What started out as my obsession with creating the best MySpace profile eventually turned into a passion to close the technological gap between the user and the product. You know those daunting dystopian shows like Black Mirror where technology takes over and we’re basically screwed? Well it doesn’t have to be that way! My mission is to create a world where technology can aid those in need, but do it in a delightful and tasteful manner. By incorporating illustrations with my designs, I’ve found that there’s a much stronger connection and understanding of the product. That results in a happy user. And happy is good. Happy is awesome.
I currently make happy things at Sidebench, specifically creating high-fidelity UI designs of various apps, websites, and other tech-related products for startup and enterprise companies like Red Bull and IEHP. By the end of August, I’ll be a full-time freelancer so I can take on more projects that will aid in my mission to serve underprivileged communities. I’m super excited to start my journey!
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
Ever since I was a kid I started to question a lot about why I couldn’t have the things that the people in the movies had. I was born and raised in Los Angeles to an immigrant family, but had to move several times in different low-income neighborhoods because of financial struggle. I am the youngest of seven, and that meant that practically everyone had something to say about success. There were countless times where I heard, “Don’t be like me and just do anything in healthcare so you can be rich!” or “If you’re an artist, you’ll be homeless and die.” Like whoa there. That was a lot to take in. As much as I wanted to believe everything they said, I couldn’t stop drawing and I was on our old desktop all the time. The internet dial tone was like music to my ears.
Low self-esteem and Asian family pressure got the best of me however, and when it came time to apply for university I forwent a design education to go to UCSD as a pre-pharmacy major. Just like my parents wanted everyone in my family to be. You would think my parents would give up when only 1 out of 7 of us actually went through with it, but nope.
By the second year of college (and before I had to take Organic Chemistry, yikes) I switched my major without my parents knowing because I hated the thought of being behind a counter all day. I still wanted to tell my parents eventually, so I felt like I had to pick something to convince them that I’ll be stable and successful. When I saw that Cognitive Science/Human-Computer Interaction focused on UX/UI, which from the 4 articles I read was a trending design principle at the time, I switched to that and took 5 courses every quarter so I could graduate in time. Turns out I was able to graduate a quarter early, and so I had to tell my parents that ya gurl made it...just not with the degree I came in with. They were mad at first (mostly confused) but by then it was too late to change and I still had my UX design internship. I don’t know what would happen had I not switched my major, because it was through my education that I saw the direct effects of how design could positively impact the world.
Ever since then I’ve worn both UX and UI hats at work, but my true strengths lied in my illustrations and iconography. I found more enjoyment doing projects that were illustration-heavy, but I also found it hard to pursue consistently in an agency setting. I decided that being full-time freelance would be much more worth my while, so a week ago I gave my six weeks notice and will be working on my own soon. It’s scary and I know that my mom will be really mad when she finds out, but my life motto has always been to ask for forgiveness and not permission. I know that this is my true calling and no matter how much money I make this is my way of giving back to the world.
How do you stand out in your field?
Nowadays you see apps and websites utilize more illustration and personality in their products, which is amazing! But we need to treat illustrations less as a luxury and more of a necessity to connect with the people whose problems we’re trying to solve. We have yet to touch the surface on providing government and nonprofit organizations these services, and they are the ones that need it the most. The root of this is because Silicon Beach and Silicon Valley have a severe lack of representation of minorities, especially those who come from low-income communities.
When I started to apply for jobs and internships, I wanted to make sure that I stated my intentions to use my background as a strength in this field. The power is in the numbers, and when there are more of us in the tech industry we’re able get our voices heard. This was especially necessary when working with IEHP, the first health plan in the nation to reach over 25,000 Medicare/Medicaid members. To be able to collaborate with 3 fellow designers on this project for them was truly humbling and eye opening.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I’m currently working on some illustration and UI work for Puno! I’m also working on closing all my projects at Sidebench so I’ve been hustling hard!
WHAT'S YOUR STYLE/PERSPECTIVE/TASTE? DO YOU HAVE A PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THIS?
I’m always exploring new ways to reach diverse audiences, that’s just in the nature of working at an agency for most of my design career. I tend to gravitate towards styles that are reminiscent of the late 90s/early 2000s. That usually entails using lines around the objects to add contrast and increase visibility. Different strokes for different folks, but I love me a thicc stroke.
WE ARE ALL SLASHIES WITH MULTIPLE SKILLS, WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD DO MORE OFTEN?
I used to be really good at figure drawing back in high school but I have since lost all ability to draw human bodies well. It would definitely make my work more dynamic and realistic!
WHAT IS FRUSTRATING YOU RIGHT NOW?
Since I’m currently juggling my transition to freelance with my full-time job, it’s been really hard getting all of my marketing schedule and finances straightened out. One of the things I keep procrastinating on is increasing my presence on Instagram because I have a high standard of what I want to put online. Most of my best and current works are still under NDA so I have to take extra time to make my own work. It's a good opportunity for me to document my process and add more to my portfolio. So far it’s just through IG stories, but I want to eventually advance to creating my own Youtube channel.
IF YOU COULD HIRE SOMEONE FOR $20/HR, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE THEM DO TO MAKE YOUR DAY EASIER?
Probably be my personal driver because I don’t have a car anymore. :(
LET'S BRING OUT THE TIME MACHINE. WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU COULD HAVE TOLD YOURSELF, WHEN, AND WHY?
All my life I've had so much pressure to succeed in anything BUT art and design. It made me hate that I liked it so much, and because of that I became very anxious of starting anything in fear that I would be rejected by my family. But despite that fear, I did all the things necessary to get to where I am now, just a little slower than I would have liked. If I could talk to myself literally everyday pre-2018, I would say, “Gurl, stop doubting yo’self.”
IF YOU COULD TALK TO AN EXPERT TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT ON SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
I would love to ask my current favorite social entrepreneur, Matthew Manos, what the hardest part of having one of the most generous design agencies in the world is.
WHAT KIND OF OPPORTUNITIES/PROJECTS ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
I want to do work that serves underprivileged communities, non-profit organizations, or ones with missions to make a difference in socially misrepresented markets.
I have a lot of experience illustrating/designing in digital, but I would love to explore more editorial or physical projects as well.
DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL JOB/CLIENT/COLLABORATION.
An ideal client would come to me because they love my style and align with my values. We would collaborate regularly and bounce off of each other. Honestly, if the client becomes one of my best friends as a result of this, I would be extremely happy.
WHAT IS YOUR HOURLY RATE, RETAINER, OR SALARY RANGE?
My starting rate is $45 per hour and goes up depending on the complexity of the project as well as the client’s budget.
If it’s pure illustration, it’s $45 per hour.
If it’s visual design for the whole app or website, prices will vary depending if the company is nonprofit or not.
Nonprofit price: $35/hour
For-profit price: $45-55/hour depending on complexity
HOW SHOULD SOMEONE APPROACH YOU ABOUT WORKING TOGETHER?
Slide into my DMs and or just hit me up via email! :)
The ideal greeting for me is, “HEY GURL HAYYY!” followed by a majestic image of a horse.
Some things that I would love to know!
-Who you are
-Some information on the company or project you’re working on
-Where you found me
-What you’re interested in having me do
-Deadline and scope
HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?
Keep yourself full of positivity and food in your belly!
This member profile was originally published in August 2018.