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- UPPERCASE Magazine
Calvin Lee, a native of Los Angeles, designer and owner of Mayhem Studios. Calvin is a relatively new in the design world with 5 years of experience in the business. Mostly self taught and attending local schools. Calvin is also a member of the Platt College Advisory Board as a way of giving back to the community, which he's learned so much from.
Three business card designs by Calvin Lee of Mayhem Studios will be featured in "The Big Book of Business Cards", due out late this year.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I knew since I was a kid that I would be doing something in the art field. It really started when I picked up my first comic book. I loved how it brought you into another world. I thought, someday I will be drawing comics myself. Then I realized years later that I wasn't that great an illustrator and not cut out to be a comic book artist. So, I went in the direction of architecture, and found that it wasn't my cup of tea either. Finally, I ended up at a community college taking some Commerical Art classes. I really liked the idea of solving problems through visual communications. I discovered this was my calling.
Who or what inspires you?
I don't a have a specific person that inspires me. I think designers inspire me, nature inspires me, friends inspire me, life inspires me. Oftentimes things not relating to design inspires me. I may be working out or on a walk, and all of a sudden, I get a flood of ideas and inspiration. Funny how the mind works.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I have a little of both, mostly self-taught. I attended a local community college for Commerical Art. It was all hand done back then. By the time I graduated, the computer age had come around. I had no computer skills. So I wasn't marketable. I fought it a couples of years. Until I was forced to buy a computer and learn all the the apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, in order to find any kind of work. I armed myself with a mountain of books and videos and learned it. I am continually trying to better myself as a designer.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
It's hard to keep up with what is fresh sometimes. I think if you stick with design basic principles/elements you can stay pretty fresh. A lot of it comes from what is happening in the market. There are different design styles that pop up everyday. I think if you are on top of the trends. Incorporating some of what is out there will help. For me, looking through design annuals, design books, product design or anything out on the market gives me inspiration to stay fresh.
What are some of your current projects?
Currently working on website for a IT business. A 50-page ad book hopefully in the next month. My main goal is getting my name out there and promoting myself. Designing promotional postcards for myself. Setting up a second design website, CalvinLeeDesign.com. I want this one to be more fun, not as corporate as the Mayhem Studios website.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I would have to say my Identity Package: website, letterhead, envelope and business card. It's pretty tough to design something for yourself. You never seem to be satisfied or happy when it comes to your own design. I am pretty happy with mine. It took me a while to get there, about 3 years. I kind of stumbled upon it, it seemed to design itself. I am proud of it because it is all mine.
I also enjoyed working on the Makeup Media website, http://makeupmedia.net/. It's a Special FX and Makeup Artist Studio for Movies/Television. I liked the theme of the site, the cool creatures and monster FX. It made working on the site a lot more fun. This isn't really a specific project but I really like designing logos/identity. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the fact that a mark says a lot about a company.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I still want to maybe get into comic books in some way. Inking and coloring comic books in Photoshop interests me. I know it will be time consuming but have more control over the medium on how everything comes out.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Having an education and degree is very important. Even though your success depends on your design skills and concepts. In corporate America, that's what they look at. They use it when selecting potential candidates to hire. One has to work harder to find a job without a degree but it can be done. I know this from experience. Also know your craft and continue to educate yourself and grow as a designer.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
In my opinion, all the elements in the piece need to be unified as one. Choosing the right colors, fonts, photos, etc. It has to be dynamic to catch peoples attention, not just to make something look pretty. What really catches my eye is nice and clean and minimalistic. Design with a lot of white space. I also like busy designs when it's well done.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Oftentimes I have to step away from the computer and designing. Engage myself in an activity that is totally different than design. Working out, going to the movies, being outside and enjoying life helps. Looking at other designers work also helps me keep motivated. I enjoy browsing through design books, magazines and websites. I can be found at Border Books or at Barnes & Noble almost every week. I have design books piled all over the house. I can't seem to find enough room to store all my books.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Hmm, I haven't been watching to much TV lately. When I do, I like watching more cable shows then the local programming. Lately, I have been into the new Dennis Leary show "Rescue Me" on the FX Network. The show focuses on the professional and personal lives of N.Y firefighters.
I also like Law & Order: Criminal Intent. I really like the way they put the clues together to solve a crime. The main detective is like a modern day Sherlock Holmes. If he doesn't have the evidence on you, he'll make you believe he does until you confess. I have to say my all time favorite show is Macgyver. He can get out of any sticky situation with what's in his pockets. He has disarmed a bomb with a pair of hockey tickets. Gotta love that.
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