Like many children, Milton Gonzalez was fascinated by animated films and video games as a boy. He just never thought it would turn into a full-time profession. “I used to think that animation was only about characters,” says Milton. “But then I understood I could tell a story using typography, abstract shapes, and a variety of graphic resources as well.”
Together with Valeria Moreiro and Roberto Conolly, Milton runs NotReal, an award-winning creative studio based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The company’s portfolio includes clients like IBM, Microsoft, Facebook and Nike.
How did they get there? Milton has gained his experience as an animation director in a different Argentinian studio, called Zublime. While his partner took care of the design side, Milton was responsible for the animation, from 2D and 3D to live action. During those days, he honed and perfected an array of techniques which he still uses today.
A partnership in work and in life
In 2017, Milton set up agency NotReal together with Valeria Moreiro, his business partner and partner in life.
The two were already living together in Milton’s Zublime days. When Valeria went freelance, she started taking on some of Milton’s projects at Zublime when he couldn’t handle the workload, and their professional collaboration began.
Working with Valeria got easier and better over time, Milton says. “Over the years, we learned how to make this double partnership work, and I think today we are on our best season,” he notes.
The two additional founding partners in NotReal, Eugenia Garcia Montaldo and Roberto Conolly, are also close. “The relationship between the four of us is terrific,” says Milton. “We're like family. Each one of us takes care of their job but at the same time, we help each other out while taking on different responsibilities when necessary.”
NotReal is a collective effort not only for the founding four but also for the rest of the team that participates in each and every project. Milton emphasizes how they always give their best and trust each other to find the best solution for the challenge at hand.
“It’s very important to stick to the design as much as possible. It doesn’t matter how cool the animation is if at the time you press play the original design falls apart or loses all connection to the storytelling sequence.”
A change of scale
Launching NotReal meant new projects and larger teams. At this stage, Milton Gonzalez started seeing himself in the role of Creative and Animation Director. “It was a huge challenge and, to be honest, it is still one today,” he tells Shaping Design of his experience as a creative director. “Doing the work by yourself is way different than communicating your thoughts to a group of people, while also helping them achieve the desired outcome.”
Along the way he came to a realization: since each new project is different from the previous one, the team itself could be different as well. For each project, he forms a brand new team that would meet the client needs best.
One thing, however, stays constant in the NotReal team: every project starts with teamwork. The design team, Milton and Valeria work collectively on the storytelling and the crafting of each sequence in the best way to combine design and animation.
Stick to your style frame
When asked about the most important lessons learned along the way, Milton notes the importance of consistency within the animated sequence. “All animated things come from a style frame,” he explains. “It’s very important to stick to the design as much as possible or at least understand why the design is this way or another. It doesn’t matter how cool the animation is if at the time you press play the original design falls apart or loses all connection to the storytelling sequence.”
Milton believes that the key to success is paying attention to every detail, no matter how small, and checking it over and over again. “There is always something that can be polished further,” he says. Milton also thinks it's important to communicate the design and storytelling and within the team. “The more we understand each other, the better the result will be,” he sums up.
Mutual trust works wonders
Internal know-how and best practices are one side of the story. Building relations with clients can, too, make or break a project.
The NotReal team finds it important to acknowledge that every client is special. Every collaborator has their own expectations and ways of working. The agency has to be able to adapt to their needs and project circumstances.
Talking about the experience of working with brands both big and small, Milton says that “If there’s something that has given us great results so far, it is to trust our process and encourage our clients to do so as well.”
“There’s always a learning curve between us and a new client”, he adds, “but we know that helping them organize what’s on their side and communicating our needs at each corresponding stage, will definitely help us achieve the best result at the end of the project.”
Milton and his NotReal colleagues believe the quality of the work process affects the quality of the end product. With the final destination in mind, they’re also ready to make room for flexibility with whatever circumstances they might encounter along the way — with hopes to create a truly astonishing final product.