Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18
2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!
Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.
In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.
We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.
DIRECTOR & CONCEPTUAL ARTIST
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?
I remember seeing my super talented friend Elena Parasco post that she was a Young Guns finalist in 2018 and thinking to myself "she doesn't get excited about just anything so this must be a big deal!" Then I checked the finalist list and I was mind blown by all of the incredible talent — it opened my eyes to a new creative standard.
You're a first-time entrant — congrats! What made you enter this year?
Thank you! I feel that my body of work is the strongest it has been so far and I figured why not try and enter this year. I think the fact that I expanded out from just video into digital art (aka not putting myself into a box) helped me to find my authentic voice, which consequently made my work stand out. The most challenging part about this process has been mentally allowing myself to make what I want, even when I can't see how it exactly relates to my current work or life.
Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?
I entered three personal projects and three professional projects. The common thread I was trying to show was thinking outside the box. It was difficult to pick a category to enter – I decided on digital because it felt like the category with most room to play.
What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?
When I found out I was a finalist, I screamed and spun in circles and face-planted into a beanbag. My friend Colton has it on video somewhere. When I got the email saying I won, I had somewhat of a different reaction. My first thought that came to mind was "well, I won because my work was different, not necessarily because it was better," which is just a little glimpse into how my mind can work. I saw a psychic last week who told me that I have a fear of success.
If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
Definitely Amazon Dating because the process of making it was such an adventure. It started as a joke made in passing with my director and creative director friend Morgan Greur. Something about it stuck, and we put together a logo and mock ups for the site. I was planning on just tweeting the images with the caption "imagine if..." but something told me to wait.
Around this time I met Suzy Shinn on a job for W Hotels. I told her about the idea and she suggested taking it a step further and pretending like it was real. Soon after I offered to make Thinko a product video in exchange for a parody website, and Amazon Dating was born. Suzy and I spent the following weeks Slacking back and forth with Thinko's web developer, Wojtek Witkowski, to basically remake Amazon. Suzy wrote the profile descriptions and we did a photoshoot with our friends so we could list them on the site.
If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?
Hmm. Some words that come to mind are curious, playful, and composed. I love toying with perception and reality. My creative process is all fun and games up until a deadline comes into play. From there, I would define it as excruciating – just ask Brett at The One Club, who had to email me three times to get me to send in the answers to this interview! In the words of Fran Lebowitz, "I realized that I am so resistant to authority that I am even resistant to my own authority."
Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?
My biggest mentor has been Kashi Somers. We met while both freelancing at R/GA in 2017 and she has given me amazing tools for navigating both work and life as a freelance artist. Jeremy Cohen has also been a great support – he is the person who showed me the power of the internet and encouraged me to share my work online.
I also owe big thank yous to Jeremiah Warren and Colton Williams for always answering my production questions no matter the time of day, Makaela Kingsley for championing the entrepreneurial spirit at my alma mater, Wesleyan University, and Susan Danziger for encouraging me to go out on my own. Also shout out to Ariel Jacobson, Julie Logan, Kevin Faul, Thi Lam, Alex Brown, Aundre Larrow, Tim Devane, Gus Vita, Jack Gorlin, Allan Homes, Gregory Littley, Reta Gasser, my mom and dad, my sister Natalie, and so many more for all of the support over the years.
Work influences in no particular order include Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, early 2000s Youtube, Darwin Deeze, Nicki Minaj, Princess Nokia, Ari Fararooy, Cache Bunny, Tommy Lundberg, Robert McIntosh, Bardia Zeinali, Matt Starr, Tiffany Zhong, Gabriel Whaley’s MSCHF, poetry that makes me feel less alone, good interior design, Black Mirror, this video and this video.
Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?
2020 has led me to completely question my existence and every aspect of my reality. I've spent most of the year getting to know myself, which has been beautiful.
Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!
I have two professional goals right now – I want to get signed as a director and to take my creative venture with Suzy to the next level. Some future dream projects include a music video for Billie Eilish, a spot for VANS, portrait photography for fashion magazines, and pulling bigger and better pranks with Suzy.
Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?
Congratulations to all of the incredible winners and finalists. Here are some more talented people you should know! Kat Vlasova, Nate Nichols, Proxcinema, Tiny Factories, Bayyina Black, Sydney Foster, Carter Howe, India K, and Sara Jensen.
WORDS FROM THE JURY
"Ani Acopian brings together strong concepts with a curiosity of new technologies mixed with a dash of humour. This makes her a great representation of progressive, multi-talented creatives. Ani has a playful approach to new ways of communicating and it really shows in her concepts. As a final note, not taking herself too seriously seems to be one of Ani's strengths, and it is one that she wields effortlessly."
Partner & Creative Director
"Ani Acopian is a cultural hacker. Her ideas transcend the crossover with other cultures and expressions and shake up our sense of déjà vu. I relate to this way of starting a design from a pure idea, rather than starting with the craft of expression. What changes will she throw at our society beyond hacking? It’ll be interesting to see."
Creative Director/Design Strategist
Young Guns 7 Winner
"What jumped out at me instantly is that Ani knows the art of a good ‘Creative Hack,’ lending her work a natural shock value and virality. From piggybacking on established platforms and tweaking them to convey a message (Scrubhub, Amazon Dating) to fearlessly hijacking the functional vibe in a given space (Send to Vince), her work has a certain stickiness that challenges the conventional way of looking at things."
Executive Creative Director
"'Power is the selection and enforcement of one possibility among many,' says Franco Berardi. Ani Acopian's power lies in the selection of her instruments. She elevates her tools to protagonists of her stories. By hacking familiar interfaces of our times, she delivers her messages like Trojan horses, capable of turning possibilities into facts."
Experimental Design, Strategy
Young Guns 10 Winner
"Ani Acopian excels at subtly matching the concepts she wants to convey using everyday platforms with twist and wit. ‘Amazon Dating’ and ‘Scrubhub’ are perfect examples. Experimental attempts at her angle also stand out, especially the video of The GoveBall Festival shot on a 360-degree camera is very interesting. The current style of work is great, and if she explores societal topics with satire and black humor, I can only imagine the results she will be able to produce."
Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!