Losing money on an animation project

We love animation projects whenever we have the opportunity to get our design hands on one. In my early career I lead many animation projects for small clients to mega brands. I’ve done it all from 3D modelling, animation, to motion graphic design and sound design. This rich background puts me in a particularly great place to lead animation projects. However, as I’ve transitioned away from day to day client work and more into operations, sales, and steering the PD ship, I’ve handed the design project reigns over to my amazing and capable team. That said, animation is not an area anyone from my core team currently specializes. As of late, I’m reminded of that.

Alas, a few failed starts, and a lot of time wasted. Not only is this frustrating for everyone, but also a massive opportunity cost (lucky our customer is not in a rush). That is, if there is no learning that comes from the failures.

Failures are great, only when we learn from them.

Lately, I’ve fallen in love with Ray Dalio’s book Principles. In fact, I always have a copy by my desk. A few key principles are 1.7 Pain + Reflection = Progress, as well as 1.7 a. Go to the pain rather than avoid it. A key highlight in this paragraph is “The pain is the signal!”.

We identified it. Had a long meeting to discuss. And a few days later, our Partner Lan sent an email with some of her notes. I thought it would be beneficial for her notes to be shared with the team. Which led me to share her notes with you.


Subject: PD // Learning notes from customer animation project
Date: Feb 25, 2020, 2:47 PM
Hi Jenn,
I had this note sitting in draft since yesterday. It needs to live somewhere and I don’t know where. You may be the best person to share this with.

– – – – –


  • While we have done some video animation projects at Pixel Dreams, it is not our bread and butter.
  • We don’t have anyone to lead it well (Kal used to do it, but PD cannot afford for him to take this on).

What we learned

Time management

  • Is a key element for your project’s effectiveness, including profitability.
  • Effectiveness means achieving goals within allocated resources.
  • We cannot achieve effectiveness without paying attention to time and resource management.


  • Get rid of any ambiguity in your project as soon as possible.

Key performance indicators

  • Know what success looks like, and set indicators for how you’ll know your project is a success.
  • This includes clarity in intended results, the scope of MVP deliverables to achieve results.

Think creatively

  • To achieve goals with fewer resources and in less time than what’s commonly considered possible.

A few key elements of a video/animation

  1. What is the story?
  2. Who are we speaking to?
  3. Where is it going to live? (dictating format & length)
  4. How are we going to tell this story?
    • What is the beat, the rhythm of this video?
    • How much writing do we need to do to achieve this? (narration or not, words on the screen or not, etc.)
    • What is the style of this video? (visual, mood, voice, etc.)

The Author

Meet the Captain

Reigning from Kabul, Afghanistan. Kal is an artist, a designer, a builder, and a hopeless romantic.

Kal Sayid
Chief Education Officer
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