David Daniels: visually spreading the message about COVID-19

We talk to seasoned designer and animation director David Daniels about his latest project—a series of short graphical videos aimed at clarifying some of the issues we face around COVID-19.

David Daniels is a graphic designer and animation director with more than two decades of experience. Over the years, he has directed commercials for the likes of Honda, Nike and Nokia, has been involved in TV work for Channel 4, BBC and VH-1 television, and has produced concert visuals for music legends including Led Zeppelin, Roger Waters and Bryan Adams.

These days, he divides his time between commercial work, personal projects and teaching, but with the UK now on ‘lockdown’ due to Coronavirus, he has turned his attention to creating a series of short graphical films, in an attempt to clarify some of the issues we face around the spread of COVID-19.

Informational video showing how the spread of the virus could dramatically decrease if we stay at home.

David has produced seven videos so far, which have been shared on social media, used by local councils and food banks and sent to the World Health Organisation—and he says there are more on the way.

We caught up with him to talk about why he started the project, how the videos are produced, what he hopes to achieve and his advice to fellow creatives also enduring these difficult times.

What inspired you to start creating a series of short films about COVID-19?

It was a classic case of wondering what you can do. A writer here in Frome, Susannah Walker, got in touch suggesting we should make some informational films concerning COVID-19. We had previously produced some short films together regarding community issues in Frome, so we thought this was the perfect time to do something similar. The idea was to make short, simple, easy-to-understand pieces, stating things that could be done to hopefully help. Visually, the films should be minimal—not an exercise in style over substance.

Where do you source the information and stats that you use in the films?

A lot of information comes from the World Health Organization, while information regarding aspects such as food banks comes from Susannah’s experience working with the local food bank.

Advice on how you can help your local food bank.
What is your process for creating the films and how long does each one take to make?

These have to be made very quickly. Susannah writes a script and sends it over. I spend a few minutes trying to minimise the information needed, then reduce it further into key drawings in Affinity Designer, then export as PDF and import into After Effects.

The layout takes a standardised approach; I just use Univers type with two weights and a black, red and grey colour palette in the vast majority of cases. The films generally take two hours to make, plus some additional time to export to the various settings required, before they go back to Susannah who posts and distributes them. We can make two to three a day. The key is to present the information clearly and not lose ourselves in unnecessary decoration and detail.

Informational video warning not to put vulnerable relatives at risk.
How long have you been using Affinity apps for your work?

I’m currently using all three Affinity apps for Mac and iPad, but I’ve been working with Designer for a while now. I find it is relatively easy to use (I’m not an expert), the interface is straightforward and uncluttered, the drawing tools are very responsive and technical help is very clear. I really do appreciate that it is not tied up in a cloud somewhere. It really feels like I own the software, which is important.

Highlighting the best ways you can help stop the spread.
What do you hope to achieve with the short films you have created?

We have no real aims and ambitions. If people look at them and it helps get the message across, then that’s good—the more the better. A friend of mine is working in a hospital in Bath and he keeps repeating the same message when we talk online: stay in, keep safe and be patient because this is serious. I suppose these films are a response to his words.

“A friend of mine is working in a hospital in Bath and he keeps repeating the same message when we talk online: stay in, keep safe and be patient because this is serious. I suppose these films are a response to his words.”

Video advising people to stay at least two metres apart.
Has your professional work been adversely affected by recent events?

Potential jobs have gone on hold—maybe they will come back, but probably not. Some jobs are still happening, but you wonder if they will carry on. However, everyone is in the same boat and the most important issue is keeping well and collectively getting through this. But when things like this happen, the ways we do things change, so perhaps graphic design will play a more educational and informational role in the future.

Advice on how to share surplus food.
Do you have any advice for creatives struggling with the current lockdown situation?

It isn’t going to be easy, but there is an opportunity for creatives to be creative, to help others, maybe record the change in their lives, their hopes and wishes for the future. There is so much creativity and positivity that can emerge from such adversity. Visualise your world, find your voice!

“It isn’t going to be easy, but there is an opportunity for creatives to be creative, to help others, maybe record the change in their lives, their hopes and wishes for the future. There is so much creativity and positivity that can emerge from such adversity. Visualise your world, find your voice!”

How we can stop the spread as a community.

To keep up to date with David’s latest short videos follow him on Instagram.