Maria Tran

The illustrations and animations of this Danish designer are entertaining and often oddly humorous glimpses into surreal worlds. We caught up with her to discuss some recent projects.

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War / Love, GIF illustrations for Superhero Magazine, Maria Tran, 2015

How would you describe your approach to design?

I’m a graphic designer, but I actually graduated specialising in design for film and TV. I love film and storytelling, and I use that a lot in my work. Before I start a project, I always spend some time researching and to see if there’s somehow a story behind it. If not, I create one – I like to tell stories and create universes.

Are there any common threads that run through your projects?

I’m always looking for new ways to create, explore and to renew myself. I love that about my job. When I finish a project, I always get very eager to move forward. I get tired looking at my old stuff, and want to create something completely different. I don’t like repeating myself. So when a new client approaches me and says: ‘I like that thing that you did, do something like that’ – that’s kind of the worst thing you could say to me. Some designers have a very characteristic style, where you know what you are going to get. It’s not really like that with me, and I guess that it sometimes can be a bit risky. But for me it’s important to experiment and play. That’s how I like to work and hopefully the result will speak for itself.

Tell us a little bit about your work for Brain magazine.

I was so honoured when Brain magazine asked me to design its cover. The team gave me the theme ‘Happy Creation’, besides that I had a completely free hand. The theme got me thinking: I’ve been drawing ever since I was very young, so essentially drawing was my happy creation. I started to look for my old childhood drawings, and I found a really funny piece that I did when I was about six years old. It was a comic book, held together by a clip with the magical title Amour and the Flying Ponies. The story was about a girl who lives in a cloud-house. She rides ponies and kisses boys, and nothing really happens besides that. I thought it was super-girly and cool, so it led me to the idea of recreating the piece, twenty-two years later. It ended up being a very personal project for me.

Tell us about a project you worked on recently that was pretty challenging.

Last summer the Danish TV channel TV2 hired me to be the art director on their open-air cinema event Zulu Sommerbio.
I’ve been going every summer since I was a teen, plus it was my first project at that scale, so I was pretty excited. It was a very fun – and at the same time challenging – project. Besides art directing, filming and editing the TV trailers and graphics, we had to find out about all the practical stuff too. I also ended up in the trailers myself, and doing the compositing – very meta.

What would you like to achieve in 2015?

Eat more ice cream and get a boyfriend. Oh, you mean like business wise? I would like to work more with people from different creative fields than me. I work a lot with musicians, and I really enjoy it. It’s so inspiring. I would love to do more international work too, maybe collaboratively. I’m very interested in different cultures and would like to know what’s going on in the rest of the world.