The first Designer Spotlight of 2017 is reserved for my friend and fellow designer, Ricky Luu of illuustrations. As luck would have it, our paths would cross while we were both walking new (and uncertain) paths; we converged in what would become our home (classroom) for the 8-week fast-track graphic design certificate program at SAIT, where we ended up sitting next to each other. This became a pretty sweet partnership that saw us rock an awesome presentation about printing on cans (“Fun with Cans”) and then knock it out of the park on our final group project.
Ricky must have an innate talent with Illustrator. Or he is a wizard (I’m going with wizard). Only a wizard is able to create insane vector drawings after only learning Illustrator for two weeks. That’s right; this is a guy who had never touched Illustrator before taking the SAIT program. WIZARD.
On a personal note, Ricky is probably one of the most chill and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. But don’t be fooled by his easy-going manner; this guy knows how to hustle. While the rest of us were lamenting about the sad state of the job market, he was launching a t-shirt line (Treadwear) and being commissioned for car illustrations. He works hard and it shows.
Let’s get to know more about Ricky, how he got into design, and his philosophy.
1. What made you decide to take the SAIT program?
I was let go in April of 2016 after 8 years in Telecom. I decided that it was a good opportunity to give myself a chance to get back into something more creative. I guess I can say I’ve always had a creative eye. I’m always trying to take something from a different perspective. Most importantly, I really wanted to do something that I love and enjoy.
2. Did you already have a vision in mind for what kind of design you wanted to do or did it develop as you went along?
I mainly wanted to do automotive work, but as I go further along, I don’t want to limit myself to just that. I want to do as many things as I can; maybe other interests like fictional character illustrations, nature/scenic and architecture designs.
3. Do you have a creative process? If so, what does it look like?
I usually look at a bunch of things, like pictures. I try to gather all these ideas in my head and sometimes draw it out on paper. I make notes whenever I see or come up with an idea so I don’t forget. One thing I learned is I can’t sit in front of the computer all day. When I’m stuck, I step away for a few hours to enjoy myself and my surroundings. Clears my mind. Then I come back and things seem to flow better and ideas start rolling in.
4. Your interest in cars seems to have had a big impact on the art that you produce. Is this a niche that you’re establishing for yourself or did it simply evolve from your natural passion?
I think it’s the passion I have in the car world. But to be able to create a niche makes it a bonus. From my passion of illustrating cars and loving cars, I can vouch that if you really do love your work and what you put into it, the results will show.
5. As a fellow designer, I often have days where I’m unable to find the right creative “flow”. Do you ever experience days like this and if so, how do you overcome them?
All the time! I usually step away from the computer for a few hours or a day or two. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do. It’s like a constant battle in my brain; trying to relax, but also trying to create new ideas. I even think about it in my sleep sometimes! There are so many wicked graphic designers on social media, so I use Instagram as one platform to get inspiration.
6. You’re also a talented photographer. Do you have any plans to incorporate this into your design work?
If I can, I will! If I can take pictures of cars, then I can recreate it in illustrator. It’s better because I can get the quality and angles that I want, rather than relying on others. You are in control! It’s easier because you already know exactly what you want so it’s beneficial! I also go outdoors a lot and it helps to find inspiration behind pictures.
7. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your design journey? What has been your biggest accomplishment?
Being creative. There are so many creative designs that sometimes I wish I came up with those ideas instead. Another one would be opinions. Sometimes I think something I just did is amazing, but the person next to me disagrees. Everyone has their own style/creativity, so it’s finding that out and meeting in the middle. My biggest accomplishment would be taking the plunge and trying to design automotive t-shirts. Being without a job and reading a lot success stories online about humble beginnings really inspired me. That, and my commission work on the side for car illustrations!
8. Your t-shirt line Treadwear is pretty sweet. My husband and I wear our shirts often. Do you have any plans to expand to other merchandise?
Right now, I would still like to do t-shirts and get a few more designs out. I haven’t really thought about other merchandise yet. I’ve thought about doing stickers and possibly selling my own art illustrations down the road.
9. Do you have any cool projects you’re working on that we can look forward to seeing soon?
I want to do more things other than automotive. Being in Calgary, I want to design and illustrate things that are around me, like the Rocky Mountains; somehow incorporate those into my designs and onto a t-shirt. I would set a percentage of the profits to support charities or local communities.
10. What’s one piece of advice that you’d like to share with aspiring designers?
Not everyone will like your designs. Learn to take constructive criticism and don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Let people know that you really like their designs. People are very visual and you can strongly voice your opinions and thoughts through your designs.