HOW TO FEED YOUR CREATIVITY A BALANCED MEAL: BRANDEN COLLINS
After a stint at Savannah College of Art & Design as a 3D animation major, WNW Member #6527 Branden Collins realized a need to alter his trajectory. Branden now sees this moment as a turning point, and we couldn't agree more. He has since led an incredibly successful career as a designer, in the broadest sense of the word.
Branden runs an interdisciplinary collaborative studio named The Young Never Sleep, but it could just as easily be titled "Branden Never Sleeps," since he has already conquered so many different roles. "I think the way our society is structured, in this overly-competitive way, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s room for everyone to be successful if they work hard at crafting their own individual voice."
We spoke to Branden, who recently moved to San Francisco, about his different creative outlets, how he grew from his experiences at Adult Swim, and what he has his eyes set on next.
Who is Branden Collins and how did he get here?
I’m an artist and designer from Cleveland, Ohio. I recently relocated to San Francisco after living in Atlanta, GA for about 6 or 7 years. I was born and raised in Cleveland and spent a lot of time moving throughout the South in my teenage years. Post high school, I attended the Savannah College of Art & Design for about 2 years as a 3D animation major before dropping out. My experience at SCAD really changed the trajectory of my life and what I saw myself becoming in the years to come. The most valuable things I took from my college adventure were the people I met and a better understanding of the work that I actually enjoyed creating. It was not 3D animation. After leaving SCAD, I started collaborating with several college friends, establishing an art and music collective called The Big Up. Even though the collective was short-lived, it provided a lot of insight and inspiration for my interdisciplinary collaborative studio, The Young Never Sleep.
Adult Swim offers such unadulterated and unbridled creativity. Its output is sometimes completely off-the-wall insane, but never tame. What do you take away from your time there? How did your experiences there inform your creativity, and the eclectic paths you explore now?
What’s interesting about working at Adult Swim is, although many of the things they produce on the surface seem unpredictable, there is quite a bit of thought and planning that goes into everything they create. I learned so much working at Cartoon Network/ Adult Swim. The wide diversity of projects I was involved in constantly, from event design to print, illustration and product design had a big influence on how I navigate my personal creative work. The 2013 Adult Swim Singles covers I created gave me a taste of how rewarding it could be to really art direct a series and see it come to life across multiple platforms. The process of concepting, constructing sets and costumes, directing a shoot, adding motion then seeing it all come to life in print and web was an “aha” moment for me. It was like, “yea, this is the kind of stuff I want to be doing”.
It’s difficult to pin a single creative role to you, as you’ve branched out into diverse fields like costume design and created short films. Do you feel most at home in one realm in particular? And when inspiration strikes, how do you decide which creative hat to put on?
I can’t really say I feel more comfortable in one role in particular. I seriously enjoy them all. I will say, there’s something special about getting physical with a project, hand-illustration, set design, costume design, and crafting it all into a final series of images. It’s fun to see things come to life across disciplines. Which creative hat to put on depends a lot on the type of project and the team I’m working with. I’m always collaborating, and in this way it allows for others to add strengths to the process in places that I’m lacking. For example, I work a lot with artist/stylist Madeline Moore, and when we work together I take on more of a concept-driving role where she acts more as a quality-controller. She has a real talent and aptitude for dialing in the fine details and making sure the things we produce, especially any tangible work, is the best that it can be.
What’s one creative role you haven’t yet explored that you’d love to dive into in the future?
Growing up, I sang in several choirs, played trumpet and still fiddle around on the piano from time to time. I’m always talking about making music of some sort, an EP or album, and it’s something I want to make happen at some point. I’m also excited at the prospect of getting into interior design. A long-term dream has been to do visual direction of some sort on a short or feature-length film.
You formed the studio The Young Never Sleep. What do you see as the pros of solo work vs. the pros of collaborative work?
The pros of working solo or collaboratively, to me, can also be the cons. It’s great, to a degree, to be in complete control of a project but it’s also very important to have outside input. More so than having outside input, I think it’s important to understand and gauge whose input is valuable and whose isn’t. Listening to the right people makes a big difference. In the same way, doing collaborative work has the benefit of a diverse base of perspectives and input. However, it’s really easy to slip into a “too many cooks” scenario, so balance is so essential to that process.
Do your parents understand what you do for a living?
I was raised for the most part by my mom and she’s always been super supportive of my work. I don’t think she really UNDERSTANDS a lot of it initially, but she understands me and whenever we get into a conversation about what I do or the ideas behind what I create, it makes a lot of sense to her. I think she and other members of my family recognize that I find a lot of self-value, identity and even companionship from the things that I make, so even if they don’t fully understand the what’s or why’s, they’re happy to see me making.
What moment or project in your career so far has made you the proudest?
The project so far that’s made me the proudest is the apparel and accessory series I produced for Cartoon Network. It was a self-initiated project and my very last while working full-time at the network before leaving this past spring. I sought out to connect Cartoon Network with Print All Over Me, whom I’ve worked with on several previous occasions, in a way that would bring some new life and a fresh perspective to the network’s consumer products. I designed the apparel and accessories, then had them produced through Print All Over Me. I developed the concept and directed the shoot, styled the models and constructed a set to compliment the clothing. It was a pretty involved endeavor and took a lot of work to pull off, but in the end it was totally worth it. My experience at Cartoon Network was incredibly rewarding, so to leave with this as a final project was sort of a way of saying “thank you” to everyone on the creative team there.
What do you do when Not Working?
I’m usually working haha. If I’m not working when I’m not working, I’m usually reading some article about quantum physics or biotechnology or social injustice. Either that or watching really bad movies like Tremors or some other B horror movies from the 80’s - 90’s. I also like to dance. A lot.
Who are some other WNW members you admire, and why?
Joseph Veazey and Chris Golden. I know them both personally and have worked with them in the past. They both have wonderfully unique visual styles and create high-calibre, cross-disciplinary work. It’s awesome watching them grow as creative peers and I always feel constantly challenged by the work they produce. I think the way our society is structured, in this overly-competitive way, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there’s room for everyone to be successful if they work hard at crafting their own individual voice. So it’s rewarding to have this healthy competitive/collaborative relationship with Chris and Joe. It’s exciting to see them succeed and grow.
What song always gets you in the creative zone?
If you weren’t a designer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Something in science. Biology, astrophysics, teaching. I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer when I was in elementary school.
Any tips or advice for fellow creatives?
I’m not sure I have much in the way of advice for other people. We’re all learning and take unique lessons from our own paths. Trust yourself, trust your own journey. Stay constantly immersed in the kind of work you want to see yourself creating. Define and continue to redefine your own meaning of success and seek that. Those are some things I constantly tell myself.
Two Truths and a Lie
Near-death experiences can be explained by new research on the abnormal functioning of dopamine combined with the extreme fear of dying and the loss of oxygen and blood flow to the eyes. The ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and out-of-body experience are due to the combination of chemically induced hallucinations and preconceived notions.
I like burritos.
Cities you’ve lived in, summed up in one word
San Francisco: refreshing
Things you would tell your high school or early twenties self
You’re going to fall in love a lot. Be patient.
Save your money dude.
Anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t asked?
I think that’s all. Check out my blog?