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23 years of Model New College

By Jonathan Notaro, founding father of Model New College.


Editor’s Observe:

On this sequence, we’ll hear from the founders of artistic studios recounting their tales of the way it all started. Every studio and founder are at completely different phases of their journey, however whether or not they’re 3, 10, 15, 20, or 25+ years within the making, these candid accounts supply distinctive insights into what it takes to personal and function a enterprise on the planet of Movement Design.

From deciding to go it alone to rising a group, to using the unpredictable wave of expertise, to evolving via a pandemic and gearing up for the longer term, these studios all have inspiring tales to inform.


The Household Enterprise

I got here from a household in movie. 

My dad was a studio government for Sony, and my grandfather began Cinerama Dome with Warner Bros. My brother, too, is a cinematographer. 

Graphic design, and in a while Movement Design, introduced all of my artistic pursuits collectively and didn’t pigeonhole me into a particular profession path. I might weave collectively typography, images, animation, and movie – and will do very several types of tasks.

The First Job

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I interned at Sony Music designing album covers within the late 90s and had freelance aspect hustles with Punk bands and, in a while, Stussy, however my profession really started at an organization known as Gas. I interned for 2 summers and was supplied a job earlier than I graduated. My beginning function was artwork directing. 

Gas was acquired round 2000 by an organization known as Razorfish. The environment modified. We hoped for an injection of assets permitting us to develop and obtain extra as designers, however it turned a few choose group of individuals getting wealthy and never in regards to the work. 

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Whereas everybody was out at lengthy lunches and spending inventory winnings, I labored my ass off, and I wouldn’t commerce the world for it. I turned a priceless a part of the group in a short time, successful awards and creating deep relationships with artists and shoppers. 

I hardly ever complained about being overworked as a result of I used to be younger, naive, and actually enthusiastic about my function and the work I used to be making. It was an superior time, flaws and all.

Welcome to The Model New College

Private causes led me to depart Gas. 

My father had a coronary heart assault on the age of 52. He died. He had no historical past of coronary heart points. He was below stress in his studio function and had a coronary heart assault, which made me rethink my life, particularly having a boss. 

On the age of 23, I knew how the enterprise labored. I additionally knew what I wished for my firm, which I enlisted mates from college and the design group to construct. The primary particular person I employed was a proficient designer/animator that had interned at Gas. From there, I employed [creative directors] Sean Dougherty and Chris Dooley. 

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Sean Dougherty

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Chris Dooley

I joked a few potential title, “What a few Model New College?” which appeared to signify a brand new breed of designers disrupting the trade. The title was considerably of a fuck you to all the opposite firms on the time who had these very succinct names. 

Our title was longer and extra labored. The corporate’s title does imply greater than an inside joke, although. To stay related, we should regularly reinvent, therefore Model New College.

Workplace Life

Getting house and tools, I simply went for it. We constructed a small studio that match ten folks – uncomfortably. The studio was on Abbot Kinney in Venice Seaside. 

The workplace was the ground beneath an audio firm known as Machinehead, run by a legendary sound designer, Stephen Dewey. Stephen was behind all this work for American Specific. He turned a buddy and an important supporter of Model New College, introducing us to high-profile company shoppers visiting his workplace. 

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MTV Fashionably Loud

We labored on super-creative tasks with MTV and Sundance, however Stephen helped us land extra high-profile promoting alternatives.

Inside a yr of opening our LA workplace, we opened the studio in New York. On the time, we had shoppers in New York, they usually wished us there for face-to-face conferences. 


Graphic Design Delivered to Life 

We wished an progressive method to an antiquated mannequin – and we wished to have enjoyable. 

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There have been many studios on the time whose work was earnest and had a seriousness to it. In our work, we had a playfulness to it – it was emblematic of us as folks and the tradition we created.

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We had all studied historic graphic design, and fortunately we by no means actually checked out our contemporaries for inspiration. This made our work stand out. Different studios had been born out of, for instance, visible results or animation.

Model New College? We had been born out of our love for graphic design and new concepts. If folks checked out what we had been doing and what everybody else was doing on the time, our work had its personal type. Our output was daring graphic design delivered to life to inform tales. It was all illustration and graphic design; the animation was all the time secondary. 

We centered on the way it felt moderately than the way it moved. 

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After all, we discovered later the best way to make it transfer effectively, however we had been, and nonetheless are considering creating new visible languages. 

Once we first got here out, all of the work we did for MTV was all the pieces and all over the place. It was authentic. The alternatives at MTV and with Sundance led to industrial work for AT&T and Verizon. 

