Behind the Designer with Huy Nguyen

The second installment of Behind the Designer kicks off with Huy Nguyen, a recent designer on issue 9. Huy undoubtedly has an eye for photography and the style that is seen within his photos is reflected back into his design work. Having worked as a freelancer while gaining experience at Ligature Journal, we’ve seen Huy do more and more work in the arts—our curiosity got the better of us and we wanted to know how and why he’s gotten into this sector.

Hi again! Having been a part of our team during the pandemic, how have you been coping with everything since?
First of all, I would have to say it was an extraordinary opportunity to be part of the team in such a crucial moment when everything came to a halt, leaving me at my most mentally vulnerable. Working with the team at Ligature gave me the opportunity to continue to create and the camaraderie and collective experience that got me through tough times.

I have been taking my creative drive in stride, got myself involved in lots of projects and freelance opportunities—the things that make me so happy to be a designer. At the same time, I took up biking as an outlet to combat cabin fever and stay active and that has really helped me connect with place and develop an appreciation for the Australian landscape.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your design journey? What draws you to photography work and how did you find or develop your visual style?
First, photography was just something I took up because I spent a lot of time waiting at the bus stop and train station. Everyone who had to commute from the Western suburbs to UNSW for uni would understand. I started taking photos of buildings and streetscapes with my iPhone. And by doing so, I started to pay attention to things I wouldn’t normally do and eventually, I carved out a visual style that leans on the mediative and analytic.

Could you tell us a bit more about the photos you chosen?
The photos I’ve chosen obviously mean a lot to me. Each has its own story and they are all representative of my style and the way I approach photography. I compare my photography to taxidermy. I don’t take photos of something as is but gutting, mounting, bending it to the exact shape that I want to commemorate it by.

What have you been up to since working at Ligature Journal?
I have been working on a bunch of freelance projects for clients who are mostly Western Sydney based arts organisations and crafting my folio. I was very happy to be nominated for 2 AGDA Awards with the Ligature Journal team this year. And through that, I got noticed by an artist who wanted to collaborate with me on a book she is working on with UTS to be published next year. I also had the confidence to apply and land an internship at Frost* Collective.

You’ve started to find a passion (or love) for designing for the arts, what drew you to this sector and how did you get started?
I was lucky to land a job as a Junior Communications Officer at CuriousWorks, a leading arts organisation in Western Sydney when I started my postgraduate degree in Design. Through CuriousWorks, I got the informal induction into the Western Sydney arts scene and because my interest has always been arts, culture and community, it was only natural that I decided to focus on designing for the arts. We live in a society and government system that favours money and consumerism over arts and humanities so that becomes a motivation for me to be better at my craft so that I can help shine the best light on the things I care about.

Have there been any challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Many! Creative block, self-doubt, lack of motivation, etc. But I have really amazing peers and mentors who are always supportive and they provide a lot of perspective that gets me through tough times. Being a freelance comes with a lot of instability, especially when 90% of your clients are in the arts, a sector so neglected and maligned by the government. This is when networking is so important. The more people you know, the better chance for you to land a gig.

What would you say to a new designer or illustrator that’s struggling to find their own style, niche or passion?
I feel like this is something I would say to myself time to time too—immerse yourself. Get online, make a behance, create a design instagram account. Follow people you really admire, bookmark or moodboard the stuff you like, make friends with other designers.

And finally thoughts or plans for the future?
I am constantly working to be a better designer. I have an internship to look forward to and a team of top players to learn from at Frost*Collective. I hope to juggle that with my freelance gigs – which are most fulfilling to me. I recognise that there is a gap in design in the Western Sydney arts sector so I am hoping to fill it.


To purchase one of Huy’s photographs visit tiliquapress.com.

You can find Huy on Instagram at @huy____/@by.huy.nguyen, explore his portfolio at huy-nguyen.xyz or say hello at hey@huy-nguyen.xyz.

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