Whatever you do, there’s a doodle for you

This text was originally created for a presentation I gave to a meeting of the North Wales Tweets business network in November 2019 (TweetUp 56 at Techniquest Glyndŵr, Wrexham).

The 10-minute talk was accompanied by an animation, displayed on a screen behind me – something I thought made an interesting alternative to the PowerPoint-based talks so often seen at such events.

In order to get my timings right (so that the images and speech synchronised as closely as possible) I recorded the talk and had it running as I constructed the accompanying animation.

Of course, the live presentation didn’t require the voiceover, but I decided to combine the audio and the animation into a single video file, which I uploaded to Vimeo. Visitors to https://vimeo.com/doodlydog can now see the animation running and hear me talking about DoodlyDog.

In a further act of repurposing, I decided to add the text to this blog. Accompanied by some screenshots from the animation, it offers an alternative way of promoting my work …


Whatever you do, there’s a doodle for you

0 – Introduction

Hello.

I’m Eric Davies, aka DoodlyDog.

In this presentation, I want to share some of DoodlyDog’s story with you and give you some insights into how animated doodles are created and what they can be used for.

While I’m talking, an animation will be running – so, to help keep things more or less synched, please keep any questions until the end of the presentation.

1 – The back story

DoodlyDog was born about a year ago.

In all honesty, he came about by accident.

After 20 years of freelancing, my main source of work was drying up and I was looking for something else to do.

There was no great plan – instead, DoodlyDog arrived following a chance encounter between Desperation and Serendipity.

I saw an advert on Facebook for the animation software Doodly and decided to give it a go.

I played around with it and found I enjoyed being able to make simple animations.

That got me thinking that Doodly could give me that new, different, ‘something’ that I was looking for.

It was another string to my bow, another arrow in my quiver – albeit a rather novel one.

At the time, I was promoting myself under my company name: Ampersand Editorial Limited – offering writing, proofreading & web design.

But I wanted this new service to be distinctive – to stand out from that rather dull, staid, serious image.

Here, I should explain that I used to be a librarian – though not the sort you’d usually come across in your local library.
I specialised in reference and information work – and for about 30 years, my working life largely involved dealing with information about the European Union.
Among other things, I edited a newsletter and journal, ran training courses, and compiled a dictionary of EU terminology.
To me, it was really interesting – but it’s not the sort of stuff that gets most people excited.
When I adopted the name Ampersand Editorial, I was reflecting the more bookish, word-focused, introverted side of my character.

But my nascent animation service needed a new name and a different image: ideally, something playful, memorable – and Twitter friendly.

For obvious reasons, something based around doodles or doodling seemed like a good idea.

After much deliberation, I finally settled on the name DoodlyDog – not only because I like the alliteration, but also because it was available as a Twitter handle.

By chance, I found an image of a cartoon dog that I’d bought, and thought he’d fit nicely into this new persona I was trying to create.

The name and cartoon image then came together with the font Big Bottom Cartoon, to give me a logo that I’m really happy with.

I was, however, faced with the existential question that has forever haunted humankind: ‘who am I?’

In my case, am I Ampersand Editorial or am I DoodlyDog?

Fortunately, Nicola Moore of MarketMoore came to my rescue. She said I was far more animated when talking about DoodlyDog – and advised me to adopt it as my business persona.

I did. And here I am. DoodlyDog incarnate, so to speak.

The first business-related doodle I created was for Castell Gwyn Cheese.

It was a promotional freebie and was really very basic (there was no sound). But it got attention on Twitter and gave me hope that I could make a go of the animation thing.

To get more people following and retweeting me, I then ran a competition to win a free doodle.

The winner was Mummy & Theo’s Little Baby Boutique.

The business owner, Korena James, was so pleased that she ordered an animation for her other business – KJ’s Entertainment.

That was my first DoodlyDog sale!

(And Korena now buys a new doodle every quarter for both businesses!)

To further promote the doodles, I had an Easter giveaway on Twitter – offering 10 free Easter-themed animations.

One of the freebies went to Alzheimer’s Society Cymru – to whom I’ve offered a free animation whenever they want one.

