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Finding That Feeling with Unlisted’s Hugo Jackson


Creative director on his love-hate relationship with routine, the importance of originality and how AI has changed the industry

Finding That Feeling with Unlisted’s Hugo Jackson

Unlisted creative director, Hugo Jackson, is sought throughout the animation world for his exquisite art direction and keen eye for lighting. An incredibly versatile and adept director, Jackson has plied his talent in every form of animation, from photo-realistic to beauty to character work. Before joining Unlisted, Jackson worked internationally and graced the likes of the Mill, Buck and Iloura, where he led numerous award-winning films.

LBB> How would you describe your personality?

Hugo> I would describe my personality as driven, passionate, adaptable, enthusiastic, and imaginative. I am someone who enjoys challenges and finding new solutions to problems. 

LBB> How do you like to see the world?

Hugo> I like to see the world as a place of endless potential and possibility. I believe that creativity is a powerful tool that can be used to make the world a better place and that no matter what you want to achieve, hard work and dedication will get you there.

LBB> Do you think creativity is something that’s innate or something that you learn – why?

Hugo> I think creativity is a combination of both innate ability and learned skills. While some people may have a natural inclination towards creativity, it can also be honed and developed through practice and experience. It definitely wasn’t innate for me and took many years to develop my own creative side. It was there from a very young age with music, but when it comes to art and animation, I’m definitely still working on it everyday!

LBB> Would you consider yourself and introvert or extravert – or something else?

Hugo> I would consider myself an ambivert, as I enjoy both social interaction and quiet reflection. I find that both introspection and collaboration are important for the creative process. 

LBB> How do you feel about routine?

Hugo> I have a love-hate relationship with routine. On one hand, routine can provide structure and stability, which can be helpful for getting things done. On the other hand, too much routine can stifle creativity and limit the opportunities for exploration and discovery. My life is quite structured and I don’t let chaos interfere as much as I can, and I think this is really important to achieve goals in life. However, when it comes to enjoying life and the little things it has to offer, you need to let spontaneity and the unknown into your days to make sure you don’t get sucked in and keep a nice work life balance.

LBB> When it comes to creative ‘stuff’ that you enjoy, do you like things that are similar to the work you do or do you enjoy exploring 

Hugo> I like things from a huge variety of places. I constantly find myself saving images and films that move me and I’m always surprised at the variety of work that touches me. I’ve always been like this even with music, where I could listen to such a wide range of genres and enjoy it all for what they had to offer musically, regardless of where it came from. I find the same to be very true with art and animation.

LBB> How do you assess whether an idea or a piece of work is truly creative? What are your criteria?

Hugo> Personally, the way I assess whether an idea or a piece of work is truly creative is how it makes me feel. The impact it has when I first see it. Back when I was in animation school in France, we had this amazing art history teacher who taught us about something special that every piece of art has, but is very subjective to the viewer. It was called the Punctum. This really stuck with all of us in class and I think this Punctum can come from anywhere, from anything. It is very personal but really is the reason why a piece of work has an impact on somebody. 

I also consider several criteria such as originality, unpredictability, relevance and value. An idea or work that is unique, addresses a relevant issue, has the potential to inspire others, and adds value to the field is considered to be truly creative.

One of the most crucial qualities for me is originality. I look for ideas that are new and have not been done before. Unpredictability is also crucial, as I believe that truly creative work should surprise and inspire the audience. Relevance matters because a work or concept that addresses an issue or satisfies a need is more likely to succeed. Impact is significant because it gauges how much an idea or piece of work has the potential to inspire or impact others. Finally, value is important because I believe that creative work should add value to the field, industry, or society.

LBB> Has that criteria shifted or evolved over the years?

Hugo> My criteria for creativity have evolved over the years. As the industry changes and new technologies emerge, especially the rise of AI image generators, we’ve seen a major shift in what we can perceive as creative.

As AI technologies such as Midjourney have become more prevalent, my criteria for what I consider to be truly creative work has evolved. Initially, I was skeptical of the ability of AI to produce truly creative work. However, after experiencing the results for myself, I have come to appreciate the potential for AI to augment and enhance the creative process.

That being said, I still believe that human intuition and emotional connection are crucial elements of truly creative work. While AI can generate impressive visuals and designs, it lacks the capacity for empathy and emotional resonance that can only come from a human touch… for now. This might change soon though.

Therefore, in my assessment of whether an idea or piece of work is truly creative, I now consider the level of human input and involvement in the process. AI can be a valuable tool in the creative process, but it should not be relied on as the sole source of creativity. The best results come from a collaboration between technology and human intuition.

Overall, I believe that the rise of AI image generators like Midjourney has opened up new avenues for creativity, but it is important to understand their limitations and not to rely solely on technology for creative solutions. I am very excited to see where this is going.

LBB> What creative campaigns are your proudest of and why?

