Viral Man: The Making Of – Part 6


This is the final entry in Viral Man: The Making Of. After five posts and now this, the sixth, I hope that you’ve had an insight as to what I did to get to the final stages of the Viral Man project. In this entry, I’ll be talking about the filming for Viral Man and the impact that it’s made on the University as an institution, the students and the external press. Unfortunately, as I’ve said in previous posts, I did have photos to go with this post but lost them in my hard drive crash so again, I apologise!

Viral Man goes filming

On the last Monday of work, we set about making plans for filming Viral Man’s main interview video. This two minute video would introduce people to Viral Man, while the smaller 15 second videos would show how he could be found infecting people in any manner of ways from making them cough and sneeze, to giving them aches and pains.

I was becoming quite accustomed to being dressed as Viral Man now. You could even say I was enjoying it. Although it was nothing more than facepaint and a wig, it does make you feel very different knowing that people around you are looking at you in an entirely different way.

The previous week, Jerry, Will and Hannah had spent time developing a script for me to read through while I was concentrating on designing the poster campaign. I hadn’t had much chance to rehearse it until I got to see it on Monday morning. It wasn’t actually that much script for a two minute piece of video, but because there were to be pauses and cut-aways, it easily added up.

Hannah did my makeup and I got dressed as Viral Man once more and Will set the camera up in one of the unused ‘quiet rooms’ in the library. The room, while not soundproof, is indeed quiet and made an excellent fake office.

As mentioned in my previous entry, the committee had had some reservations over the type of voice that Viral Man would have and I hadn’t really come up with a new one as of yet. It meant that I had to try and come up with a voice as we were filming. I knew that I wanted him to sound ‘husky’ and as if Viral Man himself had the flu. But at the same time, he needed attitude and even a bit of anger. Anger at the world for not loving him!

I wrote the script out on A3 pieces of paper and Hannah held them as far back as possible while I read them. The trouble was that because I wear glasses and Viral Man most certainly doesn’t, I was blind for most of the time I was reading! It meant that the script couldn’t be too far away from my eyes. Ideally of course, it would have been better to memorise the script altogether, but we just didn’t have the time.

Having gone through a few test runs, it was clear that it looked as if I was reading from a script instead of looking at an interviewer off camera. Because of this, we ended up refilming the interview the next day.

This time, I had tried to refine the voice a little more and I had the advantage of knowing the script a little better. This time, I read the script in sections, pausing to memorise the next part. I was allowed to do this because as I said earlier, we’d be cutting away from the interview to various mini videos so it didn’t matter too much if the script wasn’t read in one go.

I had a lot of fun being filmed as Viral Man. It was the first time that Viral Man had had a chance to speak. In the mini videos, Viral Man only acted, never spoke. It was fun to give him a bit more depth and allow him a point of view.

On Tuesday we also met up with some of the members of the committee and showed them a rough cut of the interview to make sure they were happy with the voice and script. It was a bit of a backwards way to do things, filming everything and then getting approval, but it was the only way we could do things quickly, as we didn’t have much time left. Thankfully, they were happy with what we were doing.

Once all of the interview filming was complete, it was then up to Jerry to put everything together in Final Cut. And so here for your viewing, is the video for Viral Man:

The next day, we did some final filming for some of the short videos outside. It was funny watching people’s reactions as they wondered why they were watching a green man doing strange things.

Later that day, to help with the transition of handing over all of the campaign assets, I wrote a campaign manual for those who would be responsible for keeping it going and a character profile for anyone who would be playing Viral Man. I think it’s really important to make sure that people understand that the character has a very specific way of acting and to go against that would go against the project.

Saying goodbye to Viral Man

Wednesday ended up being my very last day as Viral Man and in a way, I was quite disappointed! I had become accustomed to going home half green so much so that I felt comfortable enough to even take a trip to Asda in full Viral Man costume (including green face and wig) just to see what sort of expressions we’d get. It was hilarious. People looked at me as if they hadn’t quite believed what they had just seen, while others burst out laughing. There were also a few children who were either incredibly curious or incredibly scared. It was a fun experience and once which I’ll miss being a part of.

On Thursday, my penultimate day of work, I took a trip over to Chester to get some test posters printed and handed them over to the committee, along with a few copies of the campaign manual and character profile.

The Last Day

Finally, on Friday, we took delivery of 2,500 spikey balls for the project, along with 2,500 stickers. This ended up being one of the most fun days of the project, mainly because all of the more challenging stuff was now out of the way. Instead, the morning was spent removing all of the packaging from the spikey balls so that it was easier to distribute them. We also cut A4 sheets of stickers down to A6 for easier handling. While Hannah, Will did that, Jerry focused on editing the rest of the videos for a 4pm deadline. As for myself, I had very little to do now that my job as Viral Man was complete! I had designed two poster campaigns, beer mats, stickers, set up a Facebook profile and YouTube account and of course been the character of Viral Man in person. It was weird to now be struggling to find something to do.

At 4pm, we managed to get everything burnt to disks and handed everything over to the committee. It felt great to have completed a project that we were all quite proud of. To go directly from being a student of the university to staff of the university and be repsonsible for creating a campaign that would affect 15,000 students sounded like a daunting task at first and yet for the five weeks that we worked on it, it turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun and a project which I’m proud to have been a part of.

