SVG Sit-Down: Ruth Dial on the New Giant Octopus, Future of AR and Motion Graphics

The graphics-design stalwart partners with FX Design to relaunch the design/branding firm for sports, news

Ruth Dial, founder of the original Giant Octopus, has partnered with FX Design Creative Director Mack McLaughlin to relaunch the design and branding firm. As VP of creative for the new Giant Octopus, she will bring back the cutting-edge sports design and news branding for the broadcast industry.

Previously, Dial was contracted by Cake Studios to design packages for Thursday Night Football, Pac-12 Basketball, Fox Major League Soccer, Univision Sports, and Fox Premier Boxing Champions. She also recently designed the soccer package for the MLS’s Orlando City Soccer Club. While at the previous incarnation of Giant Octopus, she received multiple awards for two network rebrands for Golf Channel. Prior to starting the firm, she was a designer for CBS’s coverage of the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, and design director for NBC’s PPV coverage for the 1992 Winter Olympics in Barcelona.

Ruth Dial: “Giant Octopus and FX share the same clients. It seemed natural that we could join forces and provide both sets and graphics.”

SVG sat down with Dial to discuss the history and future of Giant Octopus, her background and career achievements, what the return of Giant Octopus means for sports production, how the partnership with FX Design creates a one-stop shop for customers, and major trends in motion graphics, augmented reality, and virtual studios.

Tell us a bit about Giant Octopus’s history as a company.
Giant Octopus was started in 1997. What started with just a Mac in a spare bedroom blossomed into a very large business within two years. We were one of the first design companies to use the fledgling Adobe After Effects. This enabled us to be cost-effective. While our competition was using large, vastly expensive Quantel systems, we were doing great work on our desktop systems and delivering not just the renders but also the working After Effect files. This is normal now, but I think we were one of the first back then.

Speaking of firsts, we were also one of the first design companies to create a website for our company and use it for marketing. It was the beginning of the internet, and you could still get URLs like Everyone always asks me how we came up with that name Giant Octopus. I was reading an article in Wired magazine about the new Internet. They referred to it as a giant octopus with its tentacles spread around the world.

How did you get started in the industry?
My degree was in advertising design. I just assumed I was going to work for an agency designing ad campaigns. I did do that at first. Then, by chance, I saw an article about the Quantel Print Box. I was blown away. At this time, Photoshop was in its infancy and could not yet be used as a drawing tool. I called WSVN, my local TV station in Miami, and asked the AD if she had a Quantel system. She did, so I begged her to hire me, and it worked.

I loved working on live news. WSVN was a great training ground. Later, I moved to the NBC-owned station in the market. This is where I started working in sports. I traveled for NBC Golf for three years. This later led to horse racing. With this experience, I was hired to be the design director of the pay-per-view of the Barcelona Olympics. That same year, I also was a designer for the CBS Olympics in Albertville, France. After quite a bit of traveling, I decided to settle down. That ended up being WFLA in Tampa, where I was the art director for three years. Afterward, I started Giant Octopus.

Why are you excited to be relaunching Giant Octopus?
My original partner and I felt that we wanted to move on and explore our “solo acts.” So I sold Giant Octopus in 2010 to FX Design Group. During my solo time, I had the opportunity to work on major sports packages for Cake Studios. I really enjoyed working with them and came to love sports design. Mack McLaughlin asked me to come back and be a partner again with the company. I am very excited to work with Mack, who I have known for a long time. I am looking forward to bringing my sports expertise to Giant Octopus and taking the company to a new level in design excellence.

How does Giant Octopus work with FX Design to create a single-source provider for studio/graphic design needs?
Giant Octopus and FX share the same clients. It seemed natural that we could join forces and provide both sets and graphics. [They] are separate companies but work together and share resources and design talent. This gives us the ability to offer a higher level of expertise and innovation. This especially is an advantage in the VR and AR world.

What opportunities do you see in the sports-production and sports-studio market, and how will you serve this industry’s needs?
Augmented-reality graphics is an area we feel that we are uniquely qualified to make an impact. By combining the skills of both our motion-design and scenic-design teams, we will be able to create 3D/AR graphics that feel like a part of the overall environment, not just pop-ups.

What major trends do you see in motion graphics?
2D flat, clean graphics are popular right now. 2.5D is also a trend, where 3D is used minimally alongside the 2D graphics. Lighter pallets and monochromatic/desaturated colors are also trending. With editing, seamless transitions are very popular.

How has the explosion of augmented reality changed studio and motion graphics?
Augmented reality is still in its infancy. Augmented reality gives us the ability to think outside the box. I feel that, in the not to distant future, we will see amazing designs across the sports and news markets. Giant Octopus will be uniquely positioned to create new paradigms in this field as we did in broadcast design.

How do you see the market evolving in the next two or three years, and where do you see Giant Octopus’s place in that evolution?
With the creation of design hubs, the news market has decreased in size. There are not as many stations that need new graphics packages. We are creating dynamic, cost-effective, network-quality packages that the smaller, non-hubbed stations can choose from. I believe that the sports market will continue to be strong. We at Giant Octopus will be poised to create exciting sports graphics for on-air, stadium, AR, and VR.

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