Hugo> The latest campaign I’ve worked on is probably the one I’m the most proud of. It is a mascot reveal film for the 2023 Fifa women’s world cup that will take place in Australia and New Zealand. I loved directing alongside my good friend Jeremy Mansford who took care of the 2d section of the film, which focused on the mascot’s backstory, while I was in charge of the 3d part which was more of a football skills demonstration sequence. This project was really close to my heart as I’m a big football fan and football is my son’s biggest passion, so this really felt like a project made for me. It was a blast to work on it with an incredible team of people and I’m really proud of the result.

LBB> How do you like to start a campaign or creative project?

Hugo> I like to start a campaign or project by reading the brief multiple times, making sure I fully understand the target audience, industry and brand. This helps me understand the context and objectives of the project and enables me to generate more relevant and impactful ideas.

I’m constantly collecting inspiration and references for future projects, but I also like to start each project with a fresh perspective. I believe that this approach allows me to approach each project with an open mind and avoid falling into familiar patterns. 

LBB> Are there any tools or platforms (analogue or digital) that you find particularly helpful for gathering or iterating ideas?

Hugo> Lately, I’ve been trying to generate reference images with Midjourney as it can come up with some things we’ve never seen before. I’m really enjoying the process even though most of the time, it is quite difficult to get exactly what is needed from Midjourney but it can open my mind to more ideas, possibilities or different avenues I can take the project through. 

LBB> Do you prefer to work collaboratively or alone?

Hugo> I usually work alone and then regroup with the producers or director but it can vary greatly depending on the project, and also if I have worked with the director before. I’ve worked with Jeremy Mansford a couple of times and where we’re together, it’s always fantastic bouncing ideas off each other. 

LBB> When it comes to the hard bits of a project, when you’re stumped, do you have a process or something you like to do for getting past those tricky bits?

Hugo> When I’m faced with a difficult part of a project, I like to step back and take a break. This allows me to clear my mind and come back to the problem with a fresh perspective. Usually, the answer will come to me at some unexpected moment, like while I’m in the shower, or just about to fall asleep! This can be tricky as I get really excited to implement the solution the next morning, which usually prevents me from sleeping, or I have to do it right at that moment!

When working with others, I like to be a supportive and collaborative partner. I believe in creating a positive and open environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and receiving feedback. I also like to encourage experimentation and encourage others to try new techniques and approaches.

LBB> How do you know when a piece of work is ‘done’?

Hugo> I know a piece of work is done when it meets the objectives and criteria set forth at the beginning of the project, and it feels complete and satisfying. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but at some point, you have to let go and move on to the next project. When I find myself watching it over and over again, just for the pleasure of watching it and without getting bogged down by all the things I can improve on, I consider calling it done.

LBB> Where did you grow up and what early experiences do you think sowed the seeds of your creativity?

Hugo> I grew up in a small town in the south of France, close to the sea. My mom was an artist and used to paint a lot, but that was totally not my thing. I was into music a lot and this is how I would express my creativity. My parents also encouraged me to pursue my passions, including my love for music but it was always clear that the chances of becoming a rockstar were very slim. 

LBB> How did you hone your craft?

Hugo> When I was young, I loved architecture and wanted to become an architect, but I couldn’t draw to save my life. I used to love those architectural softwares where you could build your house in 3d, and my dad suggested I look into what it takes to become a 3d artist. One day while watching the lunchtime news, there was a little section about an animation school an hour drive from where I lived and it just clicked. I decided that if I wasn’t going to become a rockstar, this could be the best other option for me, so I enrolled in the school. Little did I and my dad knew that drawing and painting were a massive part of the curriculum! But I managed to get through it and graduate.

LBB> When it comes to your own creativity, what external factors can really help you fly, and what do you find frustrates it? 

Hugo> For me, a quiet and organized workspace helps me to focus and be most creative. On the other hand, too much stress or distractions can be detrimental to my creative process. I find that a balanced workload and clear communication with clients can help me perform at my best. Also knowing I’ve got the support of my team regardless of which direction I want to take a project is fundamental. I’m glad there is a lot of trust at work and I’m allowed to express myself freely.

LBB> What advice would you give to clients looking to get the best out of the teams and agencies they worked with?

Hugo> My advice to clients looking to get the best out of their creative teams is to be open to new ideas and perspectives. Encourage collaboration and give your team the resources they need to succeed. Trust the process and allow for room to experiment and take risks.

LBB> How do you think agencies can best facilitate creativity in terms of culture and design?

Hugo> To facilitate creativity in the workplace, agencies can create a positive and supportive culture that values new ideas and encourages collaboration. Providing a well-designed workspace that encourages productivity and creativity can also be helpful. Regular opportunities for professional development and skill-building can also support the growth of your team's creativity

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Unlisted, Fri, 10 Mar 2023 08:08:00 GMT