Sean Dong
Meet Sean Dong, whose work published in The New York Times, creates an imaginative half-minute animation to illustrate why people should feel lucky while at home in quarantine.
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NEW YORK, United States — Quarantine has been harsh and boring, and unfortunately a part of our daily living for several months. Despite the numerous complaints, however, few are thinking about how to live better during these harsh periods. If you remember how, late last year, thousands of New Yorkers stood on their porches and near their windows to applaud first responders and health care workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak, you may reconsider your complaints. Faced with this overwhelming negativity, Sean Dong, whose work published in The New York Times, creates an imaginative half-minute animation to illustrate why people should feel lucky while at home in quarantine.

The animation, Quarantine Testimony, depicts a peculiar character’s average day at home. When he wakes up every morning basking in the sunshine, he feels no rush to brush his teeth or run to subway stations. He has plenty of time to do Yoga before participating in online meetings. When he feels bored but cannot hang out with friends, he entertains himself with a one-man pillow fight. When he finished, he finds time to call his girlfriend to talk tirelessly about his relaxing daily life. “I want to amuse people and make them feel this is what I do in quarantine”, Sean elaborates.

This is not the first time Sean Dong has used his creative skills and intelligence to interpret real issues with motion design. Most of his previous projects are more than just abstract drawings, but rather motion branding. “How to translate abstract messages within a few seconds is the key priority in motion design”, Sean says, referring to his motion design masterpiece Use A Leaf To Cover The Eye.

Sean works as a motion designer for The New York Times and will continue to bring more revolutionary works to his viewers probably for years to come, here is his interview.

Sean Dong
Quarantine Testimony.

Sean Dong Interview: the Motion Designer Nominated for the Year in Illustration.

Your work Apple Watch is a Private Road has been nominated for The Year In Illustration in The New York Times. Could you tell us your idea behind this work and what inspired you to create it?

The shape of the watch reminds me of a valve. The empty space inside a closed watchband is like an open road. When the watch turns 90°,its surface will block the road. Therefore, the watch itself transforms into a gate.

Sean Dong
Apple Watch Is a Private Road.

How long have you been working with The New York Times

I have worked with them since September 2020. I create motion designs for both Tech, Book Review, Option and Business departments for The New York Times.

Your illustrations Quarantine Testimony has been selected by Google. What inspired you to create it?

I noticed a video shot by a mayor in Italy. He complained about citizens’ sudden love for outdoor activities after quarantine started and he criticised people who do not follow governments’ instructions during the lock-down period. I found it quite interesting – forcing people to not do something makes them want it more. So I thought to create a video to depict what people would do when they have to stay at home all day. I hope people would find this video valuable and inspiring during the pandemic.

What kinds of story Quarantine Testimony talk about?

It is always hard to get started with some work when you are at home. So I have some scenarios when the character attempts to start something but fails quickly; tries to start yoga and be more healthy but gets hurt; seeks compassion from friends but gets mocked; eats pizza on the bed, but pizza falls on his face… those small failures become a normal day in quarantine.

Most of your work is abstract and artistic. For example, Use A Leaf To Cover The Eye is a story about a Chinese idiom and you use abstract graphics to depict the story. Could you tell us your thoughts behind this work?

Use A Leaf To Cover The Eye is derived from a Chinese dialect in which a man believed that a leaf was magic and could make human beings invisible. So, he found out that particularly magic leaf and placed it on one of his eyes. He then went to a store to steal but was caught immediately. I use abstract graphics to highlight the main narrative of the story and apply authentic Chinese painting styles throughout the entire work. I want to remind people not to neglect the main purpose, especially in the face of tiny details.

Sean Dong
Use A Leaf To Cover The Eye.

It looks like your design style is developing and a little different from your previous creations such as Biophilia. Why this change?

Biophilia is more like my experimental project. It displays a therapeutic journey to reach a sense of satisfaction because I wanted to know when and how people feel satisfied. Therefore, I elevated the sensory experience by looping 3D animations and therapeutic ASMR sounds. Both repetitive flower loops and melting square cubes carry viewers into a world of bliss. However, during the quarantine, I focus more on our reality and want to integrate my design concept with topics people experience every day. I feel everyone is changing because of the COVID-19 and maybe I am one of them.

Sean Dong
Biophilia.

You are Adjunct Faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art. What kinds of classes are you teaching now?

I am teaching Graduate Motion Graphics at the MICA Graphic Design MFA program. The projects in this class are divided into 3 major sections: storytelling, branding, and UI/UX. I hope to provide students with a space to develop a personal and sustainable way to deal with new technologies. I encourage students to achieve their goals through all kinds of methods: from traditional animation to generative art.

What is your plan for the next five years?

I want to use motion design to record my personal story. Motion design is not only about moving objects but expressing emotions in our daily life. I hope I will be able to create my own story via motion design one day.