Devon Moodley: Netherlands-bound Motion Graphics Designer from Xero

On motion graphics, making accounting videos 'sexy', and giant leaps of faith.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to a career in motion graphics and video?

I grew up in South Africa and moved to New Zealand when I was 13. My dad is a closet artist and taught my siblings and me a lot as we were growing up. We’d do graphic design, painting, massive murals, but I never thought that design was something I could actually do as a career.

I took art and design subjects at high school and then in university I completed a bachelor in art and design, majoring in digital. It was a brand-new degree; there were only 40 of us in the the country doing it, learning about 3D animation, visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing.

We had a teacher called Andrew Denton who taught us how to do the Spider Man intro, where you take several different webs, layer and rotate them in 3D space, and fly a 3D camera through it. After that I was hooked, I wanted to do film titles: to tell a story, about a story, before a story.

After university I took up a motion graphics job at a church. Not everyone knows that churches produce a ton of video content and motion graphics. Three years later I was offered a job as a Motion Graphics Designer at Xero, a company that produces accounting software for small businesses.  

What was it like making videos at Xero?  

Producing content for accounting software was a new challenge – it became a question of how to make accounting software look sexy, beautiful and engaging!

We did a lot of case studies, approaching small business owners and asking them about how Xero has changed their lives. We quickly learned that one of the biggest commodities that you can't buy, is time. If you're able to save someone time, they can spend that time doing other things – hanging out with their kids or making profit for their business. Nobody wants to spend their time doing their books. So being able to produce videos that showcased that benefit, and make accounting software seem really appealing, was a big win for me.

We were really focused on our audience and I think if you can get to the stage where you can show the lifestyle that the product creates, and not show the product at all, that’s what resonates. Success is connecting on an emotional level.

How have tools like Wipster changed your workflow?

Working in a fast-paced environment like Xero, it's really hard to keep track of feedback. They pump out videos like crazy. Having to track all those videos through the review and approval process, seeing who’s said what, making changes and working with the various stakeholders, would be incredibly frustrating without Wipster.

Having a tool like Wipster keeps feedback in one central place, making our lives as video makers so much easier. You can print everything out, have it in front of you and resolve it immediately. For Xero it was a game-changer.

What other tools do you love using?

Vimeo is a big one: Xero has been using it for years, and hosts all its videos there – I think they have more than 800 videos on it now. I also use it all the time for my person work – I think I’ve liked 5,000 videos, which shows you how much time I spend on Vimeo!

For Xero they can assign thumbnails, play videos without any ads (that’s a biggie!), and have a really easy-to-use end call to action. The HD clarity and great loading time is excellent too.

For me, it’s like YouTube is a smorgasbord, where there’s so much stuff but you don’t know what you want, or where to find it, whereas Vimeo is fine dining. The Vimeo community of designers, motion graphics, and videographers is like a village. Everybody respects each other and plays nice. You get feedback from people who really care about the work you produce, so there’s this sense that we’re all creatives, there to support one another.

What would be awesome would be integrating Wipster with Vimeo – they complement each other so well; the process would be seamless! To be able to send a client a single link with Wipster inside Vimeo would completely wrap up the review, approval, and publishing workflow. It would save time and make for very happy clients.

Do you have any creative projects outside of work?

I think as a designer, or a creative in general, you need to have things that inspire you outside of your normal working day. You can’t put creativity to sleep, it never goes away. You can be walking, see something inspiring and think “I need to capture that and do something with it’. I’ve got the cliche notepad-beside-my-bed and there's been nights where I get up at two in the morning and think ‘I've got to do this right now’.

If we are unable to flex our creative muscles creatives can just be the worst people to deal with. Having projects outside of work is important because it pushes you out of your comfort zone and makes you think about things from a different perspective.

What’s next for Devon Moodley?

I’m taking a giant leap of faith and moving to Holland with my wife. There’s an amazing design and motion graphics community in the Netherlands, as well as being a central hub to the rest of Europe. It’s home to studios like Not to ScaleOne Size and Present Plus who are making ridiculous, award-winning content, so the idea of rubbing shoulders with some of these guys is so exciting.

I think in order to create your best work, you want to be surrounded by people who are better than you. That's my next goal; to get back into learning and be the guy asking questions. I’m at a point where I feel like I need to learn more; I'm not even close to the peak of my career, I've only just scratched the surface.

I want to go create some amazing memories, meet some amazing people, and produce some really good work. A piece of advice that sums this is up is that “you can always make money, but you can't always make memories”. So if I can base myself around some amazing people and learn some new things, what is there to lose?

Thanks Devon, and all the best with your move!