Sunny Tianqing Li

A big congrats to Sunny Tianqing Li (@sunny.design), one of our 30 TDK Awards winners' for 2020. An ArtCenter College of Design graduate from Los Angeles, their work was chosen by Daniel Martínez of Futura (@byfutura) in Mexico City: 'Alright, let’s talk about identity. Consistency (amongst other things) is what makes a successful identity system. The projects Sunny has developed work very well because they talk to each other, inserting themselves within their consumers’ imaginarium. Her work feels fresh, experimental when needed, something different than what you see out there. I think her use of typography as patterns and photography framing in the project STORM KING ART CENTER is a clever way of creating a unique solution and brings the identity together as a whole.'⁠ We asked Sunny to answer a few questions for next years TDK Awards hopefuls.

What do you wish you’d known now when you started your design course?

I want to tell my younger self that it’s okay to not be the top one amongst my peers. To always embrace failure but learn, grow, and get inspiration from it and to absorb knowledge through this process. It’s also okay to be introverted (I’m still introverted now), but allow your work to speak for your skills, and learn more tricks for Adobe software!

What originally lead you in to design, and how has that changed - what do you want to do/are doing now?

I started doodling as a little kid. Before I came to ArtCenter College of Design, I was trained as a traditional fine artist who focuses on drawing and painting techniques in an art high school in Beijing, China. In summer 2014, I joined a pre-college summer program in SVA and majored in illustration. One of my instructors at that time, Sakura Maku, suggested that I try out graphic design since she saw a lot of graphic moves in my work. I was always drawn to new experiences and adventures, so hell yeah!—I applied for the graphic design major even though I wasn’t sure what graphic design is. In my first year of college, I’ve considered switching my major back to illustration, to what I’m familiar with and comfortable with because graphic design is freaking hard! I had no idea how to use a grid system or how to create a decent composition. I struggled a lot, but then I told myself that I could never be a better person if I just stayed in my comfort zone.

Later in my college, I interned at Game Seven Marketing in New York, and Apple in Cupertino. A small studio versus a big company, it’s hard to tell which one I prefer—I gained different and valuable experiences from both. I worked closely with the team members at Game Seven. The feedbacks were fast and straightforward, but I still have the freedom to handle the projects with different approaches. During my intern at Apple’s marketing and communication team, I jumped between projects that asked for distinct skill sets. I was so impressed by the amount of research for one project and the experience of going through hundreds of image databases trained my eyes and helped me grow my ability for art direction. When it got close to the launching stage, it’s essential to work efficiently to get the best execution. There was also a project that required my skills in illustration and my drawing/painting background allowed me to enjoy the process of creating. All of these professional experiences gave me a better understanding of working in the industry and I can’t wait to be a contributor to the real world.

Now I’m a grown-up graphic designer who’s into print/editorial design as well as creating brand identity systems and I’ll be graduating in May. What a long journey! There’s still a long way to go and a lot more space for me to grow. I think I’m ready for the adventure.

Design work by Sunny Tianqing Li The Design Kids interviews Sunny Tianqing Li work-2

Any hot tips for getting ahead at uni?

Be humble and always have an open ear to opinions. Always be curious, no matter how old you are. Always find your own voice and don’t be lost around all the inspirations online. Lastly, enjoy the process, even if it’s painful. The results may not be to your liking but you will always gain something more along the way.

What do you love about the design scene in your city and what companies are on your dream list to work or collaborate with?

One of my most favorite things about LA is the bookstores. I’m always surrounded by art and design which inspires me and creates an environment for me to fully immerse myself in my work. There are several art&design bookstores that I always love to go to in LA: Arcana, Hennessey + Ingalls, Skylight Books, ARTBOOK at Hauser & Wirth, Family Books, TASCHEN, etc.

I respect so many studios/companies in this industry, some currently in my mind are Collins, Apple, Design Studio, IN-FO.CO, Wkshps, M/M (Paris), Spin… …

Design work by Sunny Tianqing Li The Design Kids interviews Sunny Tianqing Li work-4
Design work by Sunny Tianqing Li The Design Kids interviews Sunny Tianqing Li work-4

always embrace failure but learn, grow, and get inspiration from it

Where do you see your career in 5 years?

That’s a tough one. A question I’d never like to be asked for an interview. I actually don’t know since I’m bad in planning things. But in the future, I’d like to work at different places around the world. I see local cultures and landscapes as my main inspiration.

2020 for you in a sentence

Learn more, take adventures, have fun.

Design work by Sunny Tianqing Li The Design Kids interviews Sunny Tianqing Li work-6
Design work by Sunny Tianqing Li The Design Kids interviews Sunny Tianqing Li work-6

Where to find Sunny Tianqing Li online.

Instagram: @sunny.design

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