a chat with gif artist to the stars nora fikse
You know those fun, colourful GIFs that are your go-to? Meet the artist behind them.
Up until a few years ago, Nora Fikse didn’t even know her dream job existed. Today, the Oslo-based designer works as a full-time GIF artist. Nora started experimenting with GIF design in 2018 to boost her animation skills but instead found a creative format where she was able to spread her wonderful world of colourful positivity online. In the short time since, she’s been awarded 2020’s GIPHY Artist of the Year and her GIF stickers have clocked up more than 58 billion views. To check out some of her GIFs, search “bynora” on Instagram.
Hi Nora! Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I’m a graphic designer and now a GIF artist. I’ve always been a creative person and knew my whole life I wanted to do something creative, I just didn’t know what it would look like until I started designing GIFs.How did you pursue your creative itch after school in Norway and end up at Queensland College of Art (QCA), Griffith University studying Digital Design? I was studying graphic design in Trondheim in Norway and if you wanted a Bachelor degree you had to go to a different country for your third year of study. I very spontaneously decided to go to Australia and two weeks later I was at Queensland College of Art – it was the best decision I ever made. It helped me realise that almost nothing changes while inside your comfort zone. This was one of the big situations that pushed me to step outside it.
What did you learn while at QCA that has helped shape your freelance design career? The freedom we had at QCA to choose our own subjects and schedule definitely prepared me for freelance life. I was able to focus on areas I wanted to increase my skill set in, like typography, and did a project where I created a new typeface every day for 70 days. I quickly learned going down this freelance path would be a lot of work, learning from failures and gaining a lot of experiences to dare put yourself out there as a graphic designer. Additionally, the school and teachers were very supportive. I remember me and some other students wanted to learn brush lettering, so our teacher set up a course outside of school hours with another talented teacher.What path led you to the wonderful world of GIF design? After I finished studying at QCA, I went back to Norway and worked part-time in-house as a graphic designer while doing small freelance projects on the side. I first came across GIF stickers in 2018, when they were introduced to Instagram and Snapchat. They reminded me of the flashy, glittery, blinking gifs of the early 2000s. I thought they looked fun and wanted to try creating my own while improving my animation skills. I figured out how to make them and created a profile on GIPHY. I was so surprised when my GIF stickers received 1 million views during my first week. I thought this has to mean something more, I have to do something with this.
Your GIF stickers have now been viewed over 58 billion times and you’ve worked with some extremely impressive clients. What work is on your personal highlight reel? I’m really proud of working for Kylie Cosmetics and Kylie Skin because when I started as a freelancer, I didn’t dare to reach out to people. A year later in 2019, I was thinking I have nothing to lose, so I sent an email to someone working with Kylie Skin and now I’ve done so many projects with them. Also working for MTV and creating GIF stickers for the US midterm and Presidential Election is a highlight.What do you think your designs say about you and your creativity? You can probably go through my GIPHY channel and get to know me. I love the TV show Friends, I love colour, and I want my work to be playful with a professional quality. I also hope through my work I am able to spread positivity and create awareness for things happening in the world.
When did it dawn on you ‘wow’ this is my job now? I remember doing an early job and drawing the Spice Girls, the Fresh Prince and a Furby and thinking if I could do this all the time it would be my dream job. It wasn’t until 2019, when I started getting a bunch of requests and was always working on projects that I realised “I’m a GIF designer now” – that’s so wild!
What advice would you give to aspiring designers and GIF artists? I would say find your passion. Just start somewhere small and it will eventually turn into something more. If you want to turn your passion into your job, it’s a lot of work, especially in the beginning, and you have to be open to failing in order to learn, but I would also say you really don’t have anything to lose.
This fun chat was brought to you in partnership with our friends at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University where the supportive staff are active practitioners in the visual arts and design industries themselves. Check out their flexible options for studying visual arts and design on the Queensland College of Art website.