Animating a new route to ocean conservation

06 December 2011

Interview with

Joe Jones,

12 days of fishmas. JoandJoe underwater eCards.Joe Jones from design company Archipelago and Jo and Joe cards, tells us about his innovative approach to marine conservation using eye-catching animations. Meet Bernard the Gurnard and support PADI's Project Aware conservation activities around the world by sending some singing fish Christmas cards.

Joe: From these cards we then started getting inquires to create animations for organizations. The first people that approached us were the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and they asked us to make some films for children about climate change and how climate change was going to impact the Great Barrier Reef. There are three different films: What is Climate Change, What are the Impacts of Climate Change, and What is Coral Bleaching. Which is something which had never been explained very easily and still quite a lot of debates about what it was, what the extent of it was. So we created these three films for children and they were really well received. I'd say basically, since then, we've turned a whole business to focus on using animation to explain scientific concepts with an environmental focus.

Christmas penguins by Jo and Joe cardsHelen: Some of your videos are absolutely brilliant, I think we can only encourage listeners to go and have a look at your website and check some of the stuff out. The latest one I have seen is Bernard the Gurnard, who is fantastic.

Joe: Thank you, yeah.

Helen: And that is a campaign for creating protected areas here in the UK isn't it?

Joe: Yeah, we've been working with the Wildlife Trust for several years now on different campaigns and Bernard the Gurnard first made an appearance a couple of years ago as part of the original campaign to get a marine bill in place.

Because, basically, in the UK there almost zero protection for anything in the sea. If you want to go and dig up the sea bed because you think there are some minerals there you can pretty much do what you like and, as a result of that we are losing species left, right and center.

So, we created Bernard the Gurnard who is this impatient gurnard tapping his spines on a rock and saying basically "I'm waiting for some protection. Why don't you humans hurry up and get me some."

Humphead wrasse animation still by Jo and Joe cardsThis drove many thousands of people to an online petition which was part of the Wildlife Trust's efforts in getting the marine bill passed, which it was. Now we are at the stage where the marine bill is liable to get watered down the point that it doesn't mean anything because of commercial interests and politicians doing what politicians do.

It's very important that people get on board and make sure that we actually get marine protected areas around the UK coast.

Helen: What animal is next, or what creature is next for the e-cards?

Joe: Well, the most common request we get, and I think it's because I made a post somewhere saying please don't ask us to do this because it is so difficult, is an octopus. It has about a thousand moving parts and is difficult to animate naturally. So that is the next big challenge I think.

Helen: I think you should do a mimic octopus, that's even trickier.

Joe: Yep, Yep. That would be good, that would be good.

Helen: Well excellent, I look forward to seeing your octopus. And are there any Seahorse animation from Jo and Joe cardsupcoming campaigns, new ones coming out or do you have to keep quiet about them until they are actually out?

Joe: We have to keep quiet about some of them, although we are doing quite a lot of work with Sea Life. They are doing a lot of conservation work and they've never really talked about it very much but behind the scenes in most of the Sea Life Aquariums there is a lot of amazing sort of seahorse breeding programs and things like this going on and they are involved in a lot of animal rescue sanctuaries as well with different locations around the world.

So, we've got some animations now in the London Aquarium talking about general marine environmental issues. Such as marine debris and some of these sustainable fishing issues which obviously effect nearly everything. We are going to be rolling out a whole new bunch of those over the next year or so.

One thing which we are doing a lot of work on at the moment, and this is developing, is people are generally used to seeing campaign animation but it is essentially a character telling a story. Now that works very, very well for a known audience but the Wildlife Trust know the sort of people they are talking to and so they knew that Bernard the Gurnard was going to go down well with them and they were going to engage with it.

Christmas tree worm animation still from Joe JonesIf you are trying to reach a much wider audience than that, character animation doesn't necessarily work so well because you can easily get it wrong, there are a lot of cultural specifics which make it work.

So, we are developing this format called "explanimation". If you imagine taking an illustration and using animation to illustrate a concept or process or a device as efficiently as possible using the minimum amount of detail with the maximum about of key information.

Now with predictions that online video use is effectively going to be 90% of all internet traffic within the next couple of years. Video is established as a format, within that there is animation, within that there is "explanimation" and we think that is going to be the next big thing.

Find out more:Christmas manta ray animation still by Jo and Joe cards

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Meet Bernard the Gurnard and support the Wildlife Trusts campaign to protect British seas

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