ISO Design takes centre stage

August 6, 2014

Glasgow based ISO Design took centre stage with their motion graphics at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. Damien Smith, Creative Director at ISO Design reflects on the company’s success over the past few months and explores why Glasgow is a great city to work in…


Over nine million people in the UK tuned in to the XX Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at Celtic Park in Glasgow and at the centre of the show stood Europe’s largest LED screen measuring in at nearly 100 metres.

We worked closely with Jack Morton Worldwide, a global brand experience agency, to produce over two hours and 20 different sequences of CGI and animation to accompany the ceremony. The work featured time-lapse photography, particle based animations and hand drawn illustration, which were developed to complement the performances on the stage.

We went through various design concepts before we were happy with the final outcome. It’s an interesting part of the design process, to see which ideas survive. With some concepts, it really is survival of the fittest!

Unlike a lot of film work we do, this project involved working in parallel with a number of different departments: choreography, live performance, pyrotechnics, lighting, TV directors, live outside broadcast. You have to work in a complementary way with all of them to make it work.

However, we found ourselves in the news even before the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.  In June, we picked up two Royal Television Society Scotland awards for Innovation for The Gallery of Lost Art which was a collaboration with Tate and Graphics (the titles for Channel 4’s Shooting Gallery film series). The Gallery of Lost Art also picked up a range of international awards including the SXSW interactive Award for Art and the Design Week Award for Interactive Design.

We have also just finished the new First World War Galleries at the Imperial War Museum and the McAfee Cybersecurity Gallery at Bletchley Park as well as wrapping a new permanent digital installation at the Science Museum London.

But we’re not stopping there. There’s a lot more still to come for ISO Design.  Our main focus for the next quarter is three large international projects that we are consulting on – two in the Middle East and one in Sweden.

However, while we’re expanding business internationally, our base is firmly rooted in Glasgow. We’re developing a new 4000 square foot studio in Merchant City that should be ready early next year that will be a hub for ISO, Central Station and a number of our key collaborators. Glasgow is a great location for us. The weather could always be better but the city is vibrant and a melting pot of different creative talent across film and TV, music, design, fashion etc – it’s got attitude and a sense of self-sufficiency. (Not forgetting that trying to source Tunnock’s teacakes in London is a nightmare!)

In order to win the Commonwealth Games work, we had to pitch against London companies. It’s expected that you’re going to pitch against London agencies, but where you’re based doesn’t affect the work you do that drastically. In that case, it played to our advantage that we had daily physical contact with the client.

Traditionally, Glasgow has suffered from a lack of a fluid, skilled freelance culture which can make scaling up for projects or bringing in specialist support difficult or expensive. The talent drain to London and other international cities has been a real problem but we are seeing an increasing number of creatives deciding to stay put or return to the city.

What did you think of the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony? Were you impressed with the graphics? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


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