Emrah Gonulkirmaz straddles two worlds. Though the Toronto-based motion designer has a background in classical animation and figure drawing, his interests are firmly rooted in science and technology. In some ways, his work references the old masters in their multidisciplinary endeavors. Many of his pieces have a dark, moody feel reminiscent of Rembrandt and his subtle perfection. Other works refer directly to science and mathematics, such as "Inside the Mind of Leonardo," in which Gonulkirmaz animates the thoughts of Leonardo da Vinci based on the contents of thousands of his handwritten journals.
"There's a purpose and a goal to the video… it represents the brand itself."
Whether he's working with clients in fashion, entertainment or technology, an evolving visual narrative is the foundation of Gonulkirmaz's art. Last year he created a piece for Nike Hyperfeel, inspired by data captured while running with the Nike+ Running app and Nike+ FuelBand. A simple, flat line evolves into a dimensional form depicting waves of movement punctuated by heartbeats, culminating in the iconic Nike swoosh. The visuals, paired with powerful music, result in a dynamic sensory experience that's infused with energy.
Gonulkirmaz's approach is procedural, and it requires research as well as mastery of design software. But he insists that he's not using a particularly complicated base. Often it begins with a line. He gives the line life, and the manipulation and evolution of that line tells a story. It's not about point A and point B, it's about the in-between moments—and it's spontaneous, experimental and a little random. A micro focus slowly spans to reveal a larger picture. If he likes what he sees, he pushes it as far as he can. Six or seven years ago, he explains, "there were only graphics, 2-D, plain surfaces." But today, his multidimensional approach creates a unique opportunity for viewers to connect with a piece, even without knowing what exactly they're viewing. That's the beauty of motion design.
Having contributed to a range of high-profile projects, including the titles for the 2013 Hollywood blockbuster Iron Man III, Gonulkirmaz admits that Fluidigm is a different type of brand for him.
"Fluidigm are designers in technology and hardware. We're in the same field."
The video he created for Fluidigm happened to coincide with another project he'd been researching. His general interest in biotechnology, bioelectronics, and displaying data in visual modes sparked his interest in the Fluidigm project.
In the beginning, there were two possible approaches for the Fluidigm video: literal or abstract. When creating videos for technology companies, many clients reflexively request literal imagery. A shipbuilder expects a video to show heroic scenes of welders, or a vessel silhouetted against a brilliant sunset.
But Fluidigm asked him to keep it purposefully abstract. Thus he began with micro shots—inspired by images of DNA and the abstract patterns a line of data creates when viewed from a distance—and saved the logo reveal for the conclusion. The video is a vibrant display of movement, color and life. Linear waves shudder and flow, tease a cohesive shape, disperse, and come together again. The flowing forms evoke images of muscle fibers or nerve cells, working in concert.
But the abstraction is not without purpose. "Of course there was freedom," he says, "but as a designer you need borders, too," especially when working with an existing brand. "It's a commercial work; it's not only an art piece. There's a purpose and a goal to it. And it represents the brand itself."
In the end, Gonulkirmaz says, it doesn't matter the field: design is important. "When we look at it as only design, we're in the same field," he says of Fluidigm. "They are designers in technology and of the hardware they are using. Without a design sense, you can't really get to this point." This is why he accepted the project. He thought, "I can do something for them, too."