An illustrator, a blogger, an animation producer, a children's book author and an artist. Christoph Niemann redefines what it means to be a multitasker.
From the work studio at his home in Berlin, Niemann's illustrations are internationally renowned and his work has graced the cover of The New Yorker more than 20 times, as well as widely recognized publications such as Wired and The New York Times Magazine.
Now, he's turning his hand to more interactive drawings. Enter Petting Zoo and swipe and tap the animals to see their hilarious reactions; it's a suitably sharp-witted creation from someone this talented and is oodles of fun for all ages. And then there's CHOMP, where you can watch your kids get creative as they put their face on quirky hand-drawn animations of animals.
So, what was the inspiration to take a step away from putting pen to paper and to design these apps? Here's the story of how they were made, and what his philosophy on drawing is.
From analogue to digital you've worked with traditional media for many years?
I was an illustrator for magazines and newspapers for a long time. But before all of that, I was an imaginative little boy. What if my drawings came to life? What is the inky torso, got up and ran across and out of the paper?
Then one day, I met the iPhone. The screen related instantaneously to my touch. I got my first idea there. Drawings that come to life at the touch of a finger!
And that, as. result, developed into Petting Zoo in 2013?
My idea became more concrete and refined while I was playing video games with my kids. My kids were owning me in the game, and recommended that I try the practice mode. I pressed a button, and the football player lifted his leg. Another button made the character pivot around. The unexpected reaction of the character made it fascinating and very fun. So that's where I decided to apply that concept to an app for children.
Petting Zoo only required one finger to interact with the drawings, but CHOMP adds a new element to it: the face. When your face is reflected on camera, your likeness becomes part of the moving drawing on screen, A rabbit with the face of... me? It almost feels like I'm playing a role.
What technical challenges did you overcome?
When I was still a kid, I collaborated with a friend who was great at coding. Together, we created a computer program for leaning maths and Latin, but the process was like that of playing a game. That experience gave me a basic understanding of coding. Nonetheless, when I developed my app, the first successful moving drawing took me a good six months! Rather than tackling it alone, I teamed up with Jon Huang, who was a programmer at the The New York Times. The collaboration was virtual, as Jon coded in New York, and I drew in Berlin.
You also wrote a children's book. What specially appeal does an app have over the traditional book?
I think that would be sound and movements. I find my kids giggling while they play with my apps. Their touching and tapping are immediately met by a reaction in the drawing, and that's great. It's like playing hand in hand with a friend. I obviously don't mean that apps are superior to books, but such experiences are difficult through books.
Perhaps one day, the number of app readers might be greater than that of book readers. As the world and the readership changes, do you think the same changes are needed on the part of creators?
I think so. Obviously, there's a level of discernment necessary on the latest developments. However, turning a dismissive blind eye to 'the latest trends' is a dangerous attitude to have. I'm only speaking as an artist, but I think the way people approach and engage with drawings will continue to change. So, there'll always need to be some sort of adjustment to make sure we're speaking the same vernacular.
The Art of simplicity - All the drawings in the two apps were hand-drawn
Except the concept sketches I drew with a pencil, the rest was done entirely on a tablet. That approach was conducive to capturing the big picture of the app, the aesthetic experience and how it all flowed together. Petting Zoo features about 8-10 minutes of animated drawings, and that required more than 4,000 drawings. Had I approached that challenge the traditional way, I might still be drawing.
Simple, yet insightful drawings leave a lasting impression. What considerations did you make to move away from a more photo-realistic and elaborative approach?
My intention was not focussed on conveying an experience of reality. Let's say I draw a car, that was archetypally simplified, yet not very realistic in a practical sense. Then let's saw the car was rendered in a 3D with maximum realism. What type of experiences do you think the two would convey to the user?
For example, 3D model cars convey a great deal of information; whether it's the manufacturer, the texture of the rubber treads or the metallic tone of the body. All that information is consumed by the user.
But what about the simpler drawings? They convert to the viewer their own memories that can fill in. For some, it'll bring back memories of their first car, while for others it might be the special ride they have been saving up for. It could even be a memory of an amazing F1 race car seen on the circuit. Rather than a symbol of hard, non-malleable information, the drawing becomes a means to evoke memories. So, this simple drawing of a car is the essence of archetype of what a car can be. I think in that context, simplicity can touch hearts.
Seeking that essence is what many of the App Story editors who write about apps also aspire to do.
I think writing shares a lot of that. What is truer to the essence: 'eating fruity and savory hot soup' or 'slammed down a bowl of soup'? Using more words or fancier words with verbal acrobatics won't make the same soup any zestier. There's an economy of self-control to it. The best writing comes from using the right words in absolute moderation.
So, the two apps are also the result of tremendous self-restrain?
Of course. I absolutely adore drawing. I can get greet fully tied down on a portraying each strand of animal's furry coat. However, before making the choice of 'to fur, or not to fur', I. must ask myself the following: does drawing the fur help move the story along? Or is this becoming a vanity project? The important thing is how well I convey the story of this animal, not how amazingly I can draw it.
What top priorities or purposes did you set when creative Petting Zoo and CHOMP?
I wanted to place user experience before my experiences as an artist. To a 5-year-old in Korea, or an 8-year old in Brazil, my drawing skills are actually not very important. Finding a connection, moving their hearts and minds. Those were really my only goals.
Source ð App Store
Talented artists taking art to a whole new level with their creativity. Here are some of those best artworks. Get them and beautify your room walls. Also hope you all had a great Christmas, and preparing for a new set of resolutions.
Recently started posting on instagram focused on two thing, fonts and their possible abstract uses, with just my sudo name.
Designing always requires grids and layouts for neatness and clarity. Yet there are designs that may make you think otherwise.
New trends defy the boundaries and sticking to layouts and grinds isn’t their thumb rule, as they just want to have fun. Which in turn makes this interesting and much more open to newness.
But still, usually if you are using 90-100% layouts and grids, go out of your comfort zone and use abstract art for designing, and bring in only 5-10% of an element to be in grid, that’s where neatness strikes.
Note closely, the abstract quotes in the design below, may look like they are not following any layout, yet there is a grid that is holding them together, with colors used to focus in a hierarchy. Will update this post with more examples.
How that small tip helps in designing better.
Japanese embroidery artist 刺繍画家 イプノット
Although I still don't know his actual nick name, everywhere he's known as 'ipnot'. There's info on his website about him. Must read for inspiration. His work shows great dedication and patience. for an embroidery this art style is so difficult. Really Loved the noodles. 🍝
For future inspirations follow him on Instagram.
There're many talented people out there. Just look out, learn and share what you can. Sharing is caring, and that's how you grow yourself as a creative.