Emerging Designers – Jess Chen
JESS CHEN | ILLUSTRATOR & GRAPHIC DESIGNER
I graduated from Billy Blue College of Design at the end of 2013 with a Bachelor in Communication Design. Like most kids, I got into design because I really liked drawing and Visual Arts was my favourite subject in high school.
Plus, I was a very insecure and shy kid in high school and I felt like the only way I could truly express myself was through drawing. During my time at Billy Blue, I honed my aesthetic and design sense, learned how to be more confident when speaking through presentations and group assignments, and connected with industry professionals for career opportunities and advice. Billy Blue also nurtured my drawing skills as I applied them to my design aesthetics as much as I could. From there, I started taking drawing more seriously. I found myself drawing three to four pieces a week whereas I would draw once every three weeks back in high school. My passion for drawing grew, and I started to look up to more artists and illustrators such as Audrey Kawasaki, Yayoi Kusama, Amy Sol, Mel Stringer, Chrissy Lau, Hoang Oanh, and Maruti Bitamin.
Currently, I work part-time at a boutique design studio called Reno Design in Chippendale whilst freelancing as an artist/illustrator. Working at Reno has been a very fruitful experience, I found many differences and similarities to being in college and out in the workforce. I found the role of the lecturer and the role of the creative director at the studio very similar as they overlook what you do and guide you onto the right track while making sure you don’t fall into the deep end. Working at a studio has also improved my design skills very quickly, especially with typography, eye for detail, and general clean, technical design. It’s awesome to see your many months of work come to life, whether it’s print design or branding or online content, and it becomes special when you can tell others that you were heavily involved in that project.
Billy Blue taught me how I could start up my own business and put the skills learned at college to my advantage. I learned how to brand my products, my markets at tables, and myself. Thanks to lots of practice through countless presentations, I can introduce and present myself in a quick, concise way at art markets and festivals. Through this, one of the most amazing things that have happened to me was becoming a commissioning artist for Lalaland, where I would collaborate on projects from time to time. The most exciting brief I have had so far was creating an adult colouring book for Lalaland that was part of a series with four other Australian artists. Mine was called ‘The Deep Beautiful Sea’ where I had free rein to draw whatever sea creature or landscape I wanted. My book was sold throughout Australia in over 80 major retail stores such as Monster Threads, Opus, Dymocks, Habitania, and was even picked up in the US and Canada. It was very exciting to see my colouring book on the rack in my local bookstore on my way to work! Another interesting thing that has happened to me was being interviewed by Concrete Playground about my zine for the MCA Zine Fair, and getting my work into promotions for Frankie, City of Sydney, and of course MCA.