What I've Learned

Tabula Rasa

Marijn van der Ploeg, Joost Smith, Arif Abdillah
Thu 1 Nov

The ability to see any moment as an opportunity to create is what makes us human.

In 2018 Marijn van der Ploeg, Joost Smith and Arif Abdillah have submitted their collaboration project for D&AD Professional Awards. And won one of the awards, the Wooden Pencil, with their project Tabula Rasa! Tabula Rasa is a hand copy/hand coloured animation that inspires seeing every moment - even the sad one - as a blank slate, a blank canvas and an opportunity to create.

D&AD Professional Awards are much more than just awards. Members join a vibrant global community, whilst creatives and clients are inspired by a world-class Training programme.

Introducing the crew:

Marijn van der Ploeg & Joost Smith: Audiovisual Design, both graduated in summer 2018.

Arif Abdillah: After working for two years as a Junior Associate Lawyer and finishing my Master in Public International Law and Human Rights, I realised I rather play with ideas and make stories. Sue me! Good questions can turn me into an overcharged Duracell Bunny trying to find answers.

Tell us about your (collaboration) project

Marijn: In our second year Joost Smith and I have worked together on a project called ‘Toen je zo was Rotterdam’. A film, assigned by Rotterdam's Municipal Archive. The Hoogstraat has once been seen as the heart of the city, but it was completely destroyed during the bombardment on the 14th of May 1940. We hand coloured archive footage of the Hoogstraat in Rotterdam to bring the feeling of the street back.

Joost: After an extended search, we had found the authentic footage in Rotterdam City Archive. We had edited the video, then transformed it to pictures (15 FPS), printed and coloured them by hand and then scanned to create ”Tabula Rasa”.

This project was the craziest we had ever done until then. For months we worked on hand colouring of the archive material - it did cost us much more time than we had expected. We had to ask our families, friends and classmates to help us to complete the task. Because of this time-consuming start, we ended up having too little time for a proper edit. So this project, where we had put all our time and energy in, turned out to be less good than we had hoped. When two years later, Arif asked us if he were open for re-editing, we were truly excited about it. Besides, the angle that Arif had proposed still fitted our original idea.

Then, You Were Rotterdam, the original

Arif: D&AD New Blood is an advertising and design competition in the UK. There are ten different kinds of briefs from advertising, design, service design and branded content. Each year, students from all over the world compete to answer those briefs. In 2017 one of my works had been awarded a Yellow Pencil (Gold) at D&AD New Blood Award. Winning this award provided a lot of opportunities such as selection at D&AD New Blood Academy 2017, an internship at JWT Amsterdam and internship at Anomaly Amsterdam. I have decided to participate in D&AD New Blood competition again in 2018. I worked on it every weekend for nearly three months. At the same time, I was busy with the internship, while trying to graduate in the weekdays. After scanning all the briefs, I had decided to work on three different briefs: Bacardi, BBC and Microsoft, with BBC and Bacardi being my priority. Microsoft's brief was about creating a branded content and showing that Microsoft Surface means infinite possibilities for creative people. I have created an inspiration board collecting works that inspire me while thinking and pondering about the ideas possible to execute within the timeframe I had.

I had fallen in love with that film the moment I saw it.

Two weeks before the deadline, while working on the execution phase of BBC and Bacardi I had decided not to submit my project for Microsoft - the timeframe is too tight to execute my concept well.
Just one week before the deadline I had glanced at my inspiration board and the film “Then, You Were Rotterdam” that was sitting there from day one had jumped out. I had realised that reframing this project would be perfect for Microsoft’s brief. I had fallen in love with that film the moment I saw it in our second year of Audiovisual Design. I couldn't NOT make it. I just HAD to make it.

Joost and Marijn gave their permission to reframe, re-write and remix the film and I had started to re-write the narrative, found and directed the new narrator right away. I showed my interpretation of their work to Marijn and Joost and was happy they both liked it. This work was completed exactly five minutes before the deadline.

Tabula Rasa is a hand copy/hand coloured animation that inspires seeing every moment - even the sad one - as a blank slate, a blank canvas and an opportunity to create. Rotterdam was bombed to the ground in 1940. After the war ended, Rotterdammers made a bold decision to see themselves as a blank slate, a tabula rasa.

What didn’t you expect to learn but experience as a bonus?

Marijn: When we heard about winning the Wooden Pencil we were all very excited and decided to go to London for the Award ceremony. All the Pencils' winners could also apply for the D&AD New Blood Academy. My background is in filmmaking, mostly documentary. As for applying for an academy specialising in advertising, my hopes were not that high. But I did get in! After visiting the Award ceremony with Joost, I stayed in London for two more weeks. During working together with Arif, I learned a lot about a whole new design direction. I learned about different ways of generating ideas and about how to combine design with modern technology. But the most important thing was learning that it so good to explore beyond the boundaries of your own discipline. You gain so much new inspiration, connections and a broader view.

Arif: Inspiration can come from anywhere. An open and trusting collaboration creates a conducive environment for good works to grow.

Did you gain any insights that can be used in your further life and study?

Marijn: Be open for collaborations, even though the offer comes from an entirely different area than your expertise.

Arif: Diversity, a different perspective and open collaboration allow the work to grow in a new and surprising direction that otherwise, it wouldn’t. Hard work always gives a result. But luck multiplies it.

What didn’t you expect to learn but experience as a bonus?

Arif: Don’t shy away to reframe and remix. (Always) get permission from the authors and off you go!

What kept you awake at night?

Marijn: After we made "Toen je zo was Rotterdam"I was very sad that had spent so much time and effort on this project and it still didn’t turn out so well. This is really kept me awake. But as you can see, even projects like that can win a D&AD Pencil two years later.

Arif: Possibilities, opportunities, the inklings of ideas.

What was the greatest obstacle?

Arif: My self-doubt.


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