All photos courtesy of Panny Chayapumh.
Maybe you’d like to get into graphic design but don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’ve been studying graphic design in school but are feeling nervous about joining the workforce. Or maybe you just like hearing people talk about graphic design.
Whichever one of these you are, welcome in. Today we’re talking to expert graphic designer and professional creative Panny Chayapumh of the creative studio Special Special. Chayapumh was previously the Creative Lead at the nonprofit arts organization Creative Time.
Chayapumh has extensive experience with visual identity systems, art-related events, animation, and printed materials.
After speaking with several aspiring graphic designers, we sat down with Chayapumh and addressed as many of the designers’ concerns as we could, and now we’re ready to share the full interview.
Thanks for speaking with us. To get started, graphic design remains a popular career choice. What went into your choice to pursue graphic design professionally?
When I applied to Pratt in 2011, we were asked to declare a major, and I had initially chosen advertising/art direction. I wasn’t even really sure what graphic design was. After settling into the communications design department, I realized the content that I gravitated towards were projects based around book design, posters for exhibitions, fonts, etc., and I quickly realized if I wanted to be involved with producing that type of stuff, I should probably switch over to graphic design.
A lot of graphic design is problem-solving, like how can one communicate clearly or form a system and still make it visually appealing and nonrepetitive.
Is higher education an essential step for young graphic designers?
I feel like a lot of people will have a different answer to this. I think what I appreciated the most from my time at Pratt was a safe and undisturbed four years when I could experiment and try things and really take the time to learn the skills and the programs. It’s so much harder to do that when you have a job, etc.
I also really appreciated the friendship, atmosphere, and energy of curiosity, which I think is much needed for creative growth. That being said, I think we’re entering a different age in education and how things have been done in the past.
There are a lot of programs that are available for people who’d like to pick up these skills and I’ve never failed to find a tutorial on YouTube. Going through higher education isn’t the only way. With a good amount of discipline, drive, and curiosity you could start a body of work for a growing portfolio.
There are so many potential applications for graphic design. How do you recommend that young designers explore and discover their own specializations?
Follow your curiosities and try new things. I’m very much an “I’ll try anything once” type of person. There are so many avenues and specialties that one could go into, and if you’re in school, take the time to at least try everything once and know that it all gets better with practice.
How important is originality for aspiring graphic designers? Does originality come later in the process?
I would say don’t worry too hard about whether what you’re working on is the first of its kind. I feel like that can stress me out in the process if I’m thinking about its place in the world of existing materials. I think originality comes from individual perspectives.
Would you also recommend building an online portfolio? Is this an essential step?
Yeah for sure! An online portfolio is an essential step! It’s also a lot easier to send someone a link to your website than to have a prepped PDF. If I’m speaking to a new client, usually I’ll refer them to my website and then create a more curated PDF that is specific to the client’s needs.
The general online portfolio should just be a handful of select projects that you think are a good representation of your sensibilities.
Is it also helpful to keep track of inspirations and references? Does it depend on the designer?
It’s up to the designer really! I generally do like to keep track of references and inspiration, but not every single project that I’ve worked on has had an existing reference. Sometimes the idea alone of having conversations with people sparks inspiration.
Before we close out, are there any major ways in which graphic design, as a profession, has changed since you began your own career?
The demand for animated content has definitely increased due to how social media is used today. In general, the demand for creating content has increased vastly. I think when I started out, campaign launches and product launches were nowhere near as elaborate as they are now.