Interviewing Idols: Jonathan Lindgren

Swedish Designer and Animation Director, Jonathan Lindgren, is an award-winning freelancer specialising in 3D design. With an impressive client list, and having been featured in numerous publications, Jonathan has made a name for himself in the industry and has become many studios ‘go-to’ for freelance animation!

Jonathan has made a name for himself as a freelance motion designer by seemingly having done everything! From TV and film-productions to commercials and brand identity. Currently working as a freelance artist in Stockholm, Jonathan has worked for some of the biggest brands; with Bang&Olufsun, Asics, Google, Xiaomi being a few! As well as working for some of the hottest 3D and motion studios around -Yambo Studio, Kühl & Han, Tendril.

Why does he inspire me?

As a student hoping to become a 3D/Motion Designer, Jonathan’s work is a huge inspiration for me. I think I found Jonathan’s work back in 2018 when he worked on an ad for Xiaomi (Mariusz Becker also worked on it!) with Yambo Studio. Seeing the ad was a huge eye-opening moment for me. The colours are just wonderful, and the flow of the advert (in terms of motion design) is just brilliant.

I’m not one to frequent design publications, but I remember seeing Jonathan’s work on It’s Nice That for his absolutely lovely motion piece entitled How to Make Sushi. I implore you to look at this project. It’s just so incredibly playful and fun. This is something that shines throughout Jonathan’s work again and again — it’s just FUN! All the work on his portfolio, not only is fantastic work, but it also looks like it was a joy to create. From his client work to his personal work, Jonathan's passion for motion design and animation can clearly be seen!

I love seeing work by designers that I can almost instantly recognise, especially through their personal work, and Jonathan fits that perfectly. Consistency in design is something I always admire, and scrolling through his website you can see the work just ‘fits together’. It’s a lovely collection of work, and it’s been a great inspiration to me over the years!

The Interview Part

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan and asking him some questions about himself and his career. I hope this’ll give you a little bit of an insight into his life, personal and commercial as well as his design process. It’s not every day you get to interview an idol!

1. Who are you, and how did you start your journey into the world of design?

I was born in a teeny tiny town called Östhammar, among the pine trees of Sweden. It’s a very nice and idyllic place along the coast! But sadly unless you’re into sports, cars or working at a nuclear power plant — there’s not much to do!

Starting university, I didn’t really know what concept design was at all! My studies before this were mostly technical 3D work, with a lot of focus on VFX and game development — this did eventually earn me a Bachelors in Computer Science though, so it wasn’t all bad! So when pursuing a career in Motion Graphics and 3D Animation, I had very limited knowledge about design in general.

Back then, the technical aspect was the most fascinating part to me. However, it kind of caught up to me and when I moved to London I worked at a branding agency. This meant for the first time I was collaborating with graphic designers, who had no idea of how animation worked. Working with them opened up another door on how I saw composition, shapes, colours and so on. It was a huge part of my journey to becoming the designer I am today.

2. Could you give some insight into your creative process?

It varies a lot but there is one reoccurring theme: Pinterest and Spotify!

For my work, there’s always a brief and usually references from the client. At the start of a project, my brain goes into a ‘sponge-mode’ and I tend to soak a lot of stuff in. I actually make Spotify playlists of music that could resemble the visuals. It sounds strange, but I try to find music that sounds like what I’m looking at. And I think that just helps my brain to work. It places me in a certain mood that connects imagery and ideas.

Whatever I come up with there, I try to write down. For me, I feel like if you don’t write your ideas down and articulate them, they are just brain waves. After that, I just want to visualize it, and might even try out some animations. Seeing how things could move, helps me spawn new ideas that a still image isn’t communicating.

3. It seems like you’ve done everything; from TV work to Brand Identity! Do you happen to have a favourite project or client you’ve worked with?

Tough one! I’ll always cherish Alphaputt; a game I created with Sennep in London. It’s literally a designers dream as it’s a mini-golf game taking place on top of typography with each level representing a word from the letter. Also, seeing your designs in a game where you can interact with them is a very rewarding experience. It also won a few awards which is never a bad thing!

4. Where do you get your inspiration for projects? (both personal and freelance) Who inspires you!

Instagram, Behance, Pinterest. Just other designs in general. Looking at different sources such as anime, interior and industrial design is never a bad idea either. Just something that helps you think outside of the box!

5. What are some of the largest challenges you had to overcome during your artmaking process? How did you come to terms with these difficulties?

Definitely receiving constructive feedback and criticism at the beginning of my career, I found it very difficult. Not just when doing professional work, but also when doing personal projects. I attached myself personally to the work I was creating, so it felt like an attack at the start.

I think a lot of newcomers to the industry, feel this way and it can show how much you care about the work. But the more you disconnect yourself with the work you make, it’ll help you tackle adversities down the line and it makes you a better creative I think.

Looking at everything you make with a critical eye, and being used to other people giving you critique just raises your game to the next level!

6. Do you have any big designs/projects in the works or anything that excites you about the future of your career?

I’m currently trying to get a collaborative studio with an old colleague of mine off the ground. That excites me a lot! Building a name and a body of work I can share with someone else is definitely something I look forward to.

7. Do you have any passions beside 3D/CGI? With all your work in animation, I imagine you’re an avid cartoon/animation fan!

Yesssss, I’ve always been a fan of animation of all forms. Lots of cartoons, superhero comics, manga and anime. To be a good animator, I think you need to have a feel for timing. It sounds silly, but it’s something I’ve realised is very rare when working in teams of animators.

I also believe, to get a good sense of timing, you need to study other forms of animations. Which just means you get to watch a bunch of anime or cartoons, right? I mean that sounds pretty damn good to me!

I’m also an occasional drummer, which is never a bad thing when it comes to getting a feel for rhythm in animation!

8. I’m a huge fan of your work for Google, was it exciting or daunting working for such a big company?

Nah it wasn’t really daunting! I did it after 4–5 years in the industry so I had shaken pretty much all that nervousness you have at the start of your career. I find it more daunting to work with other talented designers or animators. That’s the people you want to impress right? The ones with the absolute highest standards. The marketing team at Google, who are fantastic at what they do, aren’t the people I really care to impress with my visuals — I just wanted to create work I was happy with, and that fit the brief.

9. Any advice for students trying to get into the world of 3D and Motion Design?

Just get stuck into it! Share what you do and don’t be afraid to look around at the industry. What’s good design? What’s good animation? What’re these studios or artists doing right?

If you want to work in this industry, I think being versatile is one of the biggest assets.

10. Thank you for taking part in this for me, Jonathan! It’s been great having the chance to talk to you and learn more about you and your process! For the people who will read this interview, what are your social media links for people to follow your future work?

Thank you for such kind words, Charlie! And good luck with everything. You’ve got loads of nice stuff going!

If you want to check out my work, here’s my Instagram, Website and Behance!

If you haven’t seen his work before, I urge you to go check it out! Jonathan is an amazing designer and an absolutely lovely person to chat to! He was one of the people who inspired me to pursue 3D design, have they inspired you to check it out?

Want to see more from me? Follow me on Medium, or my Instagram :)

https://www.instagram.com/charlieellis3d/

Trying to make my way in the world of design. Nottingham Trent Graphic Design Student.