We spoke with Tobias Faisst and Vitaly Kiaiev, founders of the hybrid studio PALAM. Founded only this year, we talked to them about how they got started, the endless dance between creativity and technology, and plans to become more than just a 3D design studio.
How did PALAM get started?
Vitaly Kiaiev: PALAM has been around for only a few months on paper, but it all started much earlier when Tobias slid into my DMs on Instagram.
We did a couple of projects together, the results were really good and it quickly became clear that we not only worked well together on a professional level, but also on a personal level. In just one year, we have already collaborated with well-known brands such as Rimowa, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas. Our first achievements have confirmed how well our skills complement each other. That‘s why we decided to launch our studio, PALAM, even though we‘ve never met in real life.
What key values or philosophies guide PALAM‘s work?
Vitaly: We focus on creating designs that reflect real life and zeitgeist. We also have a strong connection to sculptural works and spatial installations.
Our aim is to create distinctive projects that stand out from the norm, and we firmly believe that diversity in talents and perspectives are key to the innovative results we have set as our benchmark. That‘s why we see our studio as part of a dynamic network, collaborating with creatives from different disciplines and from all over the world.
Rimowa Personal Clutch
What is your creative process? How do you break down a problem?
Tobias Faisst: We benefit from varied experiences, which enables us to offer a unique perspective in 3D design. An important part of PALAM‘s work is our emphasis on context and concept. We take time to gain a holistic understanding of the project and the client‘s goals and use this as a base to develop a solid concept before we start the actual 3D visualisation.
We believe in creating original and complex work that cannot be found on Pinterest or other platforms. Our goal is to create something that is not only visually appealing, but also has meaning and timeless quality. We get inspiration from modern art, the latest technologies, scientific developments and product designs.
Our process starts by making detailed image collections based on ideas and influences from various fields, including those beyond 3D design. We then select ideas that can work as a 3D setting.
How do you convey a product‘s message in still photography?
Tobias: For us, the product itself should be the focus and tell its own story. That‘s why our look is rather minimalist and offers plenty of space to convey our clients‘ message directly and unadulterated. They often already have a rough idea of what they want. We look at this existing idea as a starting point and work closely with the clients to develop it further and find a unique solution that tells a story and integrates the product naturally without shifting the emphasis too much.
The quality and detail of your work really stands out. Are we seeing the branded use of CGI and animation a lot more because the tools allow it?
Tobias: In our experience, the focus on CGI and animation in marketing can also be attributed to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. The restrictions made it difficult for companies to produce on-site and in teams as they usually would. 3D productions are the perfect solution: high- quality content made at home, regardless of restriction measures.
Of course the tools and software for 3D design and animation are constantly progressing, and more and more people have been able to learn how to use them — perhaps also during the Coronavirus lockdowns.
Greater 3D expertise and better tools mean better quality and detail in CGI and animation. This makes the technology more interesting for brands.
How might you leverage new technologies during the creative process?
Tobias: Vitaly always keeps an eye on the latest technology and experiments with different methods. We then assess which tools and techniques work best for our projects. Technology is how we bring our creative ideas to life, not the other way around. We often collaborate with technical specialists who have extensive expertise in specific areas. Our mission is to merge our creative ideas with the technical possibilities. The top priority is always meeting our high standards when implementing new technologies in our projects.
What are some of the biggest risks you’ve taken as a studio that paid off creatively or commercially?
Tobias: I launched the "NEW DAWN" project in 2019. We gathered a group of pioneering minds from different artistic and creative fields for "NEW DAWN | Tools to Touch in Times Ahead".
Our objective was to investigate the glove as a means to provide a holistic experience in a discursive, material and visually speculative future. Several disciplines were involved, including photography, CGI, animation, graphic design, dance, performance, sound design and exhibition design.
Tobias had limited 3D experience when he initiated the project. This, in addition to the global pandemic, made the realisation of such a large project even more difficult. Nevertheless, PALAM successfully created a digital exhibition long before the Metaverse theme became popular. This project was significant as it increased our visibility in the 3D industry, enabled us to gain valuable experience and expanded our network.
GenAI is changing production in so many ways, how do you see it influencing your CGI and animation work?
Vitaly: Currently, we‘re using AI as a tool to brainstorm and sketch out ideas. The integration of AI into our work really impacted our creative process. When we work with AI tools, we are forced to phrase our ideas more precisely. We can not focus solely on the visual end product, but have to engage more with our ideas in written form. This allows us to explore our concepts more carefully. In addition, we can quickly and effectively visualise early ideas for our clients, and often get interesting ideas from AI that add to our internal creative processes.
“The future of our industry will be characterised by a dynamic interaction between technology and creative humanity.”
Tom Ford Bitter Peach
Do you think AI art lacks human touch? What‘s your perspective on this debate?
Tobias: Most times, we can identify images created by AI due to their specific aesthetic characteristics. This artistic stamp results from the data set used to feed the AI, and may already have a certain artificial or machine aesthetic.
This distinctiveness is a positive thing for us, as it ensures that AI-generated artworks remain — at least for now — clearly identifiable as such. We think this discourse promotes the appreciation of human creativity, while recognising AI as a tool to expand creative possibilities.
What are your thoughts on AI art ownership and compensation? Do creators need to be part of the conversation?
Tobias: It is crucial to protect the artists whose work is the basis for AI art. All parties involved, such as artists, programmers and developers, should be properly considered in terms of rights and compensation. Educating everyone about these complicated matters is important in order to protect the rights of artists and creators in the world of AI art.
In the long run, it would be unfortunate if only large corporations were to monopolize creative services through an increasing stream of capital, leaving only a small elite to compete with AI in creativity and output.
As pioneers in immersive storytelling, where do you envision the future of your field going in the coming decades?
Vitaly: Technological developments, from artificial intelligence to quantum computing research, will open up entirely new possibilities for immersive storytelling in the coming decades.
These technologies will enable new, fascinating experiences in ways we have never imagined before and continue to blur the distinction between reality and fiction. We think even with these technological developments the contribution of humans will remain essential.
In a constantly changing technological landscape, we will continue to need creative minds that develop innovative ideas, bring imagination and passion for new approaches and question the existing technical possibilities. The artistic and emotional dimension of immersive storytelling will always be in the hands of people.
The future of our industry will be characterised by a dynamic interaction between technology and creative humanity.
What advice would you give aspiring CGI artists or directors who want to develop a unique creative vision?
Tobias: Actively seek out opportunities to collaborate and network. Don‘t be afraid of constructive criticism. Keep up to date with industry developments. Focus on telling stories that really matter. We have noticed that a lot of people in the 3D scene are just working on the surface and not doing a lot of work on the content. We believe that the era of „pretty pictures“ will soon be over.
Vitaly: By using AI, good results can be achieved in seconds. That is why we would advise young talents to develop an individual brand with its own story and specific characteristics that cannot be easily reproduced, as it is strongly linked to a personality, individual experiences and influences.
What‘s next for PALAM?
Tobias: We are currently working on our first product in collaboration with Design Studio Lotto. The prototype will be ready by the end of the year and we are looking forward to holding a real object in our hands that we have developed together. This is the first step in expanding our work beyond the digital world.
Vitaly: Our long-term goal is for PALAM to be not just a 3D studio, but a brand that allows us to do a wider range of creative work. We want to expand into interior design and product design, and our focus could also be on presenting products outside the digital world.
At a time when the world is becoming more and more digital, we see a growing desire for real, physical experiences. We believe there will be a move towards objects and spaces that manifest themselves in physical reality.