Rob Johnson: 4 years a Dog


Being a Dog means you’re an individual, someone with a strong personality and talents in abundance. It also means you’re part of a team, our pack. In this series, we’re finding out a little bit about the individuals behind Dog as they reach milestones in their careers here. This month, we’re chatting to Rob Johnson, Head of Arts & Motion, as he reaches 4 years at Dog.

How did you get into the industry?

I started working up in Aberdeen building/animating/illustrating training and safety courses for offshore workers. I had a love for graphic design and illustration and it became abundantly clear that there wasn't much cutting edge graphic design to be found in this area of the Oil & Gas industries. So I moved to Glasgow where I got a job working at Dog as a flash developer. 


What does a typical day look like?

No day really looks the same, which is the best bit about the Arts & Motion team. We all come from a background of Flash so we're a mixed bag of illustrators, film makers, animators and coders. Flash was great as it pretty much gave us a playground where anything was possible. We still have that mentality, we just apply it to different techniques and harness different technologies. With that, we get lots of creative ‘odd jobs,’ whether it's illustration work for print, animation work for ads, film shooting or developing apps. 


Favourite Dog project or campaign to date?

There's been so many fun jobs which I've loved but the best one has been working on the Baillie Gifford Edinburgh International Book Festival sponsorship campaign for kids. Based on the theme of "Curious about the world" we created an experiential campaign with lots of interactive elements. I designed a series of posters for the kids’ tent which was turned into an installation, and we built a series of Ipad puzzles based on the designs. I love doing illustration for kids, the stuff that looks fun is normally the best stuff to work on.


Best experience at the agency so far?

Many moons ago a few of us went to Brighton for the Flash on the Beach conference. It’s now known as Brighton Digital Festival – definitely worth a look! It was so much fun and great to meet all the people we pretty much worshipped in terms of Flash development. The speakers were creative industry heroes including Erik Natzke, Joshua Davis, GmunK and Robert Hodgin. A very inspirational jolly to the beach.


Thinking back to your first day at Dog….What do you recall?

My very first day in Dog was on our summer day out so I did NO work and spent it driving little buggies off road in the middle of nowhere. I had only lived in Glasgow about a week, I remember going out later for drinks and being the last man standing having no idea where in Glasgow I was or how to get home (I don't think I was the only one).


How has your role changed since you started?

Everything in my job role has changed, I first started out as a flash developer and since then flash has died and I now run the Arts & Motion team. The landscape we work in changes so much, so quickly that we need to adapt to keep up with it. The bulk of the technologies I studied at university no longer exist! Director, Quark, freehand, Dreamweaver etc (I don't miss any of them).

The great thing about my job, whether it be animation, film or advertising, is that it almost doesn't matter what technology you use, technology is just the thing that makes it possible. It’s the idea that has to be good. That’s what matters.


What do you hope to achieve at Dog over the next 12 months?

Just constantly looking to raise the bar in terms of the standard of the work output. It's my job to make sure the right work is put in front of the right people both internally and externally. We’ve made great headway over the past year, but I’d love to expand the team and have some new talent/skillsets to play with.

I love collaborating with others. It's quite easy given our wide spread of animation techniques to want to do EVERYTHING ourselves, but actually it's quite refreshing to bring in others externally for a fresh perspective and learn new skills from others along the way. 


The industry…What would you banish to Room 101?

Stock's horrific. We do a lot of work in the financial services industry, so I've seen more images of men in suits shaking hands than you've had hot meals. I do like to abuse stock from time to time…. 


Favourite ad or marketing campaign ever? You haven’t worked on it!

The Never say no to Panda ads - a bonkers Egyptian ad campaign for Arab Dairy. I think it's for cheese but, to be honest, that panda could sell me anything, I think they get funnier the more you watch them. 


Who inspires you?

My Parents inspire me hugely. My mum always goes out of her way to make everyone happy and my Dad always made/fixed things himself (pre google!) My dad always seemed to be able to do EVERYTHING effortlessly from drawing to building a house extension. Now I have kids I want to distil that mentality, but I try to apply it to EVERYTHING I do - all about the knowledge, yo. 

Design inspiration I get from everywhere! A wee wander, Films, Documentaries, Cartoons, music, games, art, comedy, (proper) books, kids books and charity shops. The big guns would be: Michel Gondry, Ridley Scott, Hayao Miyazaki, anything Aardman, Jim Henson (Labyrinth is the best film ever made, that's a fact), Stan lee, Walt Disney, David Attenborough, Terry Gillingham, Nick Cave, John Lasseter, Oliver Jeffers, Charlie Brooker, Reggie Watts, Stewart Lee….This list could go on and on. My kids are probably my biggest inspiration. So much energy and curiosity, it's great to hear/see things from their perspective.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

"Don't be a dick." It's that simple. I left Dog for a couple of years to freelance and remember being massively stressed about going it alone. It was great to collaborate with others and meet loads of great like-minded creatives all just dead nice and doing what they do best.

My Dad always told me to "Never burn my bridges" which also worked out well as I ended up going back to a different job in Dog.


And what piece of advice would you give to a younger “you”?

Don't sell your Sega Megadrive.


How do you switch off and relax?

High up on the list is just hanging out with the family. I have two kids and a third on the way so there's never a dull moment.

I love retro video games and DIY keeps me busy. I combined the two by converting an old wardrobe I had into an old arcade cabinet for my Sega Megadrive - I've slowly been buying back my original collection. I love hanging out in my garage.

I love doodling and drawing. It passes a lot of my time in both work and play. I also collect a lots of old cameras and love a good charity shop/eBay's a problem. 


If you weren’t doing what you do at Dog, what’s Plan B? What would you be doing, and why?

I'd love a little workshop and just make wooden toys. There’s something quite nice about putting actual tools down at the end of the day. I get a bit bored staring at computers all day. I can't wait to retire...I'd be amazing at it.

So there you have it, an insight into the mind of Dog's resident Arts & Motion lead. You can follow and chat to Rob on Twitter @bitsOfBobs.