Currently based in Manila, Philippines, Kimmy Lee is an Artist, Designer, Creative Director, Type Maker & Visual Storyteller. Specializing in Branding / Visual Identity, she helps brands of all sizes tell their story through design — making businesses more valuable by crafting clean, tasteful and well-thought out creations that maintain a healthy balance of functionality and visual impact.With particular emphasis on inventive forms and striking typography, Lee strives to create simple yet powerful aesthetics that effectively communicate, inform, persuade, delight and inspire experiences. Learn more about her in our exclusive interview exploring her exceedingly creative life.
[FIDM DIGITAL ARTS] When did you know that you wanted to become a Graphic Designer?
[Lee] “I like to believe I was born a creative…that my career chose me as much as I chose it. There never was any other decision because it came so naturally. I think it all started as early as in the cot, when I giggled at the patterns of my bib.When I was about 2 or 3, drawing anime characters and building blocks instead of playing with Barbie, I already had clear ideas as to what I wanted to be. I am fortunate enough to have a parent who is a “jack-of-trades” in the creative industry. Having different hobbies and a collection of art books in the house allowed for me to have artistic exposure, influences and support. All throughout my youth, I always expressed my artistic abilities. This includes being the school paper artist, creating a custom cover for the yearbook, performing arts, and decorating cakes at baking competitions. I found myself wanting to just be surrounded by art in every possible way – and I also found myself increasingly obsessing over the tiniest details. At age 9, because of the family business, my dad made me learn how to use CorelDraw and Adobe Photoshop. I picked it up and mastered it fast, creating a handful of works that were just for fun. From then, everyone I knew was asking me to make something for them. I will never forget the feeling of suddenly realizing that creating these images said more and spoke faster than any lengthy speech. I wanted to create things that would be lasting. I wanted to create things with a purpose. My passion finally found its medium. I started getting commissioned by friends of relatives at age 13 – and at some point, I realized, ‘I can do this for a living, I could get paid for just being me. This is awesome.'”
What did it take to achieve your dream?
“Lots of Practice, Patience, and Perseverance.”
Describe your design aesthetic.
“I like to think I am able to adapt different styles. Being a Branding / Visual Identity designer means that I do not have a particular aesthetic style. It is important to be versatile and able to express brands in their own unique way. It should never be a case of me and my style translated through these brands, but rather, their own essence manifested through the visual imagery that fits them. Having said that, I do retain a constant criteria that I apply to all designs that I do, these are…
5. Can Clearly Communicate.”
What do you do to fuel your creativity?
“1. I get curious and ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ about the details around me. If I was a cartoon character, I would undoubtedly have either Really?, Why? or ‘I have a question!’ as my catchphrase.
2. I experiment and try to do more then what is asked of me.When working on a project, I try everything. No idea is a bad idea until you’ve tested it first. It will eventually lead to the right one or I would have discovered a hundred ways of how to not do it. Most often, I will have discovered new ways to solve problems and I will undoubtedly use one of those techniques on a future project.
3. I take KitKat breaks to just take in new scenery. Sometimes, walking away from a project for a little while and coming back to it seems to offer a fresh perspective.
4. I try something new and hang out with other creatives. Creativity really is contagious. Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach. New experiences and people bring new ideas to your brain. Your creativity draws off of your experiences, so the more new experiences you have, the more you have to draw from – simple.
5. I sketch / write down my ideas, no matter how small or silly and turn them into creative exercises. Some of these ideas end up translating to work, some don’t – or haven’t yet. Creative thought is often not very structured, so if an idea comes to you that you hope to remember, it’s best to jot it down because it is very unlikely that idea will ever come back to you in the same form again. Doing ‘One-Logo-A-Day’ challenges also trains your speed and hones your brain in coming up with concepts at will, instead of waiting for inspiration to hit you.”
What work are you most proud of?
“My favorite piece of work that I have done as of date is probably my typeface project, ‘ELIXIA’. This piece has been particularly challenging for me, as it is a turning point where I embraced and tried my hand at doing typography. It is absolutely humbling because I didn’t expect it to be so well received. Typeface design is still quite new to me, but it has been an amazing learning experience – and will endlessly continue to be. I cannot fathom that I am fortunate enough to be able to create an instrument, an element of language, where ideas and thoughts can be expressed and which everybody uses everyday.”
Any advice for aspiring Graphic Designers?
“Be passionately, insatiably curious. Look at things that are and ask ‘why?”; dream of things that never were and say ‘why not?’.”
All image credit goes to Kimmy Lee.