Designing a Viral Music Video

Justin Au worked on a viral video for OK Go this summer and holds two of the video's illusions.

Posted by Rosalind Early September 6, 2015


Thanks to Washington University's alumni network, Justin Au, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in communication design, landed a summer internship at 1stAveMachine, a New York City advertising and production agency, where he helped create a viral music video for a popular band.

Au met alumnus Aaron Duffy, BFA06, creative director at 1stAveMachine, through a fellow student at the Sam Fox School and former company intern. Duffy hired Au as a summer intern and placed him on the company's creative development team.

"I'm looking toward a career in advertising, and the experience has been very
educational and so much fun," Au says. "In every project you're working with such creative individuals."

One of the company's biggest projects over the summer was to design a music video for alternative rock band OK Go's song, "The Writing's on the Wall." The group is known for its quirky videos, such as I Won't Let You Down, its fall 2014 video, which included a choreographed dance routine with hundreds of extras.

A team of experts, including Au, worked for nearly two months on ideas for the video. The winning concept used illusions, such as an upside down bike ride, to underscore the song's message about difficulties communicating in romantic relationships.

The team needed three weeks to build the set and two days to shoot the video. Au worked on some illusion designs, including recreating a band member's face out of a beret, tires, a stapler, mannequin parts, and other everyday items. He also helped during filming and came out from behind a wall with the rest of the crew at the end of the video.

"It was a great experience being on set," Au says. "There were some thirty people running around behind the camera all the time. It was pretty ridiculous." The effort paid off; the video, released in June 2014, has more than 13 million views.

Au chose Washington University for the prestigious communication design program at the Sam Fox School and the University's flexibility, which allowed him to double major in economics in Arts & Sciences.

Originally from Hong Kong, Au hopes to spend a few years working in the United States after graduation, perhaps even returning to New York for more design work, before returning home.

"It's been a great experience," Au says. "I'm really happy about how I got more into design through the Sam Fox School."

Take a look at the finished product: