Colleges create national auto commercial

Bejan Siavoshy

CSUN students versed in various art disciplines are working together to develop Ford Focus commercials for a competition that pits the Center for Visual Communications against other various colleges and universities in southern California.

Since its launch in August 2007, the center, 410VISCOM, has been making its headway into the design community with the help of a dedicated student staff. Most recently, the center was chosen to participate in a competition held by Ford Motor Company, along with Pasadena’s Art Center, Chapman University, Otis College of Art and Design and CSU Long Beach.

Each school works on several concepts that have to be produced and made into commercials, which have to be submitted by the May 1 deadline. The commercial that gets picked will be seen circulated in movie theaters and television spots nationwide during the upcoming months.

CSUN Graphic Design seniors Chris O’Neill and Julien Fyhrie have been spearheading the directions their respective concepts are going towards, which are among the submissions that 410VISCOM will enter into the competition. Both O’Neill and Fyhrie have incorporated a wide range of talents to assist in the culmination of each of their ideas.

“I don’t remember any other project in my college career where there was different disciplines collaborating on one project,” said O’Neill. “We have film students helping us, we have animation students working with graphic designers working with illustrators?people I would have never met otherwise were brought together by this project.”

Fyhrie shares the same views; elaborating on his experience so far in making his concept come to be, he said, “It has been a really interesting process, working with some animation students and filming and then working in post-production. There (are) a lot of facets in working with a project like this and it has been a good opportunity.”

In the early stages, the students working in 410VISCOM split into teams to come up with about five concepts for each team. Then they all got together and decided which were the best among those that were proposed. Seven were chosen, four of which came from O’Neill’s team, and one that was the collective brainchild of Fyhrie’s team.

As the beginning of May approaches, the teams are feverishly working in post-production to fine tune the details of their commercials. With the idea that they are making more than just a run-of-the-mill car commercial, everyone involved is helping to the put the unique finishing touches that these students hope will set them apart from the competition.

“We’re pretty far along in our commercial,” said Fyhrie, regarding the completion of his team’s concept. “It is just about finesse right now, it is the details that sell things, you know. It is not the overall picture. What is it that is going to separate our commercial from something else? That’s really our main focus in these last two weeks.”

Nir Gutman, a graphic design major, initially helped set up the storyboards for Fyhrie’s team concept. But after seeing the concept, he decided to become an actor in the commercial as well, which has a subtle comedic aspect that Fyhrie and his team feels will be able to connect with audiences.

“I like the concepts that they had and I was asked if I wanted to go in front of the camera, and I was like ‘sure,'” said Gutman. The comedic aspect wasn’t lost to Gutman, either. With the absence of a slapstick approach, Gutman felt comfortable in front of the camera because of the “subtlety” of the comedy that the concept invoked.

“You can be funny and be subtle. (The commercial’s humor) was very subtle, the idea that the viewer is taking in (from the commercial) is the funny part?it is very tasteful and funny humor,” said Gutman, regarding the concept being developed by Fyhrie and his team.

While Fyhrie and his team have been working on their one concept, O’Neill trails slightly behind him in completion, developing four concepts concurrently to enter into the competition. Despite being in a time crunch, O’Neill remains optimistic, appreciating the process as a whole.

“It is all very exciting because where else would I have been going to school and actually have the opportunity to work on a car commercial,” said O’Neill. “I am a graphic designer, so I have never really filmed something, let alone use a green screen or worry about sound editing or actors, but taking this project made me realize that it is true I don’t know how to use those things yet, but I have to learn them.”

Another integral member of the conceptualizing process was graphic design senior Tara Tucker. Helping O’Neill and his team initially and working to bring more people from various backgrounds on board with the projects, Tucker feels that all the hard work the students are putting in is very labor-intensive, but it is also what keeps them going.

“It’s been really tiring me out, but the fact that we’ve been going from scribbles on a piece of paper to a solid concept to refining it and refining it?to what we have now, the whole process is just firing me up,” said Tucker.

Leslie Africa is another student member of the Center for Visual Communication that was said to have been instrumental in developing the concepts, helping with the animation and motion aspects of the commercials.

410VISCOM’s managing director Dave Moon and creative director Joe Bautista, both graphic design professors, have been providing direction for the students to materialize their ideas into solid work.

“It’s really cool to see the concepts (progress) from sketches to real commercials,” said Bautista. “I know it sounds cheesy, but I think we put so much work into it that winning won’t really make a difference on how we feel about the project. I think we will all be very happy with the work we produce.”

Recently, the commercials were given a mid-progress critique by Thomas Koh, creative director for design firm, Blind.com, whose client list ranges from Activation to Volkswagen. Koh studied graphic design at CSUN under Moon before transferring to Art Center, where he finished his undergraduate degree. He then worked with Moon at the professor’s prior design company business venture, Crystal Communications.

“It is really exciting to see the student body progress this much,” said Koh. “I know I wasn’t walking in to view finished products, but there are definitely concepts that show the growth of the curriculum.”

Moon’s background in running his own graphics design company and being interim dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communications helped him establish 410VISCOM into what it is today, given the short period of time it has been running.

“We are working with the local community of businesses, non-profit organizations and other graphic designers to provide students with a real-world experience of what they face when coming into the industry after college,” said Moon.

“I think doing the commercial is a good thing, but I really want to use (410VISCOM) this as a platform to be regionally focused and nationally recognized,” said Moon. “I really want a great story of our students and our program to go out there to southern California. What better way to introduce to the local community that CSUN has arrived?”