There’s always something new and different with the works of young and talented graphic artists. Maybe it’s the way they apply bold colours on their artworks or the way they manipulate photos to make it look fresh with a hint of abstract and mystery. Either way, this generation of creative minds have proven that it’s not about the period of time one has spent in the graphic design industry but about one’s approach to unique design and unparalleled artistic work.
We were able to catch up with Sisa Llenes, a twenty-something Multimedia Arts Major and Graphic Artist, whose works instantly captured our attention. Her interests with various things such as patterns, literature, dreams, ethereal and mythology can be perceived through her works in graphic design. It is quite apparent that uniqueness and creativity requires no special thought process, you just have to work harder to successfully accomplish your works.
Who was your mentor and what was the most important thing they taught you?
I’d have to say, the bulk of my training came from Robx Bautista a.k.a. “The Creative Dork”. He was the Art Director of the Benildean Press Corps, the publications office I was working in. The most important lesson I learned didn’t come until I had resigned from the office and met up with him 2 years later. At that time I had been in a creative rut, trying to keep up with the never-ending influx of deadlines for school and work and I really felt like I had fallen behind the pack. The lesson was: NEVER FORGET YOUR SIDE-PROJECTS.
Over time, I’ve seen the importance of side-projects in my self-discovery and identity as an artist although it was never at the top of my priorities. The best way to discover what else you can do is by experimentation and the side-projects give a lot of area for these matters to grow.
How long have you been doing graphic design?
I started messing around on Photoshop when I was 12 and started taking freelance projects when I was 16. I have reason to believe that my vision is blurred in a pattern akin to the various Adobe interfaces I had been exposed to over time.
Where do you get your inspirations when generating initial ideas?
I usually put a lot of elements into my art so I’m never influenced by just one thing for a single piece. Every element I put into is either a representation of something new I’ve learned or a visual metaphor of the events that day or some dream, without overdoing it. I take interest in topics like patterns, literature, dreams, the ethereal and mythology. My work stands for different things and ideals. A lot of it deals with our relationships with all the different worlds we are part of, its parallelism and singularity (which I try to show in the geometric arrangements of irregularly shaped figures that create more spaces for me to fill with new realities). My art really is my autobiography, my journal or works of fiction in code where the way to the world is inward and all else is not real.
What are some good ways to network effectively in the Graphic Design/Illustration field?
A lot of my side-projects are basically non-profit but I did learn a few things about meeting people. Although it may not always seem profitable, getting involved in side-projects that would allow you to collaborate with other people, you’ll definitely gain your share of contacts over time. This is a good way to catch referrals too. Side-projects and collaborations need not be contained within your field. If you’re trying to get clients, then diving into a pool of designers looking for the same thing may not be the best thing to do.
I noticed I gained more appreciation for my less corporate work when I started working with musicians for album art, gig posters and even playing live visuals for bands and producers. Once you get yourself into side-projects, all that’s left to do is to really be sincere with your work and towards the people you work with.
Which skills have you observed to be the most sought after in this field?
As Art Director, I had to handle 60-80 people each term, deciding who to hire, promote or terminate. I would definitely hire someone who has more style and substance over technical skill. Not knowing how to use design software can be solved overnight on YouTube, but learning how to create a good piece with an unusual but solid concept takes time and lots of practice.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of graphic designing?
A lot of designers coming out now are really young and some people try to take advantage of this. Since a lot of jobs come from and exist through the Internet, there is a lot of room for loopholes and scams since you can’t really run after someone in a country you can’t even spell.
Other than that, you spend a lot of time sitting down and late nights working turn into late afternoons. There are a lot of players in the field so you have to constantly keep up.
Now, for the good things: All your projects will merit you instant exposure, as graphic design works are meant to be in the sight of man. You meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends. You can create the craziest things and treat it like it’s all in a day’s work. You don’t really need a boss to start working, you can never be considered unemployed (best fresh-grad loophole). There’s a whole universe to learn from and that’s the best part.
How do you create emphasis in your designs?
I was fascinated with optical illusions when I was younger and it taught me a couple of tricks, obviously. I play around a lot with symmetry, repetition, texture and space with my work. Having been exposed to a lot of elements allows me to create other dimensions into the spaces and rhythm of it.
What do you think will be the future trends in graphic design?
Everyone’s getting into everything, switching places and crossing over. There’s a lot going on over at the clean-cut design side, designers are stepping it up and getting recognition globally, sometimes it all looks the same but other times it’s hard to keep up. Working in this field requires that designers keep up with all this though, but my heart will always be for the DIY culture. There are a lot of fresh and rare ideas coming out from there too. For me, I’m seeing more honest opinions and art coming from that side of the plane. Plus, since information is so fast, everyone’s getting into multimedia, not just artists, so there’s a lot more opportunity for collaborations.
Do you have to be artsy to be a graphic designer?
In any field, I think as long as you believe in what you’re trying to create and do what’s necessary to ultimately achieve that vision, then no other criteria is required for you to fill.
What is your latest project about?
I have “Black Dolly Records”, which is an open audio-visual record label in the works. It’s going to feature sampling and basically the multimedia remix culture here in Manila, while releasing everything under Creative Commons Licenses.
I’m also working on projects for Vito Crew from Vito Cruz, Manila. We’re aiming to establish a lifestyle collective of local hip-hop MCs and producers, skaters, artists, and more while working towards affecting social change. Recently, we held a listening party and skate event for the benefit of the oppressed farmers of Hacienda Luisita.
I’ve been working with local hip-hop artist, RBTO, for his album coming out in April called “Inverse“. I’m about to start doing live visuals with SimilarObjects. I also have an unreleased personal project called “Sisa of Space”, where I
document and present the different spaces I occupy within and beyond spatial limits (this includes the spaces in my brain, to the spaces in other countries, to the spaces we can’t see). I have a lot on my mind!
How do you steer away from clichés to achieving form and meaning in your designs?
Research is just as important in design and art as it is in science. It doesn’t only help you think of what elements to put in your design but would also help you see how these individual elements can branch out and interact with each other creating a more substantial piece. I avoid clichés by simply refusing to be someone else. I sometimes find that I have to alienate myself from the rest of the mainstream influences to see all the nooks and crannies leading to roads less taken.
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about starting a career in graphic design?
Just go do your thing and go with YOUR flow. If it doesn’t feel like it’s yours, you probably ripped it off someone else.
- Kristina Carillo