Big Brain Awards 2013

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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 in 2011 for Massage Envy. 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 (flockofpixels.com), 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."

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 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. — Katrina Montgomery


Lindsay Kinkade's studio, Little Giant, might be hard to find on a map. The 35-year-old designer claims the streets of downtown Phoenix as her true workspace; she is most often found riding her bicycle, gleaning inspiration from the real world. "Everything about the way that I'm building my practice is about being on the street, being in public life, being in the space where people bump into each other and where interactions both good and bad and messy and clean happen," she says.

Kinkade's desire to work in and with the public was influenced by an initial career in journalism. After spending seven years at the Boston Globe, she knew she wanted to get out of the office and back into the community space. But this time, she would do it as a designer.

"Most of my studio work is about creating a space to believe in possibility — to sketch what is possible, to imagine what is possible, to believe in the best possible future, and try to figure out how to make that happen," she says.

Attending graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) gave Kinkade the opportunity to construct a new path using design thinking to facilitate public engagement and community development. Designing interactions and inventing new economies is a big aspect of this type of work, she says. But it's necessary for a designer who wants to improve the public sphere.

The aptly named Little Giant focuses on doing small experiments and using the process to translate results to a larger scale. In a recent project with Phoenix Center for the Arts, Kinkade filled an entryway with pieces of brightly colored paper that read "We are the center of." Anyone passing by was invited to complete the statement and contribute to a what she calls a participatory visioning process. The exercise is small, but it helped kick off an identity redesign for the center that manifested in things like a website rehaul and a mural on the exterior of the building.

Though this type of work may seem somewhat intangible, the results can be very concrete. Kinkade taught a class on public policy and public engagement at RISD and has written a book on the subject. This is her passion, she says, and she can't imagine working in any other way.

Since moving to Phoenix a year and half ago for the increased sunlight and the larger population, Kinkade has been focused on reinventing what she calls the user experience of downtown. Projects like Welcome to Phoenix, a website she is working on with Jim McPherson, seek to reframe how people view the downtown experience. For Kinkade, it's all about increasing awareness of what is out there and constantly inviting people to get involved.

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