Whereas it was nice work, all the pieces on the time was live-action; we had been simply doing graphics for the marketing campaign. Ultimately, the design vocab we created for manufacturers had been leveraged into absolutely animated spots. 


When VH1 launched a brand new channel, VH1 Classics, that was an unimaginable alternative for Model New College.

It was this intersection of our love for music and understanding of design historical past.

It was additionally one of many first occasions we began writing scripts for our spots. 

The cool half about broadcast work was getting known as in for a rebrand or relaunch. If an organization wished to launch a channel about basic rock and popularize it, we might consider one million concepts. Every part was on the desk. 

We had been most assured in design and animation, however for VH1 and each channel since then, we’ve grown extra comfy with live-action tales. 

When the chance got here up, we didn’t assume a lot about our in-house ability units and whether or not we might do it, however purely artistic; what could be cool? 

Once we completed these movies on a shoestring price range, they went out into the world, and other people realized, “Oh, they’re capturing and directing, too.” 

We helped launch a brand new property, Gas TV, and designed all the pieces from the bottom up.

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Fox Gas Print Advert

It centered on motion sports activities. As a longtime horrible skateboarder and respectable surfer, I used to be all about it. It was one other priceless alternative since all of the manufacturers had been but to crack the best way to attain that punk rock viewers. They’ve an above-average bullshit detector. 

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We requested, “What would occur if the children took over the community? What would they need to see? What would they dream of and create?” 

We produced live-action movies with that mindset. It was wildly uncommercial, in the perfect sense potential, and it bought acknowledged. 

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One other pivotal second for Model New College was working for Apple. 

We wished to create significant work for Apple for some time, and we lastly landed that probability with the enduring and forever-young iPod Shuffle. 

On the time, we had been experimenting with our movies. We shot this experimental take a look at, and somebody from Apple reached out and mentioned, “Hey, that mission you probably did for that little movie pageant, we need to do it for the launch of the Shuffle.” 

It was large for us. 

Proper Place, Incorrect Time 

There are regrets in addition to successes. 

We did a mission for a big software program consumer, which was an interactive mural. I assumed it was the way forward for out-of-home promoting. So we constructed a division devoted to experiential and inventive expertise; we did these campaigns and created visible languages for manufacturers on screens. In hindsight, it was too quickly. 

A bit of recommendation on the planet of expertise: 

Generally, one should divorce pleasure from actuality. As a artistic particular person, I noticed the alternatives, however the market wasn’t there. 





Regardless of how promising an thought was, we relied on folks (at advert businesses) to promote this concept to their shoppers. Once more, one other hurdle. For quite a lot of causes, the division failed to succeed in expectations. Much like conversations at the moment about AI, we knew a change was coming. It occurred for experiential expertise, however it occurred slowly. We arrived on the celebration too quickly. 

Model New Type of Communication 

COVID modified communication. Folks discovered we might do the work effectively remotely, however as a result of we will doesn’t imply we must always.

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We’re extra highly effective collectively. Concepts flourish from private collaboration. In our studios, folks understand how priceless it’s to be again collectively. We worth the time we now have collectively. Individuals are extra vocal, and confidence is excessive. 


We nonetheless have group critiques over work (a apply I discovered in class). Good concepts can come from anyplace, so it’s a reasonably open hierarchy. Hierarchy is important to get the ball downfield, however on the identical time, an organization wants alternatives for brand spanking new concepts to floor. The group seeks out what a mission desires to be. Everyone explores. 

An open dialogue elevates the work via sheer numbers: the extra options, the extra enhancements or options. Our course of is completely by design. Purchasers give suggestions, so everybody must learn to interpret criticism. Not each studio works that method, however it’s labored effectively for us from day one. 

The Way forward for Model New College 

Nowadays we now have extra affect. Think about us the Swiss Military knife for manufacturers with various ability units that may match any function. Model New College is enticing to shoppers, particularly if they should transfer effectively or don’t need the damaging weight of naysayers. 

The work we do and the affect we possess are extra thrilling than ever. We now have extra artistic management, so we’re nearer to the supply and the outcomes. What a rewarding duty. 

Our firm is creating different expertise, and we proceed to study and reinvent ourselves as expertise and the world change. After 23 years, we’re nonetheless rising, studying, and trying to find methods to be higher. This work-in-progress mindset, the concept nothing is stagnant and that with change, there may be artistic alternative, is what we dwell for at Model New College.  


Studio Tales is a Motionorapher initiative created and edited by @Stuart Groves.

To inform your studio’s story, please submit your particulars to OOY on




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