Shahane Davidson bares all about building social campaigns, having shaped many popular ones herself.
At just 6 years old, Shahane Davidson began formal training at the Art Institute for Young Artists in Armenia. Today she is a Motion Graphic Designer and video editor, having worked for DreamWorks, Netflix, CSI: Miami, and the likes.
Did you always want to be an artist? What led you to pursue it as a career?
Shahane Davidson: At the age of 4, I was filling up sketchbooks and burning through art supplies faster than my parents could buy them. My parents are both retired architects and there are many artists in my family. At age 6 I began formal training at the Art Institute for Young Artists in Armenia, studying traditional fine art and classical drawing. I simultaneously began studying music at the Conservatory. It was merging these two skills–music and art–that led to my pursuit of a career as a motion graphic designer and video editor. I believe these skills gave me an advantage that helped propel my career path toward a social media Creative Director.
You have over 15 years of experience as a digital artist. Is there an episode in particular that made you grow? What made a breakthrough in your career?
Shahane Davidson: My breakthrough moment came when I was given the role of Creative Director for Dreamworks Jr, TV and Franchise social pages. The highly-successful launch of Gabby’s Dollhouse Netflix show on social platforms was the turning point in my career.
Can you give a behind-the-scenes look into your creative process?
Shahane: I approach every project as an unknown exciting adventure waiting to be discovered. I begin by familiarizing myself with the aesthetic and overall vibe of the social campaign. This could involve mind mapping, reverse-pinteresting, creative googling, and collaboration with the client. A primary goal in this process is to quickly establish my end game. I aim to acquire a clear, precise understanding of objectives, client expectations, and goals. This must be aligned with the limitations of social media platforms, design tools, and set budgets. The space between parameters and expectations is where I can push the boundaries and let my creativity do its magic.
How have memories of cartoons from your childhood inspired you to work as an artist?
Shahane: I learned in childhood how a quality cartoon can have the power to stir the imagination; cultivate meaningful emotions and facilitate experiences and memories that can last a lifetime. Properly executed, they can also provide education and character development. I learned a lot as a child about what I like and don’t like to see in a cartoon and I draw further inspiration now by viewing cartoons with my 7-year-old boy.
As someone who grew up watching Tom and Jerry, how was the experience getting to work on “Tom and Jerry the Movie”?
Shahane: Working on the “Tom and Jerry the Movie” social campaign was a blast and a dream come true. Growing up in Armenia, I watched Tom and Jerry, Duck Tails, and Looney Tunes in Russian on our old tube TV. The stories and visuals of these classic cartoons truly do transcend language and culture.
Please tell us in detail how you approach and carve out solutions to a project.
Shahane: Social Campaigns are built on ideas. When starting from a foundation of strong concepts, execution of the final product is a breeze and a joy. The challenging moment is to stare at a blank canvas and conceptualize a grand idea that will drive the social campaign in a way that will entice new and old fans to get out and see the product. Each project is unique. Solutions, thus, vary according to client preference and the limitations of the social platform on which the final product will be exhibited.
Digital Marketing is an interesting yet volatile field, so can you tell us about a project you thought wouldn’t work but ended up being successful or vice versa?
Shahane: It’s been an amazing road of discovery and adventure for me as I have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of clients ranging from big-budget Hollywood studios to small local design shops.
In one instance, I had the pleasure of working as a senior motion graphic designer for Charlie’s Angel’s social media campaign. Execution of this project was a particular challenge. There were many chefs in the kitchen overseeing it, with so many revisions and directions that I wondered if the client would ever find consensus on what they truly wanted. But after many rounds of revisions, the client was exceedingly happy with the result and the behind-the-scenes video now has 212,609 views and counting. The learning point in this is to never get discouraged and to allow flexibility and improvisation when working with a team.
When designing for a younger target audience, how do you approach a project to make it engaging for children?
Shahane: I like to keep things fun and light when targeting a younger audience. Such projects often call for bold and vibrant colors; a faster tempo, expressive characters; dynamic motion, and dramatic or humorous moments. These elements help establish focus and build enthusiastic engagement.
The digital art industry is constantly evolving, so what do you think is going to be the next big thing in the industry?
Shahane Davidson: I believe that Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will soon revolutionize the social marketing industry.
The best piece of advice you have been given that you would like to share with up-and-coming artists?
Shahane Davidson: Work hard; be persistent and don’t give up. Watching my father work day and night in his art studio served as the building block of my character as an artist. His dedication, drive, and constant attention to detail inspired me. I wanted to be like him — to be an expert in my field. My advice for up-and-coming artists is to work on your craft every day. Live, breathe, and be the art until you have truly mastered it.