An Interview with Jason Yang

Recently we’ve been tracking down designers and artists whose work we admire, and interviewing them to find out what inspires them. Jason Yang is a motion designer, animator and illustrator who lives in Oklahoma, and he’s kindly agreed to be interviewed. Thanks Jason!

Can you give a bit of a background as to how you got started as a designer?

First, I’d like to say thank you for the opportunity to be featured – It is an honor! I’ve been drawing and creating for as long as I can remember, so art and design has always been a major influence on my life. Throughout my college career I was certain that I would graduate and work at an agency as a graphic designer focusing solely on print and branding. It wasn’t until my senior year that a fellow classmate introduced me to Adobe After Effects. My eyes were opened! The realization of bringing graphics to life through keyframes was inspiring and helped kick start my career in motion design and animation.

Throughout a decade of professional work experience, I honed my skills as a motion designer while leveraging my print and illustration background into my work. However, some of the most important experience I gained during that time included client interaction, business development, and meeting deadlines. Gaining this combination of creative and professional work experience ultimately gave me the confidence to leave my full-time job and start my own design and animation company in 2014.

Earth & Moon[Above: Earth & Moon by Jason Yang]

Where do you get your inspiration from, and which other designers work do you admire?

Being a visual artist, I’m constantly being inspired by almost everything around me. However when I am at my desk, my go-to sites are motionographer.com, dribbble.com, and pinterest.com. Since starting my own business and running lean as a 1 man team, I’ve found community online with several fellow designers I now consider to be great friends – Joe Cavazos, Jerry Liu, and James Boorman, to name a few. We encourage and challenge each other not only by talking business, but through critiquing each others work. I value these relationships tremendously.

I also enjoy listening and learning from various podcasts while I work – Master of One (the best podcast covering design, movies, and games) has quickly made its way to the top of my list. Additionally, I’m always impressed by the illustration work of Chris Lee, Andrew Kolb, and Colby Bryant. When it comes to animation and production companies, I’m always blown away by everything that Buck, Giant Ant, and Cub Studio create.

What are some of your favourite designs or videos that you’ve created?

Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work with clients and brands of all sizes. One of the animation projects I finished earliest this year was for T.D. Williamson, a leading pipeline solutions company. I scripted, illustrated, and animated a video explaining their services and mission. It was a huge undertaking but one that I’m extremely proud of.

One of my favorite personal illustration projects was an Aliens 30th Anniversary event poster I created in collaboration with SquaredCo and Cinépolis Luxury Theaters. This piece is significant because it was the first illustration of mine that was turned into a silkscreened event poster – marked that off my bucket list! It definitely was a labor of love, requiring more hours than I initially budgeted. However seeing the print in person and signing my first set of artist proofs made it all worth it.

Aliens Poster[Above: Aliens 30th Anniversary event poster by Jason Yang]

When it comes to motion design, you have a very colourful and fun style – is this something that you consciously decided to have, or did it naturally develop over time?

Well thank you! Color, without a doubt, has been influential and has become a common theme throughout my work. I definitely prefer taking a light-hearted, fun approach when given the opportunity. I think this is because it reflects my personality.

Workspace[Above: Workspace by Jason Yang]

Similar to the above, is your fun and quirky animation style something that you have to convince clients on, or do you find that they come to you because they’re already looking for something different?

For the past decade I have built my brand while curating my portfolio, which has led many clients and brands to seek me out for the style of work I’ve produced. When it makes sense, I have been able to “up sell” and convince a few of my clients to consider leaning toward the more fun and quirky style that I’ve grown to love, which is always fun!

As a designer, my primary goal and responsibility is to listen to my client’s needs, getting a full understanding of what they hope to accomplish, no matter the project or scope. ‘Form’ follows ‘function’ in most cases, meaning that I provide solutions that utilize whatever design approach most clearly communicates the message. Sometimes that means I am able to apply some of my preferred styles and techniques, while other times it is necessary to follow strict brand guidelines or art direction that has already been established. Fortunately, most of my client work is a balanced mix of the two, which keeps things fresh and interesting.

For me the process is just as rewarding as the final product, so I generally will complete a project fulfilling my passion for design with the feeling of satisfaction in delivering the right product to my client.

Permanent Records Submission[Above: Permanent Records Submission by Jason Yang]

What tips would you give to someone looking to get into design?

Throughout my career, but particularly within the last couple of years since starting my own business, I’ve discovered a few things that have definitely helped me out along the way.

Solve problems first. Choose tools later.
This goes back to what I mentioned before – Design is all about solutions, not styles.

Keep striving, keep learning.
Bring your best every day and try to push yourself with every project. This goes hand in hand with continuous learning. Be inspired, learn, apply.

Recognize your strengths and weaknesses
Knowing where you succeed and where you struggle will only make you a better designer. Leverage your strengths and continue to improve in the areas you lack.

Focus on relationships.
I work hard to provide the best personal experience and best design for my clients. To this day, I’ve not had to cold call clients or overly market my services because I’ve cultivated great relationships with my clients. All of my work has come from these relationships or through recommendations by former clients.

A huge thanks to Jason for agreeing to be interviewed, and for the really insightful answers. You can check out his work on his website Invisible Element and on Dribbble. You can also follow him on Twitter @nvisibleelement and Instagram @invisibleelement.

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