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What a rough sea it is!
Over the Isle of Sado
Lies the Milky Way

– Matsuo Basho


Personal Work


Motion Graphics, Video Editing, Animation


This motion graphic was inspired by a haiku written by one of the most prolific and revered Japanese haiku writers, Matsuo Basho.

Conceptually, I wanted to convey a sense of elegance coupled with the power and rapture of the sea, as Basho describes.

I imagined how Basho may have written his haiku with a wet brush over 400 years ago, loaded with ink.  This vision inspired the ink drops and splatters in the piece.  It was pretty easy to let that also be a visual metaphor for both the sea and the stars above (The Milky Way).

It took a long time for me to hunt down the original poem in Japanese Kanji script, but I felt it gave it an important context and relevant introduction.  Not to mention, for those who can’t read Japanese (I don’t), the script forms could also be seen as beautiful abstractions and, again, ties into a brush loaded with ink.


This is one of those examples where I tell my students that research is the best thing a designer can do when tackling a project.

In fact, during the month-long project, I estimate spending 95% of my time researching Japanese haikus, culture, artists, politics, and traditional music during Basho’s life in the Edo period (1603 and 1868).

The other 5% was spent actually making the piece over a weekend.


I actually did things “backwards” for this project where I started with crafting my own soundtrack, then worked on the visuals. It was a very liberating experience and I feel the results are much better for it. After all, I was actually responding to the sound, rather than trying to make the sound reflect the visuals.

I created the soundtrack by splicing and designing pieces from these soundtracks:

  • The Last Samurai
  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
  • House of Flying Daggers


At the time of this writing, I haven’t been able to locate the sketches I created for this piece – such a shame. Once I find them, I’ll be sure to include them and write a walk-through of my process.

For now, I simply cannot stress how important it is not to skip the pre-production methods, such as storyboarding, notes, sketches, and other preparation methods involved.

More to come!

All animation and assets created by me, except for the ink drops, which were just simple tests a friend did years ago.


Software: Adobe Illustrator, After Effects, Soundbooth