Why .GIFs are here to stay: Q&A with Cat Frazier of Animated Text

If you’ve been on the interwebz lately, then you may have noticed people sharing animated GIFs of funny PornHub comments — an idea tailor-made for instant Internet success.

The .GIF artist behind these awesome animated comments is Catherine Frazier, 23-year-old freelance graphic designer and web artist. Frazier initially became popular for her .GIF art after she started her Tumblr, Animated Text, in 2012 as a fun side project. Since then, her signature .GIF style has gotten the attention of the social web, publications and big brands alike.

Obviously Social took time to chat with Frazier about how she got into making animated text in the first place, what brands can do better when it comes to the visual web and how “tacky collages” will be the next big visual web trend. Some excerpts:

How did you get into making animated text art?

I was obsessed with the site called Internet Archaeology, and it archives all old GeoCities sites. I loved the 3D text people used to use in the 90s to describe their sites like “My Homepage” and “Enter Here”, and I started to post them to Tumblr. Then, I realized I could make them with a software I found online. I started making them myself, then started taking requests. That’s when it started blowing up.

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How many requests do you get a week? How do you choose which ones to actually turn into .GIFs?

I get 100 a day — so my inbox gets thousands every week. I make about 40 out of the 100 a week. I look for requests that have a combination of cute and arrogant or self deprecating and funny; things that talk about low self-esteem work really well too.

You recently created a Tumblr for animated PornHub comments — amazing. How did you come up with this brilliant idea? Must have been tough to pick the best ones…

Jason [Mustian] at Someecards contacted me about having my own section on the site. After they made that, he told me about this side blog he had: PornHub Comments on Stock Photography. He wanted me to animate the comments and I just fell in love with the idea. He and Jake [Currie] find the PornHub comments and send them to me — so at 4 AM I receive a lot of porn comments.

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What do you make of the return of the .GIF? Why do you think .GIFs are so popular again, and are they here to stay?

I love it. I’m super nostalgic, obviously —  I used to trawl Internet archeology. I think it hasn’t gone as far as it’s going to go, but I’m really excited about it. I see people make it more personal, like all of the apps now that enable people to make .GIFs easily. The area is still dominated by artists — people who are really good at Photoshop — but I see that changing.

What do you think brands can do to better utilize the visual power of the web?

I think brands need to be more open to their audiences and doing what they want to see. Animated Text is all about request-based work. When I did the [Super Bowl] campaign for Axe [Axe Peace], they wanted to give my ideas, but I asked if I could open it up to my followers and take their requests.

What online design trends or web culture trends are you keeping an eye on these days?

As far as web design, very simple, minimal design is big. The web is becoming more personal. Brands are talking to customers now, and I like that. I see a web where you and I can create a site; before it was just developers. Also, To Be is really cool. It’s a collaborative blog and platform that lets you put .GIFs onto videos, onto pictures all on one browser — and you can have multiple people playing with it. I think people will play with tacky over-the-top collaging more, which is big on Tumblr.

With the visual web and everything sharing and reposting everything, copyright and ownership is a tricky issue. As a web artist where do you stand on this?

I’m lucky because I have a style, so  when people see text .GIFs, they assume that I made it and come back to me about it — so that’s great. For example, one of my .GIFs ended up on the White House website and had no attribution, but someone at Giphy reached out to me and told me they noticed my work there. What I say is, “I don’t own it.” Once I make it, it becomes the public’s. I think eventually there won’t be ownership over art. It’s just really hard to copyright a GIF.

Do you parents understand what you do?

No.

Curious to know more about Cat's favorite .GIFs and online tropes? Check out her Proust Questionnaire.

Follow Cat on Twitter: @animatedtext.

Saya Weissman is a social media manager at Obviously Social. Follow her on Twitter: @SWeissman

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