Joseph NorrisGifs for Aotearoa
Submission # 40
Self-initiated – Tāku kaupapa
Identity – Place
Wildcard – Unique Projects
Tasman, Te Tai-o-Aorere
Animated gifs are an unusual art medium. Unlike Grandma’s VHS collection, they have evolved over the years and adapted with technology trends. No longer restricted to grainy cat videos, these tiny animated stickers have become a unique method of communication in themselves. Social media has never been more colourful. There are gifs for nearly everything. Need to tell someone you love them? There’s a sticker for that. Feeling good vibes? There’s one for that too. But if you wanted one for Matariki, or Waitangi Day, or a simple mince pie — your options are limited.
There seems to be an endless supply of fun stickers available on social media, but a distinct lack of New Zealand themed options. At the start of lockdown, I put the question out: ‘what gifs does New Zealand need?’ I received many answers including Kiwi colloquialisms, city/place names, and stickers in Te Reo Māori. So with a pad full of suggestions, and a little extra lockdown time, I started drawing.
Design is usually done to tell a story; this project doesn’t...
What makes this kaupapa different is that, instead of telling its own story, it assists others to tell theirs. The aim was to produce stickers that were uniquely New Zealand — ones that Kiwi’s could identify with, and use on their social media videos. The intention is to add value to our collective story through these anonymous animations.
Not all stickers worked. Some suggestions were quite left-field and fun but had little impact. Others merged with our greater Kiwi voice with a familiar language. I quickly learned that the gifs that work best were ones that had a hand-drawn feel to them. Typography-based animations of kiwi phrases that looked like they were created by a human, not computer-generated, gained more traction.
Through trial and error, this library of kiwi-themed stickers grew, each one now a part of New Zealand’s digital voice.
With more than 130 stickers (and growing), this side-project has taken on a life of its own. These stickers have popped up across the social-media landscape — from celebrities to local small businesses — adding colour to our stories. Although the stickers in this Aotearoa Gif Collection do not generate any revenue, they have collectively received more than one billion views over the course of 2020.
In ten years time, the gif may be an extinct fossil, but for now, it is an interesting snapshot of the way we humans communicate in this digital age.
"Enjoy the coming together of culture/location, design and technology!"
"This project could be the synopsis of the next Taika Waititi's movie: the guy on a mission to fix the lack of national GIFs supply."
"A very niche opportunity to shape the nation's identity and help people tell their story online. I can only hope that more people will get involved to increase the diversity of styles and cultures!"
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