Justin Katz: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Design

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Justin Katz

You get a pretty good feel for Justin Katz's design sensibilities before you even get all the way into his home. The living room is co-habited by an iconic Eames chair and a classic Pin*Bot pinball machine; Katz navigates the balance between professionalism and playfulness effortlessly.

See also: - Announcing the 2013 Big Brain Finalists - Meet New Times' 2013 Big Brain Finalists and Celebrate the Winners at Artopia on April 27

iGo Vampire Power from Flock of Pixels on Vimeo.

The 30-year-old motion designer, creative director, and producer at Flock of Pixels has his degree in film and animation from the Rochester Institute of Technology but says he's been making visual stories since childhood. "I'm pretty sure I made a South Park version of Macbeth for my high school English class," he recalls, laughing. "I would do all different kinds of stop motion on Post-it notes."

The practice must have come in handy, because Katz won his first set of Rocky Mountain Emmys (the guy currently has five) for a stop-motion video he created for Massage Envy in 2011. The Valentine's Day ad featured footage of candy hearts dancing across the screen. It looks simple, but when Katz explains his moving each individual heart frame by frame, we can understand why his website lists "patience" as one of his production tools.

As Flock of Pixels, Katz works in two ways. The first is sourcing out his individual talents as a motion designer or animator. The second is full production of a video, for which he hires additional creative talent. "I realized how I was working before. I was always collaborating with another designer, another animator, whoever it was," he says. "I realized we could be this flock of creatives."

LeadMD from Flock of Pixels on Vimeo.

Katz's flock consists primarily of local creatives, especially when he's doing work for local companies, like long-term client American Express. Even outside his business, Katz is a staunch supporter of the local arts and design scene. His house is decorated with prints by local artists like former Big Brainer Safwat Saleem, and he gleefully shares a copy of the McSweeney's issue illustrated by current Big Brain finalist Kelsey Dake (his is signed, of course).

But Katz is afraid that people and companies in Phoenix don't always realize how much talent they have right in their own neighborhoods.

"Phoenix Design Week should be sold out," he says. "It's a direct allegory to Phoenix itself: low cost, high content."

Katz knows high content when he sees it; he spent the beginning of his career working in New York City with marketing giants JWT and Landor. His experiences there helped him refine his skills so that when he finally struck out on his own in 2008 as Flock of Pixels, he was more than prepared.

Between apologies for "totally geeking out about this stuff," he enthusiastically explains why a certain transition is great or how a particular frame changes meaning. It's the pre-production elements like concept and development that really set motion-designed work apart, he says. "If you can surprise somebody with the way that a story goes or the way that something manipulates on screen, that stuff is fun and that stuff is memorable," he says.

Luckily for Justin Katz, this is precisely his specialty.

Buy a $10 ticket to enjoy an evening of food, drink and entertainment April 27 at the Monarch Theatre in downtown Phoenix. Meet the finalists and learn who won during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia.

Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.

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