Interviewing Idols: Linus Zoll
German 3D and Motion Designer, Linus Zoll, uses his incredible skillset to create some of the most realistic work you’ll see out there! Ranging from product design to interior design, to landscapes, to everything in between! Linus is an extremely talented designer, and also a lovely person to chat to!
I’ve been following Linus’ work for a few years now, with the first project of his popping up on my Behance when I was in Secondary School. I remember thinking, ‘Wait. He did this in 3D!?’ I still love that project to this day and I can credit Linus with being one of the first designers that I really became invested in. From this, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Linus has had a decent influence on the start of my journey in the world of design!
Linus has worked with some amazing artists (just hearing the names Ezequiel Grand and Andrey Voytishin makes me jealous!) as well as working freelance for some of the worlds biggest studios; The Mill, SixNFive, Yambo, Buck… So yeah. I think we can all agree he’s pretty good at what he does!
Why does he inspire me?
As I mentioned, I found Linus’ work right as I started to become more interested in the idea of becoming a 3D designer. For my A-Level coursework back in 2017, I developed an idea for a ‘futuristic skateboard’ that used 360° spinning balls for wheels — little did I know that the same year, Linus’ was working on his ‘Hoverboard’ concept art. I saw it on Behance, and it just absolutely wowed me. For myself, it was the definition of cool, and I still look back on it four years later and think it’s brilliant.
As I’ve said throughout these interviews, I’m an avid photographer and a huge fan of photorealism in 3D. Linus is just brilliant at it. The textures. The lighting. The compositions. His work is absolutely lovely to study. I can look at a piece and spend a good bit of time just thinking: ‘How did he do this?’, ‘How is this possible?’ Just have a look at his Instagram page and tell me you don’t believe these are real — he’s developed this skill through his years of personal and commercial work, and it’s been lovely to see his progression.
His work isn’t set in stone either, just by looking through this website and Instagram page it’s clear that his skillset is a mix of so many things! There’s product design, animation, interior design, abstract artwork and much more. It’s lovely to see an artist who is constantly learning and evolving. From some sneak peeks of the work he’s currently doing — I absolutely cannot wait to see more of his work through 2021!
The Interview part
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Linus 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. How did your journey into the world of design start?
Hey Charlie! Thank you for asking me to answer your questions and for the nice words about my work! I’m Linus Zoll and I’m a 3D Artist and Designer, currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany. For the past 3 and a half years, I’ve been full-time freelancing in the advertising industry — working mostly with some great teams, from some amazing studios, but also directly with clients from time to time.
The story of how all of this started is fairly simple, so here we go!
When I was very young I was watching a lot of gaming videos on YouTube, and at this time all of these YouTubers had these 3D animated intros before their videos would start. I was fascinated by these animations, but I had zero knowledge of what this is and what it’s called. I figured it would be some kind of graphic design! I had no idea what 3D is, not even animation, so I ended up learning about Photoshop by watching endless YouTube tutorials.
After a few months, I finally figured out that I had to learn 3D software and from there it was a back and forth between learning Photoshop and 3D. Long story short, I spent my entire childhood and youthhood learning 3D via YouTube. My friends started smoking weed and I was still sitting in my room inhaling these tasty tutorials, trying to get better!
The reason why I’m so fascinated with 3D, and always will be, is that you have zero limits.
You can create anything you can imagine from scratch… well unless you need Houdini Simulations. You really need to be smart to learn Houdini, it’s tricky!
Since I’d spent all my time learning 3D instead of learning for school, I didn’t have the proudest graduation imaginable; but because of this I always knew that I had no other choice than to pursue this career, which was and is, perfectly fine for me!
2. Could you give some insight into your creative process?
This of course really depends on if I’m working on a personal project, where I do everything! Or if I get booked for a specific position as a team member for a commercial project — or if I’m working directly for a client.
I’m currently taking a few weeks off from commercial work because I’m producing a new personal project, so maybe this is something I could talk about! So at the moment, I’m working on an animation project for a fictive product. Firstly, I started by deciding which kind of product it should be, and then I of course look for reference pictures and designed the product in the way I wanted it to look.
Because references are such a huge point, I have to recommend the software PureRef to everyone reading this. Just look it up, it’s the best and easiest moodboard tool ever and I never want to work without it again.
Okay so, what’s next? Now that I’ve got my non-existing product, let’s create a project for it. Typically my next task is to spend some time looking up more references, just generally beautiful shots from other products that I like, but also anything to study the materials of the product.
