A visit with ManvsMachine.

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Glimpse the inner workings of this award-winning design and motion studio.

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By simply skimming their Instagram, you’ll quickly learn that ManvsMachine—a multidimensional creative studio based in London and L.A.—is on the cutting edge of motion design. Their body of work is truly mind-blowing (see it @man.vs.machine), and their list of clients is just as impressive (Nike, Apple, Pepsi and Squarespace to name a few)—a list that’s a testament to their effective, innovative talent.

As creatives ourselves, we’re fascinated with everything the MvsM team produces and wanted to learn more about their origin story, creative process, what inspires them and more. Fortunately, the team of creative specialists invited us over to their L.A. studio to see their setup first-hand and to get some one-on-one time with cofounder and chief creative officer Mike Alderson.

 

"…a thinker-who-makes or a maker-who-thinks…"

 

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Here’s what Alderson shared with us:

 

What is ManvsMachine?

ManvsMachine is a multidimensional creative company founded in Shoreditch, East London by me and Tim Swift in 2007. We have since expanded with a second studio in the U.S. where I am now based. We operate predominantly in and around the fields of moving image; be it design, brand identity, film, animation or visual effects. The name represents our ethos of embracing the collision point between conceptual and technical.

When did ManvsMachine make the decision to expand into the U.S.?

We discussed it for a couple of years prior to actually opening the second studio in 2016, but it was a natural progression as our client base became equally strong in the U.S. (particularly the west coast) as it was in Europe. After considering various options, including New York and San Francisco, we landed on Los Angeles, as it just felt like the right fit for us.

How does having a studio in L.A. and London play a role in your teams’ process/creativity?

The dynamic between the two studios is a constant evolution, and I suspect it always will be. We work both separately and collaboratively depending on the projects at any given moment. No matter how hard you might try to implement a predetermined culture or DNA, any creative studio is ultimately just a collective expression of the people working within it, and I’m extremely fortunate to work across both teams every day.

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"Always allow yourself room to grow and evolve."

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Tell us about the progression of the studio and what direction it’s headed.

It’s definitely heading in an exciting direction, but we’ll continue to focus on the work and let you know where we’re going when we get there!

Where does your team pull inspiration from?

We’re always absorbing what’s happening around us, but it comes largely from within the studio. That’s one of the huge benefits of our carefully curated staff model; we’re constantly surrounded by inspiring thinkers and makers with very diverse points of view.

With clients like Apple, Nike and Pepsi, how does your team approach a large-scale
project?

Large-scale projects became our normal very quickly by a combination of design and good fortune. The first brief ManvsMachine ever took was a full-scale rebrand for a major TV network. One thing I would say is it’s really important to be honest, and by that, I mean knowing your weaknesses as well as (if not better than) your strengths. Under promise, over deliver.

 

"Under promise, over deliver."

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Tell us about the progression of the studio and what direction it’s headed.

Our focus has always been on getting experimental visuals out there into the mainstream rather than just trying to satisfy ourselves or our peers. I think that’s a large part of what still drives us after 12 years.

What advice do you have for young creatives and their career path?

Stay curious. Always allow yourself room to grow and evolve. Any creative individual at ManvsMachine can be described as either a thinker-who-makes or a maker-who-thinks…and that’s enough of a distinction for us.

How does organization and protection play a role in your teams’ work?

I guess it comes back to my point earlier about the conceptual and technical being equally important. We protect our brains and ideas pretty carefully, so it makes sense to protect the hardware we use to develop and execute those ideas with equal care.

Why is MacBook such an important tool for your teams’ success?

As a creative director who travels a fair amount, it’s vital. As long as I’ve got my passport, iPhone and my MacBook in full working order, I can do my job from any location.

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