It started in my 2010 Tokyo trip. I’ll delve into that 3/4 into this blog but right now I wanna share a timeline with key checkpoints that had a significant part in the development of my design passion.
I drew a lot as a child. I always drew faces and people doing ordinary things such as shopping, eating or playing sport. I liked creating scenes for these people.
I started drawing people with Faber Castell connector pens (it was an obligatory purchase back in the day. Every kid had a collection in their pencil case) and ball point pens. My Dad was a printer and every week he’d bring home stacks of blank A4s, fresh for me to draw on. One week he came home with our first new computer and he said he got it for work purposes. This happened when I was about 8-years-old. I wasn’t allowed to go on it but being a curious person didn’t stop me from learning how to use it. It wasn’t too long till I somehow found MS paint. I remember selecting the pencil tool and creating outlines of people with a mouse…I was completely attached to it. I loved making pixelated drawings and the idea of being able to print them out on paper blew me away even more – this was also when I first used our printer hah!
During this period, I discovered the complexity of drawing anime characters. My bestie, her brother and I used to watch Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon every morning – we were so into it! Even other animes like Sailor Moon, Beyblades and Cardcaptors were televised daily on Australian TV – we made sure we got up in time to watch these too. Anime characters are the most humanoid cartoons and I thought it’d be pretty cool to draw them and create scenes for them just as I was doing with my own made-up-people drawings.
I ditched the computer and went back to the traditional pencil and paper method because there was no way I could draw anime characters with a mouse. My first ever drawing that got published into a magazine was a character from the anime “Beyblades”. I was so proud that it sparked an interest to continue drawing anime for a few years.
After a while there was a point where I missed MS paint but what annoyed me was that you could only do rudimentary pixel-by-pixel drawings which I found to be unaesthetically pleasing. In 7th grade I spent heaps of time uploading my pencil drawings on DeviantArt and I came across a user who used a free software called GIMP. I felt a little more pro using GIMP because there were more advanced tools, though I only used the ones I was most familiar with – the brush and pen tool. I didn’t understand the software properly and only used it briefly because I hated the interface. In fact, MS paint looked more user-friendly than GIMP. I only created one piece on GIMP and that was a chibi naruto graphic. Bad UI wrecks my mood so after the Naruto drawing, I uninstalled the program.
Clearly I had NO idea about pixels and canvas sizes and I saved the image at 400px wide. I thought 400px was huge, hence the pixelation! The low resolution didn’t bother me at the time as I had nothing high quality to compare it to (and coming from MS paint, that Naruto graphic looked so high quality). I was impressed. I wanted to get better and better at this and achieve the exact same quality as the anime I saw on tv.
The following year when Visual Communication was a compulsory subject in 8th grade, I was finally introduced to this unfamiliar program called Adobe Photoshop. Like GIMP, I had no idea how to use it. The Vis Com subject occurred twice a week so learning Photoshop was mandatory in our classes. The UI looked better so I had a little more motivation to learn it properly and avoid being lazy like I was with GIMP (I still wanted to achieve my desired quality of digital anime drawings). I recall my first photoshop graphic being a Hello Kitty collage masked in a silhouette of myself. I can’t find it anywhere in my folders, I know it was that bad I had to delete it forever.
I didn’t know how powerful photoshop was until now. This was the point I took more interest in design software.
Photoshop had everything I wanted. I studied most of the tools and played around with it for hours….I was like a kid with crayons. I noticed some of my favourite anime artists on DeviantArt had used photoshop to create their graphics. They’ve obviously mastered the program because their works kept me in awe and I envied the perfection of it. On my quest to brush up my anime skills, I started reading Photoshop tutorials posted by DeviantArt users. Thanks to them, I found them really helpful and were able to produce these:
With a love for anime art, nightlife and kawaii things, my Mom, sister and I went on a trip to Tokyo in 2010 for a short break. This holiday was the most memorable. First, because it was the first city I’ve ever been to that seemed so perfectly perfect. Nothing was an eyesore. The local girls were dressed in trench coats, had chiffon-buttoned shirts underneath, plaid skirts, tights and heeled boots and the guys carried suitcases, leather laptop bags, umbrellas and generally wore neat casual or business attire. In other words, every local had a great fashion sense and looked presentable in their own way. Tokyo offered a visually appealing experience.
Then there was me, standing in the middle of a crowded Shibuya crossing in my dirty white sneakers, non fitted jeans and baggy jacket complemented with my bed hair. I felt like..s***. My sis and Mom naturally wore nice clothes everyday, I didn’t fully take notice of fashion until this very moment in one crowded place. It goes back to the idea of good design being thoughtful and what I wore was an eyesore. If I kept doing this to myself, I would probably wreck someone else’s mood, because that’s what bad design does to you – it affects your mood. Tourists love taking photos of themselves travelling but at that time, I didn’t want to be in any photo. This is the second reason why Tokyo was the most memorable for me.
I ended up buying my first trench coat in GAP Harajuku. I also took the time to buy some nicely fitted clothes and boots. Every time I wore my new clothes during my Tokyo trip, I felt confident. It felt odd as I didn’t think fashion would EVER positively affect me this much.
Coming back to Melbourne I had my first Textiles class of the year and we used photoshop to design patterns for prototype garment designs. Feeling inspired after my trip, I wanted to know more about what Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator had to offer other than just making digital artworks so I was excited by the prospect of this fashion project. My teachers made us do a variety of design projects…my most memorable ones being brand design and product packaging.
Throughout high school I thought design was about aesthetics. I was completely wrong. Design is just about caring deeply for the end-user. As soon as I found a fond interest in fashion and graphics design, I fully understood and appreciated luxury brands like Burberry and Chanel because they only care about a specific type of audience. Not everyone. Their time in carefully designing and hand-making their goods for a selected bunch makes the end-user feel exclusive and special.
I’ve said this in my interviews before but if all of my artworks and designs looked the same, it would be boring. That’s why I’m all for creating custom designs for my clients and ensuring my art is not mass produced. I believe that making anything “affordable” and “accessible” brings down the value of a product.
Designing customer journeys, brand and digital experiences is my way of creating lasting impressions for myself and for the client. With every new client a designer encounters, every new project they set out becomes a new subject to learn. One day you are working in the fashion industry, the next day you find yourself in a boardroom meeting with a group of politicians. Cultural visionaries and passionate entrepreneurs have fuelled the craft of design and without them, I wouldn’t know the true meaning of this field.
In saying that, I’m thankful to find this passion. Taken from a small hobby of doing digital anime drawings has lead to something greater where you learn that visual graphics is a universal language for leaders, multinationals, investors and the general public.