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I've been living in Los Angeles for the past two years and was hired as Art Director of Machine Shop, a creative studio based in Beverly Hills, and of Linkin Park. In the past four months, I have designed LP's latest album cover (Linkin Park - as CD and vinyl) as well as some of their single covers, revamped Music for Relief, a charity organization that helps with disaster relief and environmental programs.

I designed a technical snow jacket with Mike Shinoda and my creative director, Rickey Kim in collaboration with 686 Technical Apparel. Check out the photos. Most were taken by myself.) Machine Shop has also been working with a company abroad to launch a new mobile app and device that will bring a new way to share curated content.

The following video is my first stab at apparel design with 686 Technical Apparel, Mike Shinoda, and Creative Director Rickey Kim. This particular project is special to me as it was my first project as Art Director and allowed me to collaborate with many creatives. The film was directed by Austin Saya.

Question and Answer:

What are you doing at the moment professionally?

I am the Art Director of Machine Shop, a creative studio and think tank in Beverly Hills, California. Our primary client is Linkin Park. I work closely with the Creative Director and together we conceptualize and oversee all creative work from album artwork, staging, web and printed assets and physical products for band and individual members. We also oversee all creative for Machine Shop which is involved in many projects such as new technology/apps, marketing campaigns, as well as launching of art events and exhibitions. I am responsible for creating assets for all of the mentioned as well as making sure the integrity/vision of the respective brands are in tact during public launch.

How has majoring in Art/Art History helped you the most?

Art/Art History has helped me tremendously. Both the art history programs at UH Mānoa and at Roehampton University, a school I attended for a semester in London, has really prepped me in my work today. Learning art history might not seem glamorous in school, but post school gave me many reference points to start from when conceptualizing or putting together presentations for clients.

Going through the UH Mānoa art program also gave me many skills I use often in my profession. Graphic design isn't limited to the computer or 2D world and often times I am presented with problems that require many mediums and other ways of thinking to solve and execute. I am glad that I was able to build a strong foundation with 2D, 3D, and screen printing classes I took. Not only am I more informed on the medium, but the methodologies involved in each process overlap often in design. Building a strong foundation now only gives you a large advantage later.

The Graphic Design BFA program at UH Mānoa was very vigorous but taught me so much. Looking back, I am glad I never got to pause in school because it really makes the professional world seem easier in comparison! All the presentations, research, and various projects helped me develop my skills and speed in design and I really feel gives me an advantage in the work force.

If applicable, what internships or extra-curricular activities have you pursued while in college have been the most valuable to you personally and professionally?  Why?

In college, I was a radio DJ at KTUH. Looking back now, I'm very thankful for that opportunity. It helped me with my public speaking and broadened my music vocabulary. Three weeks after I graduated, I landed a full time job at an advertising agency in Honolulu. While I was extremely busy, I didn't want to lose the strong connection to music that I had.

My friends and I have always enjoyed music that never saw radio play. We also recognized a lack of that particular music culture in Honolulu, so we organized events together. We did not do this for money, in fact, we barely broke even sometimes. However, doing these events taught me how to be more business minded, how to network and truly collaborate with others, how to promote an idea, and also how to roll out my own events. While this seems like "just promoting events" to most people, to me, this was all a giant learning experience. Doing these projects helped me build strong bonds with my friends and network with new creatives as well as helped me understand how design can be carried into business. It taught me how to make my vision real and how to share it on a larger scale.

I use all these skills today in my work both professionally and any personal projects I may have. Pursuing these extracurricular activities also made me a lot more aggressive and fueled my ambition which eventually prompted me to move to Los Angeles. I moved to create more opportunities for myself and meet new creatives to work with.

Are there any “optional” elements of the undergraduate experience that you recommend students explore?

Always, always, always do your own projects outside of school. I am thankful for school and I gained a strong foundation that I think is necessary to have as a creative who is planning to pursue that as a career. However, it was through the projects outside of school that I learned the most about myself as a creative and how I developed my skill set.

Setting your own parameters can be both a nightmare and also very liberating. You may fail, you may succeed but you can look back and see all the work you've done and how much you've gained from all of it. I continue to pursue personal projects to this day, despite my hectic work schedule. There's no such thing as no time, you make time.  Also, if you can, please travel or study abroad! Seeing the world during college changed my life in so many ways. UH Mānoa has a great study abroad program.

Do you have any tips for new graduates who are entering the workforce?

Don't believe anything anyone tells you. The workforce can be brutal, both creatively and personally. School is a safe haven and a limitless sky, allowing all ideas and encouraging creativity always. The workforce, in my experience, will try to put limits and restrictions on you. A lot of people will try to tell you what you should do, how to think, and evaluate you.

I made the mistake of letting those ideas affect me and my creativity early in my career. I started questioning my ability to complete work and my skills as a designer which ultimately made matters worse. Do not make that mistake. Moving to Los Angeles was initially, extremely difficult for me. Not only was it 2,500 miles away from home, I didn't know anyone and I didn't have any leads on a job. All I had was my goal: to pursue design. At the danger of sounding trite, believe in yourself. Many doors will be shut in your face, but that doesn't mean there aren't many doors left to open. 

Much like how you have to defend and explain your work in critique in school, you will have to fight much harder to do what you want to do. Just remember, no one can take away all that you've learned and gained. Life has no rules.  Aside from that, do have a tidy portfolio, do be personable, do pay attention, do dress smartly and be prepared to work very hard. You can sleep when you're dead.

Learn more about Annie Nguyen

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