From Passion to Project: ArtCenter Students Bring Gundam Universe to Life

Two ArtCenter students, Jeffrey Xiyang Su and Michael Jiazhi Wang, inspired by Mobile Suit Gundam anime and Gunpla, earned a prestigious Platinum Award in Graphis New Talent 2023 with an impressive display of 3D motion creativity and educational excellence. Their “BANDAI x Gunpla Motion Campaign” represents their artistic evolution from fledgling talents to skilled 3D designers. Their story celebrates their notable victory, mentoring by Professor Miguel Lee, and the enduring impact of the Gundam saga while showcasing their synergy of passion, collaborative spirit, and power of design.

By: Jeffrey Xiyang Su & Michael Jiazhi Wang

As a true enthusiast of “Mobile Suit Gundam” and an avid Gunpla builder, winning in the Graphis New Talent 2023 Awards with my teammate, Michael, was an exhilarating moment. Our project, BANDAI x Gunpla Motion Campaign, aimed to celebrate the rich legacy of the Gundam series and the intricate art of Gunpla modeling, which has captivated fans for over four decades. Collaborating with Michael, a friend I started design school with back in 2019, was an incredible journey. We both progressed from simple typography to confidently executing complex 3D designs. Deciding on a direction for our motion design project was a challenging process. We went back and forth between creating a Porsche 911 brand film and something that spoke to our personal interests—the world of Gundam and Gunpla. Our ideas were tested in class discussions led by our professor, Miguel Lee. After much debate, we finally settled on creating a promotional motion piece for the Bandai Gunpla brand. 

I still vividly remember the ideation phase, which was both exciting and enjoyable. There was one pivotal moment that influenced the direction of our project. As a child, I used to imagine running my own Gundam factory, where I would assemble these magnificent robots piece by piece. This childhood fantasy became the inspiration for our project, a narrative that fulfilled the dream of every Gunpla builder to construct a life-sized Gundam, reflecting the model kit’s intricate design and authenticity. 

Drawing from my experience in architecture, I led the way in constructing the setting, carefully refining the lighting and arrangement to showcase the Gunpla’s intricate design. Undaunted by the complexity, Michael tackled the challenging job of animating the Gunpla components. Our collaboration was evident as our unique skills melded effortlessly in the project. However, not all went as planned. In a near-catastrophic turn of events, my graphics card succumbed just as we approached the final rendering. In a race against time, we pivoted to Michael’s machine, relying on our cloud backups. 

This project meant more than just an assignment to us. It was a culmination of our shared passion, teamwork, and admiration for the Gundam universe. Our final piece showcases our technical abilities and artistic vision and encapsulates the essence of Gundam’s influence on its audience. I am grateful to Michael for being an unwavering partner and Professor Miguel Lee for his guidance and invaluable insights at crucial stages of our project’s development. Together, we have not only designed something but also weaved a narrative that resonates with the dreams of Gunpla builders and Gundam fans alike.

Jeffrey Xiyang Su‘s affinity for storytelling through photography was evident from a young age. It was this passion that guided him to ArtCenter College of Design, where he embraced the transformative world of motion design, marrying his photographic prowess with the fluidity of graphic motion to tell stories that move and inspire. 

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From his early days of detailed sketching, Michael Jiazhi Wang has been on a quest for visual perfection. His artistic odyssey took a pivotal turn at ArtCenter College of Design, where he delved into the kinetic world of motion graphics. Born in Beijing in 2001, Michael’s designs reflect a dedication to craft and a boldness to push creative boundaries, traits that parallel his disciplined approach to bodybuilding and life. 

Social: Instagram, LinkedIn

Miguel Lee is an associate professor at his alma mater, ArtCenter College of Design, where he teaches motion design for the graphics, illustration, and media design departments. He is a motion designer, founder, and creative director of Midnight Sherpa, Los Angeles. He is focused on creating brand experiences and motion content across a variety of media. He has directed commercials for Dolby, LA Fitness, and Toyota and contributed to title sequences for Person of Interest (2013), Pacific Rim (2013), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), Murder in the First (2014), and History of Swear Words (2021).

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To see more New Talent 2023 winners, click here. To enter our New Talent 2024 competition, click here.

Author: Graphis