Innovation Spotlight: Bring Your Story To Life With OpenPixel
Welcome to the Innovation Spotlight series for the DCD Blog, where we interview some of the newest and most creative companies popping up in the Boston area. If you would like to be featured in our series, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewee: Katie Taccone, Co-Founder and Creative
Picture this: you’re surfing through the internet, checking out the hottest new tech sites, when suddenly, you come across a page that has a 30 second embedded video. The animation is eye-catching and the narrative upbeat, compelling you to sit and watch the entire thing. In those quick 30 seconds, not only have you been entertained, but you learned a little something about what that company does as well.
OpenPixel is an animation studio dedicated to creating these “explainer videos.” As Katie Taccone, Co-Founder and Creative at OpenPixel likes to say, they are “a storytelling company for businesses looking to share their service and products.” OpenPixel’s main goal is to tell their clients’ stories, the way their clients want it told. It is important to Taccone, and everyone else at OpenPixel, that they create relationships with their clients that enable them get to the heart of what their client’s goal is for their company.
Originally, Taccone and her co-founders, Karen Webb and Will Colón, worked together for Anzovin Studio for about 3 years. During that time, Anzovin did animation as production content as well as software development, but when they decided that they wanted to focus on their development side, Anzovin handed the reins over to OpenPixel for the creative work.
Katie Taccone, Creative and Co-Founder of OpenPixel Studios
Karen Webb, Creative and Co-Founder of OpenPixel Studios
William Colón, Creative and Co-Founder of OpenPixel Studios
This relationship has been a win-win for both companies. Even though OpenPixel is legally separate from Anzovin, they are still affiliated with them and consider each other sister studios. This means that OpenPixel gets to use Anzovin’s animation tools, allowing them to produce videos using a newer and faster method, but they also get to focus on innovating ideas to go beyond the standard for what is done.
“We try to question everything,” Taccone says, “especially when everyone is doing something a certain way.” Although experimenting doesn’t always work out, Open Pixel still puts their best effort into making themselves more efficient and exploring what normally is taken for granted.
So just who are OpenPixel’s clients? Well, it could be you. In fact, Taccone finds that narrowing down their target audience is pretty difficult, because of how versatile animated media has become. In 2017, OpenPixel worked with a wide range of companies and clients, primarily comes through ad agencies and multimedia companies, but they’re also highly popular with individual startups who are reaching out and promoting their company for the first time.
One of the qualities that helps them with any client is their story-to-screen mentality. The OpenPixel journey begins at the storytelling stage with a big kickoff call to figure out who the company is, what pain points they address, and how they do it. Once they’ve got a feel for the real driving motivations, OpenPixel begins working with the company to develop a script. Some clients chose to provide their own script, but just as often, the creatives at OpenPixel will write one. This gives them the launching point for where to go with their videos.
Although there is somewhat of a formula for explainer videos, as there is with any major storytelling device, the creative team at OpenPixel try use their “Always Be Questioning” philosophy to find different ways to keep the stories interesting. You see, with any platform, especially explainer videos, you can get into the realm of seeing the same thing over and over again. To combat this, OpenPixel puts a strong focus on creating stories and videos that are engaging but fall out of that normal set of bounds.
A demo reel of some of the projects that OpenPixel has worked on.
But OpenPixel does not intend to focus solely on explainer videos. In fact, recently, they began work on their very first video game for the American Canoe Association. In addition to doing projects for the ACA in the past, such as a video of the Top 10 Boating Safety Tips, OpenPixel has also done an illustrated children’s book for them based on those same ideas. Now, the ACA want to take those tips and turn them into a video game. Taccone is extremely excited about this project, because it gives the talent at OpenPixel a way to showcase that they can create products using different types of media and explain stories in so many different ways.
In addition to expanding to new and exciting forms of media, Taccone hopes that the company itself will grow their team and brand as well. One of the biggest things that they’re working on right now is becoming certified as a women-owned business, which could possibly end up being the first women-owned animation studio in Massachusetts, an exciting distinction for sure.
The fact that OpenPixel is primarily based in New England is also a point of pride for Taccone, and she loves seeing all the studios popping up in the area. “I think a lot of people have this idea that when they want to be an animator they have to go to a big studio in California,” she says. “That was a big dilemma even just for me going to college, […] and I think especially in this area it’s important to showcase that animation is happening here. Video games, TV, movies, there’s a lot of great creative talent that has yet to be tapped into and I think that’s a shame.”
When she thinks about it, Taccone feels that OpenPixel is full of big aspirations and big ideas. It is her hope that in five years, she’s going to be a place that allows her to explore more types of animation content. While Ope Pixel has a strong pipeline of work when it comes to explainer videos, she’d love to be able to do some short films or television shows. Although it depends on the kind of projects they get, Taccone feels that expanding into different outlets is a huge goal for the company.
The infamous bars of soap created by the creative Will Colón
But first, OpenPixel really needs to get settled into their first year. The past couple months have been particularly over the top for them, as they presented their first public talk and took part in a trade show for the first time. For Taccone, it was crazy and exciting at the same time, and she thinks that one of the biggest challenges OpenPixel has dealt with in the past couple of months is how to really manage that time.
Because they’re such a small company right now, everyone wears multiple hats at OpenPixel, and on top of the creative stuff, they have to go to events and market and do outreach and plan out strategy for the next few years. Trying to prepare and build a talk and plan out a trade show were huge learning experiences for them, but even when they encounter a new challenge, Taccone knows they’re ready to tackle it in new and exciting ways.
For example, incorporating their creativity into everything they do is a huge part of OpenPixel’s identity. For the trade show, Colón made 160 handmade bars of soap shaped like their logo that they gave away. Taccone herself has made OpenPixel earrings, a tree star for her Christmas tree, and a number of other off-the-wall things like that which allow them to manage the sort of crazy ride that they’re on. Her specialty, however?
Perhaps we should all count ourselves lucky that Taccone didn’t decide to name the company OpunPixel.
But aside from punishing her teammates with clever wordplay, hearing people’s thoughts and ideas is one of the things that Taccone loves best. “I really think that companies don’t become great just from the internal stuff they’re doing,” she says. “There’s also a community that helps your company thrive and there are so many creative people who can help form what your company can be. I love creating those relationships and I look at it as ‘our company will always be evolving.’ Even if we hit all our goals and get to where we want to be, we’ll still be evolving and changing based on the relationships we make.”
For Taccone, being able to connect with the other studios in Massachusetts has been awesome. She acknowledges that it can be hard for the smaller studios to get their name out there, so she appreciates having studios around that are always open to helping each other out. To Taccone, it’s nice that all the local animation studios are really supportive of each other and that they’ve come together to create a feeling of community instead of looking at each other as competition. And in the end, being Open is what they’re all about.