Michael O'Neill

If you love singing to your cat, watching horror films and researching Norse mythology, you might be award-winning and world-renowned English novelist Neil Gaiman. Or, you might be Brafton Lead Animator Evelin Serritos.

Lucky for us, Odin and Thor don’t take up all of Evelin’s time – she also comes to work ready to bring to life the artistic visions of Brafton’s clients.

In the past three years, Evelin has sprouted from her humble Junior Animator roots to help oversee Brafton’s company-wide motion graphics efforts across three offices and time zones. Even Neil Gaiman can’t say that.

Around the globe and back again

When your job is to conceptualize the most creative ideas for a vast array of clients, it helps if you have plenty of worldly experience to lean on.

Evelin’s origin story begins in Saltillo, the capital city of Coahuila, Mexico, where her creative mind was already flourishing in the form of hand-drawn images posted proudly to the refrigerator.

Soon after, young Evelin moved with her family to Michigan and tried her hand at rewriting popular theme songs (we’ll spare you the details).

Further along in her travels, Evelin landed once more in Mexico, then on to Brazil, Australia, Thailand and then finally, Chicago.

Throughout this whirlwind journey, she honed her illustration and video skills with the ultimate dream of becoming a CG animator for Disney/Pixar. After a bit more refinement and technical training, she decided 3-G animation wasn’t her true passion, finding the intensive pre-work, character readings and software requirements a bit too confining.

After graduating college from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Evelin perfected her 2-D motion graphics expertise through a number of internships and professional gigs before being referred to Brafton by a friend of a friend. (Thanks, whoever you are!)

And now here we are.

Behind the scenes of animation

We could all learn a thing or two from Evelin: For starters, she’s a great chef, can recite any line from Vincent Price’s repertoire and is the happiest-go-lucky person in the Brafton Chicago office. On this last point, she even has the medal to prove it, winning the coveted Q1 Brafton Spirit award – not to mention, she’s been crowned champion of Festacle.

Personal and professional achievements aside, Evelin also conveys excellence in the work she does every day planning and producing animations from scratch. It’s no easy task.

“The biggest challenge in the life of an animator is walking the fine line between what the client wants and what is best for the larger idea,” Evelin said. “You can’t do everything the client wants, but you also have to make them happy.”

It’s this give and take that can lead a project off the rails or off the charts.

Asked what most people aren’t aware of in terms of the start-to-finish process, Evelin noted it’s the planning and approval work that goes on behind the scenes.

“People don’t realize that with animation you have to spend time creating characters and backgrounds out of thin air, in addition to getting all visuals approved by the client,” she said. “It’s typically a two-step process that includes scripting, storyboarding, finding voice talent, selecting songs, editing and timing audio, prepping and importing files – then the actual animating begins.”

To keep production moving along as fast as possible, Evelin ensures all internal and external stakeholders are involved from the start. Transparency on timelines, processes and goals at each stage of production is also key. Client and departmental expectations should likewise scale with every step.

While some of Evelin’s best work is featured all over the web and is now used internally for training purposes, not every project is without frustration.

“One client wanted simply designed characters and for them to wave,” Evelin reminisced. “When I did exactly what they wanted, they didn’t like it and said it was too much like the Simpsons. I had to go back and reanimate everything.”

Fortunately, that didn’t deter Evelin, and she now plays a larger role in mentoring other animators, informing clients on strategies and steering projects in the right direction. Also, what’s wrong with the Simpsons?

Animation of the future

As content marketing evolves, so too do animation trends and illustration styles.

“The flat, vector trend was more common a few years ago,” said Evelin. “Now tasteful gradients are becoming more popular. Clients also want more cinematic, dimensional and narrative-driven animations that have fun, approachable tones of voice.”

The industry isn’t changing entirely due to business demands, however. Generational differences are already impacting animation choices.

“It’s not just about information, it’s about portraying a story about how a product can help versus what a product is,” she continued. “Immersive, interactive experiences that connect multiple platforms will soon be the new norm.”

Regardless of where the future of animation heads, Evelin said the one constant is creativity.

“The most important thing is to focus on the creative aspect,” she said. “This can’t be taught. You can teach technical skills, but you have to be rooted in creativity and open to new things. Conceptualizing is an important skill that lasts forever.”

And forever is a long time, even for Norse gods.