The London digital studio now known as Animade has been through numerous changes of identity these past few years; from Chambers Judd to Hover Studio; from building websites to making animated TV spots. Now it refers to itself as an animation studio “passionate about exploring the ever-expanding potential of animation,” which has meant a sharpened focus on digital products starting with Boords, an app designed to simplify and streamline the storyboarding process.
“In the last year or so we’ve moved away from doing more traditional digital work,” says Animade co-founder and director James Chambers, “our motto has become ‘content not containers,’ taking on projects where we have some say over the creative content within them, rather than producing containers for other people. We think that creating that content is really where we offer the most value, and the most difference.”
Previously Animade spent its time designing websites for clients like Red Bull, Ministry of Sound, and It’s Nice That; and creating animations for IBM, Airbnb, and Virgin America. While the websites now make up a shrinking part of their business model, the animations are still in full swing, and Chambers expects digital products to form a large portion of the studio’s revenue stream in future. Boords is the pilot for the product development offering, and so far it’s been a success.
“When we first had the idea for Boords it made so much sense for us,” says Chambers. “It was a problem that we had and we knew we could solve, and it was really a case of building something that we needed as a studio. We had a project coming up which required a lot of storyboarding. We’d had the conversation before about what a pain in the arse it is to storyboard with InDesign or Keynote because everyone does it slightly differently—there’s not really a consistent template, and it very easily spins out of control and becomes unwieldy. We thought alright, let’s just make a little web app that does this for us. We can knock something up in a few days, and in the worst case we can just use it for this project.
“We made the first version in less than a week, and it was super bare bones; it just took a bunch of images in and chucked some PDFs out. There were a few things we tailored to be specific to us, like custom fonts and cover pages, and it saved us a lot of time on that project. Off the back of that we felt that we had something special. We knew that if it was an itch that we had as a studio, that there would be other studios out there with a similar problem. That was its genesis I suppose.”
In its current iteration Boords is a simple offer; a tool that creates consistent storyboards on a regular basis, to a template. You drag and drop your imagery from desktop to app, from which you can label, reorder, and package them into a shareable, custom PDF. “Previously this was a process that we went through in Indesign,” says Chambers, “and the really simple things that should be easy to do when making a storyboard can very quickly become complicated. As that scales across a team it becomes very difficult to manage.”
In time Chambers plans to add commenting, notes, live chat, and shareable storyboards located at password protected URLs to the app’s functionality, creating a comprehensive piece of project management software for storyboarding projects. The bulk of these updates have been proposed by a dedicated team of Boords’ early adopters, without whom Chambers feels the product wouldn’t exist.
“To have that kind of insight is amazing,” he says. “It’s lovely to feel like it’s helping people and they’re behind us in pushing this thing forward.”