And with all of that said, I’d like you to head over to the Viral Man project page and see everything that was designed as part of the project. I’d love your thoughts on it. You can also become a friend of Viral Man on Facebook at

Thank you for reading these posts and I hope that you’ve enjoyed them. It’s been useful for me to write them as well, as it’s great to look back over what I’ve done. There will be one more entry about Viral Man and this will be to do with presenting it to a total of 1,500 students – on my own!

A day at the URBIS

The URBIS looks great from the outside

On Wednesday, I went to the URBIS in Manchester. It’s a great looking building.

There were two reasons for my trip to the URBIS. Firstly was the D&AD exhibition of all of their annuals since its beginnings in the 1960s. It was interesting seeing how it had envolved over the last five decades but because the annuals were encased in glass and only one page displayed, the exhibition felt a little…stunted. Here was an opportunity to display 50 years of work, but it had been reduced down to just a few examples. The others from my class who had also come to see the exhibition felt the same way, asking “Is this it?”. It felt like a bit of a let down.

However, more importantly than the exhibition and the main reason I had decided to come was because I had been selected for a portfolio surgery. A portfolio surgery, as I found out a few weeks ago, was a chance to spend 20 minutes with someone from the design industry and simply get a chance to talk about your work and invite comments on it. An opportunity that I didn’t want to miss out on. After signing up for one, I was happy when I recieved an email saying that I had been chosen to have my work looked at by a company called Thoughtful.

I hadn’t heard of Thoughtful before so I spent some time doing some research into them, getting to know them via their website and their blog. I think it’s so important for someone like a design agency to have their own blog because it makes the company so much more accessible to the public and those people who may potentially hire them. Thoughtful’s posts were interesting to read and I left a number of comments to which I recieved a nice email from Stuart Price, one of the top guys at Thoughtful saying thank you for the comments.

Putting my portfolio together prior to the surgery was a relatively easy task as I had already done it a few months ago for Univeristy. However, I had been wondering how to organise it so that it was in an order that would create the best impact. In total, I had 18 pieces in my portfolio, but since I only had a maximum of 20 minutes with the guys from Thoughtful, I knew that I had to trim that down. I managed to get it down to 15 instead, with more emphasis on my better projects, allowing me to spend more time talking about them and less time about some weaker projects.

CD packaging
CD packaging

In addition to my work, I wanted to leave Thoughtful with a copy of my work. However, just handing over a CD seemed a bit of a missed opportunity and so I created some simple packaging for it, along with including my business card and some of my stickers. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to show that I already had my own brand.

Lots of goodies inside
Lots of goodies inside

The interviews were being held in a large room, full of other design agencies. This included elmwood and The Chase. I could see into the room through the full length glass windows and managed to spot the Thoughtful team. It’s quite strange recognising someone you’ve never actually met before. I also noticed that Thoughtful had chosen to bring some students along with them who they were currently working with as placements. I think it’s such a great idea to give them a chance to see so many people’s work.

Just before my interview, there was a talk from Ben Casey from The Chase about the D&AD exhibition. While it was very interesting to listen to him, as said before, there’s only so much you can say about such a small exhibition. Plus, I had to leave half way through because it was time for my interview.

I have to admit that I was a little nervous about the interview. I suppose I was treating it like a job interview in some respects. I’d shown my portfolio to other people before so it wasn’t the first time I’d done this, but every time is always different.

I sat down and Chris Jeffreys introduced himself to me, one of the guys from Thoughtful. He asked me if I minded if the three students sat in and looked through my work and I said I didn’t mind at all. It was quite interesting showing my work to four people instead of one.

As I began talking about my first piece of work – my Oxfam posters – Chris interrupted me saying “I’m sure I’ve seen these before”. “You have”, I said, “On my website”. “Oh, you’re Neil!”, he said, referring to the fact that I had been commenting on their blog. It felt quite nice being known without having met Thoughtful and even nicer that they had taken the time to look through my work on my website.

Chris critiqued my work for 20 mintues, saying what was good and what was bad. He noted that one of the things that I could possibly add to the portfolio was the actual artefacts that I had produced, such as my 10×10 book. I very much agree with that and next time I have an interview will definitely bring it with me.
The 20 minutes flew over so quickly that it felt like I had only been sitting there for a few seconds. I think I was right to reduce the amount of work in my portfolio and ideally, perhaps should have reduced it even further because it did feel like I was rushing towards the end to make sure I got through it all. I think next time, ideally, I should have about 10 pieces of work instead of 15.

A Thoughtful gift
A Thoughtful gift

At the end of the critique, I thanked the four of them for their time and Chris gave me a book called “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be“. I think it’s such a nice gesture to offer everyone a free book, especially one which had obviously been thoughtfully selected. In return, I gave them my CD with my work on it, shook the hands of all four of them and said goodbye. My only regret is not being able to spend more time talking to them.

Thoughtful seem like, well, a thoughtful design agency to me. They come across as a company who are very easy to approach and I think that was reflected in my critique with them. I’ll be continuing to read their blog and see what else they get up to this year. Having the opportunity to discuss my work with them was a really useful experience and one which I hope I have many more of.