Merrell: Run Wild, 2003


Location: New York, New York
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What is the place of graphic design within the worlds of advertising and animation? Each of these realms has its own visual tradition, business culture, and technical methodology. Surprising results, however, emerge when design takes the lead in an ad campaign or an animated spot, as evidenced by the painterly work of PSYOP.

At this multimedia design firm, the creative process begins with still imagery generated by a team of designers and composed from drawn illustrations as well as photographs. These initial images, often built from dozens of layers of color, texture, and image, are then interpreted as a moving sequence. As PSYOP explains, “It’s become a bit of a game between design and production. Our design team keeps trying to come up with styles and images that seem nearly impossible to translate into motion, which ends up inspiring our animators and technical team even more.”

Consider, for example, PSYOP’s Internet spot Drift for Bombay Sapphire, an eerie and seductive thirty-second film whose scrolling narrative combines live action and animated imagery. While the flattened aesthetic of Japanese prints establishes the piece’s overarching visual reference, the camera seeks out spatial depths within the landscape, revealing subtle three-dimensional effects that are a hallmark of PSYOP’s work. The Bombay spot ends with a bottle of gin, but the rest of the piece functions as an engaging narrative in its own right. A similar attempt to treat advertising as independent entertainment is seen in Run Wild, a forty-second spot for the popular shoemaker Merrill, in which a fierce bunny with a running shoe for a heart overtakes his forest friends in a race.

PSYOP borrowed its name from the U.S. government’s Psychological Operations division, and the company has cheekily adopted the agency’s slogan as well: “Persuade, Change & Influence.” At a time when consumers are bombarded with more messages from more media than ever before, PSYOP seeks to win over the hearts and minds of the public through creative content that people willingly seek out and enjoy.