It isn’t every day you come across a person who can turn bookshelves and city walls into his very own art canvases, but that is precisely what Luke Harris has done. After earning his Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, Luke pursued what he believed to be a trade that he could put to creative use. He soon went on to earn his Masters of Fine Arts from Yale University where he focused on the art and business of graphic design. Ever since then, Luke Harris has been making dozens of videos that showcase his innate talent for animation, filmmaking, graphic design and turning the seemingly ordinary into the most extraordinary.
For people who do not know much about motion graphics design, how would you describe what it is that you do?
Motion graphics originated when traditional graphic designers were asked to create animated title sequences for Hollywood feature films. The most famous example is the work of Saul Bass. As broadcast advertising began to incorporate more techniques like animation and computer graphics, advertising firms needed to hire separate design firms that specialize in making design for the moving image. I think that today it has expanded into an even larger category of design-related filmmaking.
So what would you consider to be the most challenging part of what you do with graphic design? It’s obvious that the videos that you make are not easy to do.
There’s definitely a lot of challenging things. I think I start a project with a pretty vague idea of something that I see in my head but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to work out. And a lot of times what I do is experiment with a lot of things that could totally blow up in my face or otherwise be very spontaneous and refreshing. A lot of times, I’ll start a project and it will be really disappointing until I make a mistake. I’m actually thinking of a specific project.
Please do tell us!
Well, I was doing a video in which I had to find some walls in the city and project a video of myself skateboarding on these walls but for some reason it didn’t work. It became really frustrating because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Meanwhile, I had hitched this projector to the back of my truck and I was having a lot of trouble turning it off while I was inside the truck. So we decided to leave it on while we drove to the next wall and of course I left the camera on as well as we started driving around the block. I saw it was projecting not on walls but on fences, lawns, trees and people and I realized, “Oh my God! This is so much more interesting than the stupid walls that I have been trying to find.” I guess that’s really the most difficult thing because you need to keep your eyes open and make sure that you’re not so focused on just one specific task. That’s a pretty difficult thing to do because it’s uncertain what will happen and that could be scary. It’s important to have a process of discovery rather than just execution. But that’s also why I do it. That’s what makes it cool.
That’s a pretty interesting story. Are there any other videos that you have done as well that you might consider to be some of your favorites? I saw the incredible stop motion video that you made with all of those books. Would that be one of them?
The book project was really nice. My mother is an avid reader and she has never thrown out a book that she ever read. One time I was visiting my parents and in the guest room of their house, they have this giant shelf of all these books that she’s read. I’d wake up every morning and just stare at this bookshelf thinking, “This could be a fun canvas to paint on.” So my mom and I got together and we sorted every one of her books into color categories on the floor. And although it was hard on my back to be constantly taking a picture and then reorganizing the book shelf, it was definitely one of the more fun projects I’ve done.
Yeah. It was awesome! So do you see yourself doing things like music videos or any other type of filmmaking in the future?
Sure. I definitely would love to make more music videos. I actually made a music video for Les Savy Fav which involved taking a part of the idea for the skateboard video that I had made for myself and using it for their song. It was a really interesting experience mostly because in my past work, I have always chosen the song to go with whatever I made. I am a huge music fan as well as a DJ and I love curating music. So this was the first time that I had to work with a song that I couldn’t change. That was a really different kind of experience than I would have if I had complete freedom because I really had to think about what’s best for the song rather than what I simply like.
As far as plans for the future, I actually really like having clients because I think there’s something really energizing about having a set of limitations that you have to work within. I think it relieves the pressure of creativity. I recently made a campaign ad for a congressional candidate and he had wanted to convince voters that he was the right person for the job. It was really fun for me to have that prompt to work off of because I had to find ways to sell this candidate.
Lastly, how can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
I am always looking for collaborators, but really in the most unorthodox sense of the word. What I like so much about Daily BR!NK is that it is not geared towards one profession or one ethical stance. It’s just people doing really interesting things. I see a lot of sites featuring cool graphic designers or filmmakers that I should check out. And what I think is so nice about this site is that there are people like a gourmet chef who could possibly collaborate with a filmmaker who could possibly collaborate with a skateboarder or something like that. I think those are actually the coolest collaborations. I think two filmmakers collaborating is awesome, but I also think really interesting things can come from people who would not be expected to work together.