(My dad had Alzheimer’s; I find it a difficult issue to deal with; creating animations for the Society is somehow therapeutic, so benefits me as well as them.)

2 – Making a doodle

“So,” I hear you ask, “what goes into making a doodle?”

Well … there’s lots of technology.

On the hardware side, you need a decent pc to cope with the graphics, plus a good broadband connection for uploading & downloading large files.

In terms of software, you need animation packages, video & image editors, plus sources of music and images that can legally be used (you can’t just nick things off the internet!).

And, of course, there’s the human stuff: qualities such as creativity, empathy, imagination, judgement …

There are two versions of the DoodlyDog creation story …

In the short version, the ingredients are mixed together in the DoodlyDog magic animation machine and, hey presto, 10 minutes later your animated doodle pops out.

In the longer – more realistic – version, the process typically takes a number of hours spread across days or sometimes weeks.

And it involves answering lots of questions …

  • What message is the client trying to convey?
  • Are there specific words, images, music, voiceover etc to be included?
  • Is it to be cartoon-style or more realistic?
  • How long should it be?
  • Is there a script or storyboard to work from – or do I have free rein?
  • What’s the timescale – is there a deadline?

Once the general idea is agreed, DoodlyDog usually needs a cuppa and a think.

And then it’s a question of putting a draft together – tying the various elements into a narrative that makes sense, holds interest and gets a message across.

Drafting invariably raises more questions:

  • Which animation software will work best?
  • Where can the images be sourced from?
  • What sort of font will be appropriate?
  • Which music best suits the mood of the animation?

At some point, a draft will go off to the client for comment.

Occasionally, the client is happy with the draft and no further work is needed.

More often – and almost inevitably – changes will be requested.

Perhaps to wording, or the font, or the speed (make it faster or slower).

Sometimes, it’s back to the drawing board. At which point, DoodlyDog needs another cuppa. And probably a biscuit as well.

One client wasn’t sure about the music I’d included, so asked me for other options.

From the hundreds of tracks available, I sent her another 5 or 6 that I thought would work. Her response was along the lines of ‘I can’t pick one – I don’t know how you decide.’ So we stayed with my original choice – which was this …

[At this point in the live talk, a video was shown that I created for YourWingwoman; the image below is a screenshot of the final frame.]

This animation nicely illustrates the use of various bits of software …

The icons were either made or tweaked by me in PaintShop Pro before being added to Doodly, where the initial animation was created.

The ‘flying wings’ effect was made in VideoStudio, which I also used to combine the two animations and to add the music (which is from AudioBlocks).

I then used VideoStudio to render the final version into an MP4 video file.

3 – Whatever you do …

So – success! There’s a nice new video to be shared on websites and social media platforms.

But what’s it for?

Ideally, of course, the purpose of the animation will have been decided before it’s commissioned.

But for anyone who’s thinking they’d like to get a doodle, I’ve created a brief animation suggesting five ways in which they can be used.

They are:

  • Product launch
  • Price promotion
  • Seasonal offer
  • Explain something
  • Tell your story

To that list, perhaps I should now add ‘Use in a presentation’. (I’d be interested in your views on that.)

For whatever reason they are commissioned, there’s now quite a collection of animations.

They range in length from about 10 seconds to 10 minutes.

And they cover a diverse range of businesses:

  • Admin & marketing support
  • Baby clothes
  • Canine hydrotherapy
  • Careers advice
  • Children’s parties
  • Commercial gas heating engineers
  • Detection dog handler
  • Development charity
  • Health and safety systems
  • Photography
  • Virtual PA
  • Window cleaning

4 – Finally …

I was at the Mingle for Business Conference some weeks ago and heard a talk by Karen Warren of KW Inner Strength.

Speaking on the topic ‘A Positive Mindset for Business’, she argued that we should ask ourselves what we enjoy doing.

Thanks to Des Desperation and Seren Serendipity, I’ve found something that I really do enjoy – because creating DoodlyDog animations is great fun!

It’s been an exciting year, and there’s still much to learn and to improve on – even if it’s only getting DoodlyDog to run faster!

And, in case you’re wondering, animations cost from £75 – or from £60 if three or more are commissioned.

Thanks for listening.