Aloe by Olivia
Motion Graphics & Design
afrocentradas.png

Case Study: Afrocentradas

Self-representation of black women artists outside of a white lens, visibility of blackness in the face of racial erasure in Argentina and Latin America, the contrast between shared experiences as black women and the distinctiveness of each black woman artist’s voice.

 
 

The Assignment

Afrocentradas Assignment

My client provided the photos pictured above and below as inspiration for this project.

Vintage Liberian Photographs

Objective

Marketing materials for an art show in Buenos Aires.

Themes

  • Self-representation of black women artists outside of a white lens

  • Visibility of blackness in the face of racial erasure in Argentina and Latin America

  • The contrast between shared experiences of black women and the distinctiveness and individuality of each black female artist’s voice

Client

Colleen Ndemeh Fitzgerald, artist and curator of Liberian descent.

Context

Socially and politically, some people deny the existence of black people in Argentina.

Art Show Goal

Radical visibility of black women. “What do we look like when we represent ourselves, free of stereotypes and limits to our existence?”

The Mood Boards

I curated two distinct mood boards for the client to choose from to guide my design work. The art in these is not my own, but was intended to gauge the client’s preferences and tease out more specific colors, shapes, and concepts to use as I design the marketing materials.

Afrocentradas Mood 1

Afrocentradas Mood Board 1

Mood 1 speaks to the vintage Liberian photographs with some grainy and linen textures, some black and white, and heavy on the (not exclusively Liberian) textiles. It has a warm palette, soaking in golden tones: oranges, yellows, warm browns. Lots of geometric shapes. This mood builds from a strong foundation of artistic ancestry and heritage.

 

 

Afrocentradas Mood 2

Afrocentradas Mood Board 2

Mood 2 is playful and energetic, with bright, bold colors. Smoother vectors, fewer textures. A bit more modern and less nostalgic, this mood focuses on freshness and life.


The Winning Mood

Draft 1

My client picked images from the two mood boards that particularly resonated. From those choices, I observed that she was leaning towards the first mood board, with some select elements from the second — especially the plants. After a couple of design iterations, I put together drafts for an Instagram swipe sequence that doubled as the precursor to style boards for the animation process.

Afrocentradas portrait

Draft 2

After a round of feedback, the next draft touched more closely on the concept the client was aiming for: the ways that blackness and womanhood intersect, while black women maintain their own individuality and uniqueness. We moved away from the image of a solitary woman to a set of individual, overlapping women with one striking set of eyes in the center (pulled from the last draft).

Afrocentradas

If the client likes this new direction, I will draw a fresh set of women to add to the top right corner so the images don’t repeat, then create a flyer and a version with motion.


The client loved it!

Below is the updated Instagram swipe post after I illustrated new women in the top right corner. With this new direction, the individuality of each of the outlined woman is clear. Each has her own unique hair style and facial features. These women are not defined exclusively by their race — they are drawn on a bold yellow background, making their skin color ambiguous. And yet these women are tied together by a similar illustration style, and by the intersection with the striking image of the eyes in the center, representing their shared black womanhood.

“AFRO” is found at the middle of the page - riffing on the name of the show: Afrocentradas, aka Afrocentric.

Afrocentradas Art Exhibit Marketing Materials

I made a conscious choice to depict the generalized “African” woman with strong facial features rather than make her faceless. When I was putting together the mood boards, I found far too many images other artists have made of black women without faces. It struck me as a subtle form of dehumanization, since facial features play a major role in our perception of our selves and others. Without a face, we become indistinct, unimportant objects without identities. To communicate the concept of a shared identity, I focused on the most identifying features (eyes) and removed the border of the face so that the woman’s blackness simultaneously envelops and creates a canvas for each of the individually outlined women. The individual women don’t neatly fit into boxes, either. They overlap, and their hair sometimes hangs over the edges in the piece, to be tamed only on their own terms.

I transformed the Instagram file into a poster as well, pictured below. A member of the client’s team will be adding text to the poster with additional information about the art show.

Afrocentradas Póster Without Text.png

Animation style Boards

With my client pumped on the illustrations, mood, and style, I was ready to start making animation style boards to guide my animation process. The short animation will primarily be for social media, so I am using a 1080 x 1080 pixel square canvas.

Board 1: Start with everything pictured except "introducing." “Introducing” slides onto screen. (Note: I used English here, but since the show is in Buenos Aires, the animation will say “presentando” instead of “introducing.”)

Board 1: Start with everything pictured except "introducing." “Introducing” slides onto screen. (Note: I used English here, but since the show is in Buenos Aires, the animation will say “presentando” instead of “introducing.”)

Board 2: Transition to confetti-like motion in a style the client liked from a previous animation I made. The leaves will spin in the background. Brown outline will morph and start to grow.

Board 2: Transition to confetti-like motion in a style the client liked from a previous animation I made. The leaves will spin in the background. Brown outline will morph and start to grow.

Board 3: Brown outline stops growing and spinning and fills in with yellow, revealing sketches of women in the process. Confetti shapes settle into the form of background face.

Board 3: Brown outline stops growing and spinning and fills in with yellow, revealing sketches of women in the process. Confetti shapes settle into the form of background face.

Board 4: AFROCENTRADAS sweeps across the screen and lands in the middle. May do a liquid trail animation on the text as well.

Board 4: AFROCENTRADAS sweeps across the screen and lands in the middle. May do a liquid trail animation on the text as well.

My next step is to bring the animation style boards to life. I plan to use a combination of Adobe After Effects and Adobe Animate to accomplish the desired look. This combination of traditional cel animation and After Effects animation mirrors the way the nostalgia (heritage and shared identities) and modernity (individual, self-defined womanhood) intersect in this project.

More to come.


Animation Process

The first step in making this animation was to sort out the Adobe Illustrator file so it would be easy to use in After Effects. Since I was the one illustrating and I knew I would need to animate the file later on, I kept things relatively clean, and the whole process took about 25 minutes. File organization can take a long time if the illustrator is not familiar with the animation process. Layer masks, complicated item groupings, and other complexities can make this process labor intensive.

I separated storyboard elements into fresh, organized documents, including a .png sequence for the texture. I then animated the first scene on the style board, which involved After-Effects only (no Adobe Animate).

Here’s are the first and second draft of that first scene.

Afrocentradas Scene 1 Draft 1
Afrocentradas Scene 1 Draft 2

The first draft is a bit chaotic. Your eye doesn’t know where to land, and the staggered timing is confusing. In the second draft, I used a technique called eye trace to bring a bit more continuity to the scene, and played with the timing of the animation to make it flow better. In the second draft, most of the movement comes to a stop around the same time, which feels a bit more natural than the randomness of the first draft.

Next, I will go into Adobe Animate and work on some hand-drawn effects for scene 2.


Just came out of a many hour stretch of deep animating. I was in the zone. Watch the draft below to see the result.

 
 

I’m not done until the client is happy! I emailed this draft to her just now and will see if she has any requests for edits. I’ll post again when the final draft is complete.


Final Draft

After a few small tweaks, the client was so thrilled with the video that she asked me to work on a follow-up video for the closing event of the show. Here’s the final draft of the first video.

 
 

For the follow-up event, I’m imagining sticking with the main color and visual themes, but perhaps inverting the color scheme so that golden-yellow is the primary color. Updates to come.