Meet Ana Marta

Monday, 21 March 2016

On a drizzly December day, I sheltered under Waterloo Bridge and met Ana Marta. Squinting and windswept, we wandered around the Southbank Christmas market in hot pursuit of hot chocolate. Ana wished the milk was a bit more vegan. I wished my gloves were a little less fingerless. We went indoors.

Suddenly conscious that there was a roof over my head, I asked Ana, where is home? She comes from Porto, a city on the coast of north-west Portugal, but she’s studying abroad in London for the year. She’s in her third year of graphic design at university, so she’s pretty proficient in design-that-is-graphic, though she does point out that ‘it’s not necessarily the thing I want to be doing for the rest of my life’.

Same, Ana, same. If I had a penny for every time I heard ‘Oh, English - so you’re going to teach?’, then I’d do whatever I like because I’d have a trust fund. I’m an optimist: I like to think that studying is a springboard into finding the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, rather than a vortex into inevitable bankruptcy and homelessness. And it gives you the time to find passions and soulmates and to screw up and start all over again. Ana explains that it was only through trial and error that she realised that animation and motion graphics are what she likes best.

“I totally understand that I probably won’t make a lot of money, but I’m fine with making enough to have a place to live, and get food. I don’t need anything else!”, she continues. “And usually when you’re good at something, it eventually pays off?’, she adds, a little tentatively. 

If that’s the case then she needn’t worry. She is quite "good at something", and that's YouTube - if 22,000 subscribers mean anything! Her self-titled channel, Ana Marta, is a hub of vlogs and short films about her life: she'll talk about anything and everything, but university, travel, and graphic design feature most prominently. Scattered with whimsy illustrations, extremely-pleasing fonts, and colours that say everything's sweet in the world, her videos are short and sweet and always charming. 

She started uploading at around the same time she started university, “it was like a parallel thing”. Making videos was a way to get thoughts off her chest; sharing them with a receptive audience, a way to bounce off ideas: “I think video is a way for me to convey what goes through my head in a more effective way than through words. With video, you can use song, type, illustration, and colour to set the tone.”

Since November she’s poured her every spare drop of creative juice into weekly uploads to a collaboration channel called New Age Creators, the brainchild of Orin Willis, a fellow YouTuber. Ana says “the week after I got to London we went for coffee and it all went from there”. Now, it’s a hive for five young filmmakers from all across the globe to gather and brainstorm: the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany (previously, Australia), and New Zealand. They upload Monday to Friday and each week is loosely themed. Sometimes a special guest will upload at the weekend. It’s YouTube, with heart.

As a graphic designer, Ana knows only too well the power of packaging. You know the designer has done their job, she says, when "the product is sucky, but they can make you feel like it’s the hottest thing around". No one does branding better than the super-vloggers into whose laps we fall limp, flailing their wristbands and cradling their memoirs. But the thing about packaging, she says, is it's transient. What was hot one minute is quite quickly... not. Take Comic Sans: it was funny and approachable and popular and everywhere, until it got tired and over-used and ironic and old.

And sometimes the best things come unpackaged: one of my favourite videos she's made is also the simplest. In "Finding Your Essence", she discusses the difficulty of trying to convey your truest self in a foreign language: 'Sometimes my essence and my little spark gets crowded with my insecurities, as in "Am I saying the right words, am I saying the right thing?". Style sparkles, but soul stays; Ana will be here for the long-haul.

“Plans? I don't think I have plans. I just want to enjoy myself and see what comes up and just go with it. The main plan I had was to come to London for a year, and now that that’s happened, I’m happy.” Is it the vegans? I think it's the vegans. Whatever it is they’re feeding her, I want some.

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