February Professional Spotlight: John Luu AIGA Board Member
Name: John Luu
Place of Employment: Axiom
Job Title: Designer/Art Director
What do you get out of being an AIGA board member?
Serving on the board of AIGA Houston is very meaningful and empowering on a personal level, whether it is interacting with the local design community, connecting people to help them achieve their goals or helping to foster a cohesive and stable design community. Also being a board member allows me to pursue and develop additional skill-sets and responsibilities that would not necessarily be accessible within a studio environment.
What inspired you to become a print/interactive designer?
Originally I studied to be a painter, I first came across graphic design back in high school when I knew it as commercial art and wasn’t really impressed with what I was exposed to; my high school library was woefully out of date. It wasn’t until I went to Otis College of Art and Design in 1996 and first heard Moira Cullen speak about the power of design and design thinking and witnessed first hand the cultural impact that graphic design at the time was having on the West Coast that I wanted to become a designer. When I came back to Houston in 1998 I discovered the amazing Graphic Communication Program they had at UH and went through the block program there.
In terms of interactive design I just drifted into the field by accident. A couple of years out of school I had a some websites and motion projects under my belt when I heard about this interactive position at a firm. It was a considerable bump in salary over what I was making as a print designer so I applied even though my interactive experience was rather thin. Luckily I had a pretty solid portfolio and mailer and my demo reel at the time was serviceable and they took a chance on me. The next twelve months was probably the most challenging for me since I was essentially learning a dozen different technologies and work processes on the job with very aggressive schedules, at the end of it however I was a pretty well seasoned interactive designer.
When you aren’t working, what are you doing?
If I’m not working I’m usually volunteering or working on personal projects or trying to fix things around the house. I like to watch movies or read, hang out with family and friends, spending time with my wife. I like to travel.
What is your greatest accomplishment to date as a designer?
In 2004 – 2005 I worked on a series of Patient Education kiosks and saw firsthand how the clarity of design, both visual and instructional, could persuade individuals to consider making a lifestyle change that would improve their health and quality of life. To me that was a very meaningful call to actions.
What is your project that you have the most bragging rights too?
I have a pretty short attention span when it comes to my own projects. I would have to say right now it would be our latest demo reel at Axiom. It’s a compilation of our agency’s work, the majority of which I was not directly involved in but by editing, layering, and pacing the sequences into a cohesive montage that communicates, clearly and passionately, Axiom’s creative energy, is something I’m quite proud of and feel a large sense of authorship in. Also the fact that the project afforded a high level of autonomy didn’t hurt.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designers?
1. Be good. There are so many good portfolios out there, it’s very humbling. You need to be able to stand out.
2. Your first job out of school will usually be a real acid test of everything you’ve learned. Do yourself a favor and get an internship while you’re in school.
3. Don’t take anything for granted. I had to learn this lesson a few times in my career.
4. Read as much about design as you can. Be knowledgeable about design history. If someone asks you about Helvetica and the Crystal Goblet, know what that means.
5. Be involved. Join the professional groups and associations that directly supports your field of interest. Find out what’s new and emerging and experiment with it.
6. Be professional. There are designers that behave in a professional and ethical manner and conduct and price themselves accordingly and then there are the other types and they are diluting the industry. Hopefully they should be easy to spot.