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(Re)branding: A voice to communicate

(Re)branding: A voice to communicate

Natasha Boddie/October 2017

Growing up in Lebanon during the civil war, School of Art alumna Nelly Sarkissian spent much of her time watching Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun with a vivid image of James Graham Ballard’s iconic drained swimming pool fixed in her memory. “It was one of the Hollywood movies that was closest to depicting my own reality as a child. I also was fascinated by the idea of escapism through E.T. and Close Encounter with the Third Kind. I always wanted to be a part of that world,” says Sarkissian.

Nelly Sarkissian was recruited from Lebanon to work in the U.S. as a young artist who showed lots of promise and drive. Working at an Arabic speaking TV station in Washington D.C., Sarkissian did not feel integrated into the American culture and society until she began pursuing her MFA at George Mason University. She was quick to learn the ropes and in no time built close friendships and a wider professional network in Mason’s diverse cultural environment.

As a student, she collaborated with professors learning the creative process one assignment at a time, obtaining her MFA in Digital Art and Technologies in 2010. In the seven years that have ensued, Sarkissian has taken on many new and creative artistic challenges.

In her current role as a supervisor and hands-on art director at Tribune Broadcasting, a media company with the largest number of independent TV stations in the United States, Sarkissian’s profession has led her to a rewarding career in re-branding with local broadcasting stations, such as CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC the CW and My TV. Always with an eye to producing digital art that is meaningful and community oriented, Sarkissian has won three local Emmy awards in her hometown for graphic work done for Los Angeles’ KTLA 5.

Her most recent re-branding job with New York’s PIX11 News is the highlight of all her re-branding projects—a dream come true for a young artist that immigrated from Lebanon just ten years ago.

At the start of the project, Nelly sat down with her team to begin fleshing out the goals of their design, their internal spec sheet. “Every client is a unique experience, as every creative process takes on an identity of its own,” says Sarkissian. “Often times, clients don’t know what they are looking for. So our team aims to create something that is fresh to the identity of the local station.” To do this, the team researched the character of the city where the station broadcasts. Lots of images of the NYC and its relationship with the people and the surrounding spaces were gathered to inspire and inform the design. Also, the design team hired a drone operator to capture footage of the city from a new perspective—not as aerial as a helicopter, and not as close to the ground as an on-foot photographer.

The Tribune design team’s main goal was to create a graphics package that came as close as possible to the character of the city, to reflect the energy and its diversity. The challenge was to compose balanced visuals that intermixed 3-D renderings of the logo and other brand components with the acquired drone footage. Once the initial animation sequence was approved, Sarkissian, along with 3-D and 2-D animators, a compositor, an editor and a sound mixer on board, created an “open” (a six-second animated clip) that captured the very character of New York City.

As a unique added bonus at the end of the project, Sarkissian produced a high quality printed and bound style book with all the iterations of titles and transitions that the client can refer to for guidance in creating new designs—something that is rarely done in her industry.

Nelly loves what she does but still wants to feel creatively stimulated outside of her paid work. She regularly creates personal artwork and participates in group projects. Most recently, she spearheaded a very successful all-woman group show in Downtown Los Angeles with the art collective SheLoves, which she helped establish with a few other artists. Never one to shy away from exploring new media formats, she showed her first augmented reality video performance, MAD LO(VR), in collaboration with another Mason alumnus Peter Lee. Nelly’s future personal projects include a collaborative storytelling art piece, and she is going to find new inspiration with international travel. 

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To learn more about Nelly Sarkissian and her work click here. Follow her on Instagram @achkhen.

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