Last week, on the occasion of its 25th birthday, we commented on the GIF as an art form. This week, we talked with GIF extraordinaire/designer Matthew DiVito about the medium, and what it’s like to get 20,000 notes on an animation that took around an hour to complete. DiVito, who works under the nom de gif mr.div, is one of many designers using social Internet sites like Tumblr to casually broadcast their work to an audience of thousands.
Divito, who graduated from Emerson College in 2008, works in Boston as a freelance graphic designer. But in his free time, like just about every other young creative, he spends time on Tumblr, posting photos of his cat and experimenting with time-lapse video. The site is also an immense visual resource for a young designer. "There’s so much great design and illustration on sites like Tumblr these days," he tells Co.Design.
In early 2011, he started making GIFs to test his Cinema 4D skills, and posting them to his Tumblr. DiVito’s work is very recognizable, and frequently imitated. Often, a platonic solid floats on a dark screen, deforming into another shape or shattering to pieces. His color palette—usually desaturated pastels—are a way to cut down on file sizes. "The gif is a really unique medium," he writes. "Without that hypnotic looping quality they wouldn’t quite be the same. Of course, the gif has its limitations too—it’s hard to tell a story with 2-3 seconds of animation and there’s no way to make a gif interactive."
The GIFs were originally a way for DiVito, who wants to transition into game design, to practice his animation skills. But the posts took on a life of their own—mr.div’s follower count soon skyrocketed. Currently, it’s not unusual for one of his posts to get more than 20,000 notes, illustrating how the medium has grown in popularity. For a young designer, such is exposure is incredibly valuable.
When asked about how his Tumblr has affected his career, DiVito explains that the GIFs are still simply a way to hone his skills as a game designer. Still, he says, "I’ve certainly been hearing from many more people interested in working or collaborating with me lately." Has he been commissioned for GIF work yet? "I haven’t actually made a gif for a client yet, but that may be changing soon enough!"