Calvin Lee Interview
Hello, I’m Calvin Lee, principle and creative director of Mayhem Studios, a small, award-winning design studio located in Los Angeles, California, developing identity and brand recognition for the business sector across the nation.
My creative spark ignited at the ripe old age of 10, amidst some coloring books and a trusty 64 pack of Crayola’s®. In a defiant act of coloring outside the lines. I knew that one day that I would have a career in the design field. Mostly self-taught, with some schooling, entering the world of graphic design, I discovered that I really enjoyed solving problems through a visual medium.
I really started learning on my first job, at a small Hispanic marketing firm as a Senior Designer in the art department. I had a broad range of projects from logo design to marketing materials, brochure to websites and political campaigns to vehicle wraps.
I worked there for about two years before it went out of business. During those two years, I did learn the ins and outs of running a design firm, working with clients and print shops, prepping press ready files, juggling many projects and the business side of design. It prepared me in running my own business, Mayhem Studios.
Where do you look for sources of inspiration?
Twitter is one of the best sources for inspiration for me. I follow many designers that post some of the most awesome links to anything you can think of design wise, be it; web design, brochures, packaging, business cards, photography, etc.
I also look through other designers work I admire in design books, annuals, websites and blogs. Another major source are friends, family and life. Having a balance between work and play helps to keep you fresh.
What is your favourite aspect of logo design?
My favorite aspect of Identity/logo design is the simplicity of a single mark representing an idea or company is very cool to me. Taking the mark and applying the brand to other collateral and products.
Identity/logo work is more challenging and conceptually creative. You can play around with different concepts and ideas with fewer parts to worry about like in a brochure, website or concerns of resolution since most times, logos are built in a vector application.
What are your top 5 favourite websites?
Twitter – Great source of design inspiration, information, networking and connection with people.
Logo Pond – Awesome collection of logos for inspiration, when you have designers block.
CSS Tricks – Great information on css and web design with video tutorials.
Jeff Fisher LogoMotives – Jeff Fisher has some great logo design case studies on his process with equally useful information about self-promotion.
Hongkiat – The site continually pumps out great collections of inspiration and tutorials.
Who do you look up to in your field?
There are two people I really admire for their work and the generosity they give to the design community. One is Jeff Fisher of Jeff Fisher LogoMotives and the second is Von Glitschka of Glitschka Studios.
Jeff Fisher is a great guy, logo designer and master self-promoter. He’s always willing to give any advice about logo design and self-promotion. Gives back to the design community with great information about his design process and self-promotion tips on his blog.
How has using Twitter helped the popularity of you and/or Mayhem Studios?
By staying active on Twitter, it has helped me build my network and gets my name out there. As as result, I’ve been asked to contribute to many articles and interviews. Twitter also drives large amounts of traffic to my website and blog. People that are contacting me for potential projects, has doubled but it doesn’t happen over night. You have to build up your network and trust like any relationship.
What helps build relationships and trust on Twitter is to tweet/retweeting useful information, engage in conversation with your followers, help with answering questions, ask questions, do your best to respond to @replies and DM messages, be nice and courteous.
What sort of social media tools have you found most successful?
Twitter is one of the best tools for self-promotion, if used correctly. I wouldn’t sell or push your product on Twitter, instead offer value through advice in tweets, retweeting helpful links, writing articles to help others or giving helpful tips and tricks for your industry. By adding value; you have credibility – you’re seen as an expert in your filed.
What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
I’m most proud of a five page feature article design for Create Magazine, “Agency Roll Call: West Coast Agencies Purvey The Changing Landscape of The Advertising Industry.” I’m mostly a corporate design guy and love it but been desiring to try other styles, to grow as a designer.
This was a fun project and great opportunity to try something new. Create Magazine gave me creative freedom to use any stye/theme I wanted, as long it was related to the article. I have always loved the grunge/distressed look. This was the perfect time to give it a try. The final design came out great and was well received.
What would be your perfect dream project?
A dream project would be taking on a branding project from concept to final product. Applying the brand to other collateral and products with no financial or creative restraints. It would be cool to hire anyone I wanted for the project or used any print design techniques, like die-cuts or laminating.
What advice would you give to someone looking to specialize in ____? (logo design, graphic design, web design, blogging)
From my perspective, it doesn’t matter what you specialize in, you should always be honest with yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses. Be sure that you know your craft and bring your “A” game. Keep up to date on the latest design trends, be detail oriented in what you do, learn the process from concept to print production to web design and love what you do.
Looking into a crystal ball, what do you think will be the next design trend?
I was never great in predicting what the next trend would be but it does seem like many design trends take from the old and make new again. I’ve been seeing a lot of awesome large type and beautiful type in print and web design lately and I see that continuing. Also cool are creative character illustrations in both print and web. Clean, simple and modern designs will never go out of style.
What can we expect from Calvin Lee in the upcoming year?
A few of my tips and my work will be included in a new book about freelancing, “100 Habits of Successful Freelance Designers: Insider Secrets for Working Smart & Staying Creative.” The book will be published by Rockport and authored by Steve Gordon, Jr. with Laurel Saville.
The book showcases solutions from a wide range of freelance designers whose years of experience have helped them find not only the most creative solutions for their clients’ design needs, but also the most successful solutions. The book also focuses on the daily habits that inspire these designers to stay creative, and business strategies to be successful when working on your own.
I will also continue working on my blog with articles about design/self-promotion/business of design to help beginners and the design community.