Kyle Cogan (BA ’12) spends hours, days, even weeks on graphics that will appear on screen for five seconds or less. But his hard work pays off—the Columbia College Chicago TV grad is a seasonal motion graphics designer at NFL Films, and in the off season, he and three friends create animation for an ever-growing roster of local and national clients. The aspiring filmmaker shares his career highlights so far.
In Wayne Kumingo’s documentary class, I made a documentary about one of my friend’s bands. The rough cut was good enough to pass, but he helped me model it to almost be TV ready. I’ll never forget it because that was a turning point. People saw that, and that led to my internship at JBTV [where he and roommate Marty Kane (BA ’12) won a Regional Emmy Award for a 20th anniversary title sequence], which led to the NFL internship.
On his favorite NFL projects: As an intern at NFL, there was this show, NFL Top 100. It’s a10-episode series in the off-season, ranking the players based on what they did the year before. I shadowed my boss on set, and when we got back, he was like, “Go mock something up [for the title card].” I made this mock-up—the graphic was this 3-D locking mechanism—and the next day, the executive producers of Top 100 came into my little cubicle, and I played it, and they’re like, “That’s awesome. Let’s do that.” So this project that [started] as a mock-up turned into the real thing. I update it every year, but it’s the same design from when I was an intern. It’s been airing for three years like that. That was my last semester, and I got hired the next month. [Kane] and I got to create the whole graphics package for the Pittsburgh Steelers from scratch—every single defense animation, touchdown [animation]. When you go to the game and you see it in front of 40,000 people, it’s pretty cool. It looks cool on your computer,but it looks really cool on Jumbotrons.
On the evolution of Simian Design Group, the company he started with friends and fellow alumni Kane, Tom Kinstle (BA ’12) and TJ Connor (BA ’10): It started as a way to brand my side projects—my music videos and stuff like that—that technically weren’t making any money at the time, but it’s evolved into a company. We did a lot of visual effects for this Brain Games commercial for National Geographic [partnering with Evolve Images, which sought out Simian after seeing its lyric video for pop singer Jessie J], and we do all the graphics exclusively for the show No Limits on Animal Planet, which we got through a connection at Columbia: one of my professors, Kristin Pichaske. It’s one thing to work with bigger companies like the NFL, but in the off season, it’s cool to see what you can do through your own connections and have more
On Columbia College Chicago’s influence: [At Columbia], everything is what you make
it. You can go to the classes and pass, but I really appreciated how much [my teachers] pushed me to be creative and to do crazy things. When I went to NFL, they were like, “You’ve done a ton of stuff.” But it was because of classes and the job through school [Frequency TV] and the internships. Combine the three and you do have a lot of experience. You don’t get stuff like that without having Columbia.
To see Cogan’s best work—including the mind- blowing Brain Games trailer, his most challenging project to date—visit kylecogan.net.—As told to Hannah Lorenz (’16)