Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men

monster pic

The month of October is synonymous with Halloween. As an homage to this fabulous festival of the macabre, we’ve decided to contemplate the complex nature of the animated villain and how it continues to develop.

When you think back on the baddies who graced the animated screens of your childhood, which characters come to mind? Jafar, Captain Hook, Ursula, Cruella or Scar from the Disney tomes? Loki, Green Goblin or Magneto from the Marvel vaults? No matter who starred in your particular juvenile nightmares, chances are they shared some physical attributes with the rest of the nefarious gang – narrow eyes, gaunt faces, pronounced jawline, unusually tall or short stature, prominent cheekbones, dark eyes and impressive costumes or props.

Coincidence? Not so much.

In real life we are taught not to judge a book by its cover, but in an animated universe the storyteller needs you to. Universally accepted ‘evil’ physical attributes are visual shortcuts that allow us to point out a character’s role as antagonist without having to spell it out. In the same manner that heroes help normalize what is considered good and right, representations of villains determine what is bad and wrong.

But villains are increasingly becoming more complex. Recent animated films like Wreck-It Ralph, Megamind and Despicable Me have introduced a new kind of bad guy. These movies disregard the established binaries of good and evil in favour of a moral gray zone where villains are portrayed as misunderstood victims of a situation who aren’t necessarily inherently bad. Also consider characters like Syndrome in The Incredibles, who grew up to be an evil mastermind after being rejected by Mr. Incredible as a kid.

These contemporary ‘relatable’ villains call for a new approach to illustrative style. Unlike Jafar and Hook, Syndrome doesn’t cut a tall, strutting, imposing figure. He is short, red-haired and freckled. Wreck-It Ralph may be a tank of an animated man, but his facial features are soft, even childlike.

The role and appearance of the villain in animated narratives will continue to develop as the socio-political landscape evolves. Who knows, in future the collective visual zeitgeist may get to a point where our villains are little old ladies who collect cat figurines. Oh wait – Dolores Umbridge already did that, didn’t she (#10points4gryffindor).

In short: we live in interesting times and our choice of animated villains is a good indication that there are subtle but decisive shifts in prejudice and stigma.

With that we consider this month’s knowledge bombs successfully deployed. More intellectual artillery fire coming your way soon – stay tuned!

De Warenhuis

De Warenhuis


Its early days yet but we have managed to secure a prime property in the heart of Stellenbosch. It has always been our dream to have a coffee shop or pub or any space we could call our own and have a go at designing and developing our very own range of products. Well, the opportunity came knocking and pretty soon we will have a stake in our very own food and wine emporium. We are calling it  “ De Warenhuis”  (Don’t even think about it  as the name has already been reserved)  It’s Dutch for warehouse  or emporium. Because Stellenbosch is of Dutch heritage we thought the name resonated with what we are trying to achieve.

We are in negotiation with a few of SA’s top chef’s and food personalities who will help bring  this vision to fruition. Hopefully we will be able to announce the collaboration by the time our next newsletter hits the press. From a design perspective – we are hoping to achieve a unique language that truly reflects the cultural diversity that has made the Cape such a unique smorgasbord of who we are today. We are on an obsessive  mission  to bring a world class destination to our area. One that will truly reflect our heritage and our ability to mix it with the best.

A lot more news on this one to follow – thanks to all the players who have gotten us this far – you know who you are and we will be sure to make known who you are when the time comes. What a complete honour working with such professionals. Am I Collective will make you all proud.




It’s been a long time coming and hopefully it showcases our diverse offering and perhaps even serves to inspire some creatively. Looking at the mountain of work we have done over the years (Take a walk through our archives) has left us totally awed by the opportunities that have come our way from all over the world since our inception way back in 2006. Our Case Studies prove that we do more that just design pretty pictures. We take all our combined expertise and skills to deliver and create solutions for all our clients.

Our eternal quest for what’s next has seen us develop a world-class animation offering. One that has seen us go up against the best there is (We recently went to the wire with Elastic – they of Game of Thrones renown). We have done title sequences for Universal pictures – yet to be released, so watch this space. Partner Ruan Vermeulen drives this department through his unique ability to direct animation with a credo of “Let’s pitch the impossible and we’ll find a way of doing it later.”

We recently signed with Los Muertos and will be represented by them in  animation locally. They are going to be helping us get our creative vision out  there in the marketplace. We are looking forward to a long and successful journey with these guys.

Our latest offering is still in its infancy, but we believe by forcing collaboration between the freedom illustration offers and the more disciplined approach of graphic design, we can offer clients a powerful solution with what we term Value Added Packaging design. This team is headed up by the astute Chris Moore. We have also been invited to judge design at the local Loerie Awards – a big honour for us and one we can’t wait to participate in.

It’s been a busy last few months but we believe that with the launch of our new site new horizons lie ahead and we can’t wait to rise up to the challenge. Please join us on this journey by checking into this section of the website now and again, where we will keep you updated on news, views and sometimes a bit of wackiness. We hope you enjoy.