After gathering all these references (in all kind of styles), I’ve got something that I can occasionally look back at for inspiration. After this, I then start to create style-frames from scratch, which can be in any style. Later I will decide which direction feels the best to me and where I want to go with this.
Then I just animate it and I’m done, right? (I wish)
Next, I usually start looking for music. I browse through like 5000 pages on AudioJungle before realizing that I can’t find anything nice there! The first place I go after this is to my musician and sound designer friends to help me out. By listening to the created music many times with closed eyes, I start to imagine the animation in my head — visualising how it ‘could look’. At the same time, I start sketching a storyboard on paper.
I then create additional style-frames from my storyboard sketches and/or adjust the previous ones. These are then taken into animation and then I create lots (I mean, LOTS!) of iterations in all stages of the production until I’ve got something I’m happy with!
3. I know you’ve worked on some amazing projects and worked with some fantastic studios! Got any favourite projects?
I’m indeed super lucky to have had the chances to work with so many insanely talented people all over the world and I’m super thankful for this. The main thing realized is that the most fun projects deserve this title because of the people you work with.
Last year I worked with Hornet from NYC for a long time and I just love this team- it was such a great experience! The project is not released yet.
4. Where do you get your inspiration for projects? Who inspires you!
Pinterest and Behance! For me personally, I have learnt that real photography is often a better inspiration than other 3D renders — at least if you’re working in my kind of style anyway.
My biggest inspiration is my good friend Mariusz Becker. I can’t even write down how many times he helped me and taught me things. He’s changed my life so much! If my girlfriend wasn’t against a full back tattoo of “MARIUSZ BECKER” in a nice font, I definitely would do that.
(Charlie here! The 3D community, from what I’ve seen over the years, is extremely friendly! It’s always great to hear that other creatives are so helpful to each other! Please Linus gets this tattoo, it would be incredible haha!!)
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?
The largest challenge for me must be having to deal with all this other stuff that goes along with Freelancing. Taxes, bookkeeping, healthcare, as well as people constantly trying to rip you off! I just want to sit here creating some renders! Luckily, the longer I’ve been doing freelance, the more I’ve gotten used to it.
Another thing is the pressure of wanting to do personal projects while also having to do commercial projects to earn money. Please, if you’re struggling with this, watch this video by Paul from The Rusted Pixel. It will make your day and you will feel better, I promise.
(Charlie here again! I saw this video when it was posted, and Linus is exactly right. It’s really good to hear discussions from industry professionals about personal projects, and the video is certainly really helpful!
6. Do you have any big designs/projects in the works or anything that excites you about the future of your career?
I will just keep going and never stop. I think this is the best way to succeed in anything you want to do. There is always more to learn and nobody will ever know everything! Saying this, don’t get lazy, and keep enjoying what you are creating! :)
7. Do you have any passions beside 3D/CGI? Considering you do quite a bit of photorealistic work, do you enjoy photography?
Honestly, I love 3D as a hobby just as much as doing it for a living, so this is usually what I spend most of my free time with too. I do enjoy looking at photography and studying it, but I personally only look through a camera with a Redshift or Octane Camera Tag on it haha!
8. I’m a huge fan of your work for Spectra, it looks like it was a very fun project to work on! Especially with all the creative freedom!
Thank you! I’m super happy to read this! It definitely was. They were a dream client. I could do whatever I wanted because they trusted me. This doesn’t happen often, so I really appreciate Spectra letting me just do my thing!
9. Any advice for students trying to get into the world of 3D and Digital Design?
A big problem many creative people (including myself sometimes) have is that we often compare our own work to the work of others, more talented people. This can kill the motivation of many, but it should be the other way around! Don’t ever think that your work is bad because it doesn’t look like the project someone else just posted. Try to learn from it, analyze it and use it as a reason to learn more! :)
(Charlie here, I absolutely love this answer. It resonates with me heavily. As a student, it’s hard to not compare yourself to industry professionals. It’s something that you have to work on and be comfortable with your own work. As Linus says, Learn from it!)
10. Thank you for taking part in this for me, Linus! 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?
If you haven’t seen his work before, I urge you to go check it out! Linus is an amazing designer and a truly genuine person! It was absolutely lovely talking to him, and I for one cannot wait to see what he creates in the future! He was one of the people who inspired me to pursue 3D design, has he inspired you to check it out?
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