Duration: Two years.
Location: Hong Kong, China.
Education: BFA in graphic design with a concentration in computation, technology and culture, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, Rhode Island.
Career path: In middle school, I used to avidly design PowerPoint presentations for class projects. I remember a friend told me that was called “graphic design,” and from then on, it would be my career path. I went on to study graphic design at RISD, but I learned a lot more than just design. Taking advantage of nondesign classes at both RISD and Brown University, I met people from different disciplines and discovered other topics of interests: I took a computer science class tailored for engineers; I asked an astrophysics professor to critique my book design; I learned how to make immersive audio experiences in a surround sound room. As a result, my portfolio was this weird collection of things, but it enabled me to look for experiences at different types of studios and agencies.
After graduation, I moved to New York to work at Pentagram under Michael Bierut, where I worked on a variety of projects from branding, campaigns, motion graphics and books, among others. At the same time, I wanted to engage more with the city and community, so I became a design fellow for the Center for Urban Pedagogy’s Public Access Design fellowship. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York, I decided to return to Hong Kong, where I was born and raised, to be closer to family. I treated it as an opportunity to discover the design community here.
Artistic influences: Cities inspire me. I love finding peculiar things in a city or a place, because it encourages me to look at my environment in a humorous way. For example, my RISD thesis stemmed from a memory of a life-size replica of the Roman Colosseum in the middle of a traffic roundabout in Surabaya, Indonesia—where my family is from—and why no one has ever questioned it; unpacking imagery like this happens often in my work. I try to incorporate the same kind of questioning into a project or prompt, developing ideas by looking at existing materials with fresh eyes.
Favorite projects: The RISD 2019 yearbook. It was the first time I oversaw every stage of a project:concepting, budgeting, timeline planning and fabrication. The yearbook was for the senior graduating class at RISD; students got to design their own pages using stencils that we fabricated just for the book. During the project, I really had to think of the big picture (like making sure the cost was affordable for students to purchase and meeting the crucial deadline of graduation) while also focusing on the nitty gritty (like designing each page of the book and emailing individual students about how their names should appear.) As a designer, I learned to put time and thought into parts of the process that aren’t as fun but vital to the yearbook’s results.
Despite overseeing the entire process, I believe the yearbook was successful because I took a backseat and didn’t overdesign. I learned to collaborate with my peers, who were photographers, illustrators and fabricators, as well as the students who generated the content. In the end, all of these different components came together in a way that exceeded my expectations.
Approach: I try not to take myself too seriously and just have fun with every project. In the end, it’s just design. Thinking like this relieves some pressure, and I end up working in a more-carefree way. When I start a project, I also try my best not to start with a visual moodboard, especially from social media. Nowadays, it’s really easy to unintentionally latch onto visual tropes and similar projects.
Aspirations: I want to engage with clients who work in urban planning or architecture. My dream is to make something that is integrated with a city in some way.
Philosophy: Every project, big or small, deserves integrity, thought and effort.
Anything else? As much as design is design, it’s also about people: understanding people—clients and peers alike—building relationships and finding your community. In every job or internship I’ve had, the biggest takeaway is how my seniors present ideas to a room of people. Storytelling is important in this line of work.