Who was your first designer crush?
Angus McIntosh (of New York City artistic venture, Ennis McIntosh): such a charming and talented maker. I distinctly remember how impressed I was with all the great spaces Angus and Sean (Ennis) have designed and built. I respect all business owners, but even more so when they made it happen in New York because I know very well that the hustle is real. There are so many variables outside of just “design” that are so critical in the business, so I respect that about individuals and successful brands.
What set off your light bulb — that moment you knew “design + build” was the career path you were going to follow?
I don’t think it was a light bulb moment. I’d describe it as more of a strobe light of moments and events that led me to design and build. At the very start of my career, regardless of scale, format or budget, I didn’t discriminate projects and I put myself in positions to learn really quickly. My attitude has always been to “find a solution,” so value engineering became very relevant and critical in design and build.
How do you approach your work with beauty, luxury, and retail brands?
We start by assessing the design problems faced by brands, which are quite common: How do you create maximum impact and differentiation within the allocated budget, time, and space? I love having the conversations and diving into the questions of why the product was created, how the experience is meant to influence consumers’ habits and when it’s meant to happen. I also gather many cues from the client’s personal style and personality. And, what are you we trying to communicate to the consumer? A strong concept absolutely aligned with the distinct voice of the brand tells just the right story.
The inspiration for concepts funnels down from a wider range of thoughts to very focused ideas. Once the concepts are in place, the execution takes on another round of problem-solving — what’s the most effective, efficient, compact material, form, shape and amount of engineering necessary to fit all of the needs we mentioned above. We work with various vendors but most closely with Jason Horvath whom I’ve been working for over a decade to make custom projects come to life.
It’s been really exciting getting to know new brands in various categories. The new clients we’ve taken on range from beauty, luxury floral, active lifestyle, as well as custom retail products. These brands are in need of a visual language that helps create a (larger) presence in the retail space.
What was it like to work with Korean Beauty brand Glow Recipe on their pop-ups? We love what you did with their custom-built pop-up at Saks’ The Wellery!
I love designing pop-up stores because the challenges we face with the details are so satisfying once you find the solutions for them. They’re like an astronaut ice cream or those compressed T-shirts you buy at Disneyland! Absolutely everything you want is in there but in a condensed and special format!
I love working with Glow Recipe, our collaboration is where the magic happens. The founders, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, both bring such different expertise to the table that it’s pretty incredible when it all merges. It’s a very rare synergy we’ve found and it’s very educational for me (and my face!). From e-commerce to retail, it’s an actual dream that we brought to life and I’m looking forward watching to the brand’s expansion. #GetYourGlowOn!
We love the connection you feel to the Korean word “Hucbek” — can you please explain your connection to “black and white” / monochrome, and how it inspires you creatively?
Yes, absolutely. It felt right in theory and in a literal sense. I survive off creating lists, thinking three-dimensionally and dreaming in color. It made sense — at least in my mind — that the foundation of those elements was like a black and white sketch in my brain.
Who do you follow on Instagram for daily inspo and motivation? In other words, which Insta accounts “give you life”?
I LOVE @friendswithyou, @teddytheshetland (he’s a pony), @petitepassport, @beaver_suit, and @dailymini. I understand this may not be the full design answer you’re looking for, but I am obsessed with these!
You seem to be really loving hand-lettering and analog writing techniques. We love it too and are obsessed with all things analog. What do you love about it?
I started off in visual arts and according to my mom, I was making random things since I was 3 years old, i.e, paper money (LOL!). So I think I’ve always just enjoyed a tactile experience, to some extent. I love a challenge and although it’s much more time consuming than digital output, if I have the opportunity to apply an analog method, I will. There’s nothing that can replace the painterly, textured and emotion of a product created by hand.
Just for fun, complete this sentence: “Besides my phone, I never leave home without…”
A 10′ mini tape measure, a writing utensil, swimsuit, and a black emoji heart.