Phil Borst is a motion designer based in Normal, a small town in the state of Illinois, United states. Phil has an amazing ability to visually tell heartwarming stories that gets under your skin and touches you through beautifully crafted design and animation. Phil is a hardworking, self taught artist with a humble approach to his work and audience. Starting out making short videos as a kid he went on to graduate with a Video Production degree, but a new discovered passion would end up leading him down another road…
So without further ado; Phil Borst.
Daniel: Thank you Phil for taking your time to be on this feature. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your design background?
Phil: I actually became interested in video at a very young age. I would carry around a video camera with me all the time. I was constantly making short videos and I still have the hundreds of Mini DV tapes in my basement from the good old days. I went to school with the hopes of becoming a big time film editor. I graduated with a Video Production degree and starting working as a wedding videographer. In 2009 I applied to be a camera operator for my local TV station and they somehow thought I would be good designer so they hired me for the graphic designer position. That’s when I really developed a passion for design and animation. It was such a fun time of discovery and I’m so lucky that I’m able to do this full time now.
If my goal is to become the best at something, I will fail every time. But what I can do is consistently give my best effort for each project.
Daniel: How did you discover your passion for design and animation, and was there any particular moment where you just knew that was the direction you wanted to pursue?
Phil: I think the passion for animation began to build after I finished my first animated piece Color Blind. With hardly any skills I was able to put together a short story with a couple of shapes and a few colors. I then began to notice motion graphics and animation popping up everywhere, the possibilities were endless – I just needed to get better.
Shortly after that I was able to work on my first freelance job and it opened a whole new level of enjoyment. First of all I got paid, but more importantly I was able to help out their business. The best moment of my career so far was receiving a personal “thank you” video from a charity that I had the opportunity to work for. That doesn’t happen very often but it’s what keeps me going.
Daniel: Do you have any rituals or certain things that you like to do, to help set yourself up for work and get into your creative flow?
Phil: I’m pretty obsessed with having a clean desk, it’s hard to even begin to work unless my workspace is nice and tidy. My brain tends to wander off so I need a list to stay on track. While I work I usually listen to a variety of music depending on what time of the day it is. I used to rely pretty heavily on Mountain Dew but I had to give that up, and I still have not been able to find a replacement for the energy I got from that.
Daniel: How do you tend to get inspired creatively? Are there any particular sources you tend to seek inspiration from – e.g. music, traveling, books, podcasts, comics, art, sports, movies, yoga dvd’s..?
Phil: I am constantly inspired by other amazing designers and animators. I try to watch as much new work as I possibly can. What an amazing time it is, each day brings a new wave of inspiration, it’s overwhelming at times but I enjoy watching as much as I enjoy creating.
Daniel: What keeps you focused and motivated?
Phil: Just being able to finish a project is always such a proud moment, especially if people seem to like it and the client is happy. I tend to give myself a hard time when I feel like I’ve not being productive. It’s a good feeling to accomplish what you set out to do and that’s what I think motivates me to keep working hard.
Having a reputation of consistent hard work and effort is something that I try to work at.
Daniel: You seem to have a wide range of skillsets at a particularly high level. I feel like your ‘The Story Teaser’ piece is a great example of a mix of different style and techniques used.
Do you feel like you have found your “style” or do you always aim to experiment and try out different styles and techniques?
Phil: Thank you. I definitely have my limitations and I’ve always been very cautious about stepping too far out of my comfort zone, especially on client work. I think all the work I’ve done lands somewhat into a similar style but I love trying to push the boundaries of that style as much as I can. Learning new things has always been a slow and exhausting process for me and I don’t think I’ll ever come to the point where I feel I’ve completely been able to master one style and quit trying to improve.
Daniel: Your work alway seems positive and feel-good if you will. Whether this comes across in your playful animation, illustration style, vibrant colour palette, or story and message – it always feels delivered by an optimistic, open-minded and happy heart.
Is this part of your style and person?
Phil: I think that’s the style I naturally gravitate toward, and I’m pretty sure I’m scared of the color black. You’re definitely not going to catch me skipping down the street giving everyone a high five though. I will say It can also be a burden too, the recurring feedback I often hear from clients is “it’s too warm and fuzzy”.
Being open-minded is something I feel like I share with the whole motion design community. It’s a community open to sharing ideas and helping each other improve. I didn’t study animation in college so I’m grateful for people like Andrew Kramer, Nick Campbell, Joey Korenman, and countless others that are open to sharing their knowledge.
Daniel: Do you have any other passions or hobbies that you like to spend time on?
Phil: I love to cook. I started working in my Dad’s restaurant at around age 10 and cooking is something that I’ve always enjoyed doing.
Daniel: What would you say has been the key drivers for you to reach this point in your career? Is there a specific or important lesson you have learned that stands out to you?
Phil: Having a reputation of consistent hard work and effort is something that I try to work at. There are certain individuals and studios where I can hit the like button before I even press play because they have consistently set a high standard for every project they work on. If my goal is to become the best at something, I will fail every time. But what I can do is consistently give my best effort for each project.
I had to learn to be patient in learning because it has never come quickly for me. Making an effort to learn something new can be a intimidating task and it’s easy to give up early.
Daniel: Do you have any prefered tools or online platforms you go to for inspiration and managing your ideas?
Phil: I usually check my Vimeo feed once a day to see what’s new. I try to follow as many people as I can and it’s so exciting to see what other people are working on. I keep a pocket sketchbook with me to sketch out any ideas I have throughout the day.
Daniel: If you had to fast forward 5 years, do you imagine yourself doing the same thing you are doing now – or do you have other challenges and dreams that you would like to pursue and have a go at?
Phil: I hope to be doing the same thing. It seems there are so many possibilities to use animation and design and I hope to explore those as much as I can. A couple dream projects for me would be working on a children’s book and a documentary.
Daniel: What is ‘motion design’ to you? How do you tend to explain what you do to help someone else understand what you are doing?
Phil: For me, since I don’t really come from a design background, motion design started as a way to put together a video without using any actual video footage. It’s always tough to explain motion design so I always just give animation examples from the likes of Schoolhouse Rock, Bond Credits and Monty Python.
Daniel: What would be your best advice to someone starting out in the industry, or just curious about exploring motion design?
Phil: For me starting out in motion design was a bit frustrating. I had to learn to be patient in learning because it has never come quickly for me. Making an effort to learn something new can be a intimidating task and it’s easy to give up early. I’ve had points where I’ve just given up on learning something new because it was just too difficult. But I really do believe if you are able to put in the effort and at the same time the patience, eventually you’ll be able to accomplish what you set out to do.
It’s hard for me to give advice because I feel I have so much more to learn from other people. I’m just so thankful for all the people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from in my career so far.
And that’s it from Phil! I would like thank Phil for taking his time to share some of his journey so far with us, and for always pushing himself to do the best work he possibly can and sharing it for everyone of us to watch and enjoy.
You can watch more of Phil’s lovely creations on his Vimeo page – stay tuned!