in worthy.

MTV Ident from Jimmy Simpson

When did you fall in love (then out of love) then back in love with MTV?

MTV actually played a pretty big role in what I am doing now. I started watching it the early 2000s at the height of music video budgets. I was probably more influenced by music videos that used animation than cartoons growing up.

I remember some of the animations that would either open to a new show or in between commercial breaks. Would you say your animations are a little bit influenced? Maybe an 80’s, 90’s aesthetic?

I was definitely influenced by the work MTV commissioned in the 80s and 90s. It’s rare that you get to work with a client that has such a great history in animation and I really wanted to reference that. I immediately dove into compilation videos of old idents when I got the brief.

How did the project come about? Were you commissioned?

I actually chased this project down. I shamelessly got a contact from Joel Pilsof who had already created an awesome ident for them. MTV responded within a few hours and we were on the phone later that week. Things couldn’t have played out better.

Explain to us this ‘journey’ the character in the spot takes. He travels almost through different time zones with this heavy stone to then add the missing piece to complete the logo. Was this the initial idea? Why?

The concept I landed on takes you on a journey through the different eras MTV has been a major part of. Each landscape features different relics and references of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s that MTV has outlived. The final scene reveals the old logo and updates it with a lightning strike. This is meant to show how MTV has been able to adapt to different eras over the last 30+ years.

Were there other ways you were thinking of executing this?

The first few days of the project were spent storyboarding a ton of ideas. Most of them were centered around techy stuff like smart phones, 3d printing and online dating. I ended up picking my initial concept because it felt the most timeless.

What did you start with first?

From storyboarding to final delivery the project took a little over 3 weeks. Most of that time was spent designing the different landscapes. I ended up creating a few versions of each with different bits of technology scattered around. The final environments are based off of different desktop backgrounds to tie the technology theme in.

Speaking of music, what is on your playlist while working?

I had this mix on loop during most of the project.

How would you describe your animation style?

I try my best to experiment stylistically with each project. Animation timelines tend to be a bit longer than illustration jobs so there is more time to develop something unique for that particular project. There are definitely reoccurring colors and themes in each of my projects though. For this particular project I was influenced by looney tunes, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ken Price.

How long have you been an animator?

I have been playing with animation in some way or another since junior high. I was simultaneously into drawing and video work so animation became a way to merge the two. Since graduating in 2013 I have been lucky enough to work for some amazing studios and clients.

What’s a project you most proud of?

I would say it’s the Modern Love piece I created for the New York Times a few years ago. It was really exciting to work with a client like that fresh out of school. I feel like I have come a long way since but I am still really happy with the storytelling in that piece.

What was the biggest challenge in realizing this?


The biggest challenge for me with this project was committing to an idea. The only guidelines MTV gave was that it needed to land on their logo and it had to be about technology in some way. Sometimes a brief that open can make it difficult to get started.

What was the best part about working on this project?

I feel like I am constantly trying to bridge the gap between what I like and what I am making. This is the closest I have gotten to both those things lining up. I would say that was the best part about this project.

We noticed the sound and score design is by Vincent Simpson. Any relation?

Vince is my brother! He makes music under the name Lowah and we have been talking about working together for a while. This project was a perfect opportunity to collaborate and we hopefully will again soon.


Design & Animation: Jimmy Simpson
Score & Sound Design: Vincent Simpson