Interview with Nini Lee, Graphic Designer at Brookline Public Relations

Posted on July 10, 2019

Nicole Herback, Senior Intern

ICYMI, Brookline diversified its service offerings this year by hiring graphic designer, Nini Lee. Nini holds a bachelor of Design from Alberta College of Art + Design (ACAD) and works her magic at Brookline through logo and brand development, digital and advertising design, proposal creation – you name it.

For this month’s #BPRDifferent blog, I wanted to get inside the mind of our in-house creative genius. Read below as I interview Nini on the ins and outs of graphic design.

NH: How did you get into graphic design?

NL: I’ve always been really into art and drawing, and as a kid I always had this artistic urge. With art, I felt that there was a certain amount of challenge that I really enjoyed. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I finished high school, but I knew I wanted to have a career in the arts. I went to ACAD, not even knowing graphic design was an option. There, I was funneled into the design program, because my professors told me I had more of a mind for design over fine arts.

What’s the difference between design and fine arts?

A fine art person and design person – they’re very opposite people. Fine art is making a project and basing it on your beliefs, how you see the world, or what you’re feeling. Design is much more removed. It’s like, “Ok, here’s a brief, here’s a problem, now solve it.” And I always really liked that.

You’ve been working for over five years now, have you always freelanced?

No, I never thought I’d be freelancing. School kind of trained us towards working in design agencies, but over time I started getting requests in a freelance capacity.

What kind of graphic design do you do for Brookline?

It really varies. Brookline has the most diverse clientele and the most diverse type of projects that I’ve ever worked on. I’m doing some branding projects for Brookline’s 15-year anniversary that is coming this October and I recently designed the logo and branding for Brookline’s new podcast*, Beyond PR. On the client side, I design proposals, presentation decks, websites, logos and other general branding projects.

What kind of design makes you tick?

I really enjoy just organizing text. A lot of design projects go back to the basics: layouts, texts, grids and systems. Ultimately, it’s having that design hierarchy and telling a story. It’s fun when you have the freedom of finding images and creating a whole new layout.

Do you prefer having more freedom than less?

It’s always a balance.To have total freedom is the ultimate challenge – it can be a death sentence [laughs]. We’re always taught in design that you have to fulfill a brief and solve a problem. You need to answer certain questions, but if there’s no questions then it won’t work. In general, it’s actually better to have more structure around a project.

What are some common misconceptions about graphic designers?

It depends on the client. Some people think I can do everything and some don’t know what I can do. It’s a common misconception to think that a designer can design a logo, a website, do social media and do all the marketing. I think that’s where people sometimes have a hard time drawing the line, between communications and design.

That could go for marketing and PR too.

There’s so many blurred lines in this industry!

What’s your creative process?

I like a lot of brainstorming. Sometimes it’s just healthy to go for a walk, but I really do like collaborating with other people. When I have a client, I like to have that first conversation and really let things roll. I try to get the client to spill their guts: what they know about the industry, what their product is, what they love about it, what they themselves are like, their interests, etc.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

It’s hard not to say the Internet because it’s right there and things like Google and Pinterest are a click away.I like to look at what other brands are doing. It’s super easy to get a level of inspiration with so many businesses in Calgary.

What’s the best way to work with you, from concept to completed product?

Sometimes I think what’s most efficient and what’s most effective are two different things. That process sort of varies. Personally, I like to jump into design. Once the design starts, there’s a lot more conversation to be had about content and how it affects design and how design influences content.

Do you feel like the process at Brookline has gotten more seamless as time has gone by?

With so many different types of clients, it’s always going to be a learning process along the way. Even personally, I’m starting to learn how to work with each person.

Do you still have a passion for design now that it’s your career?

It’s ironic for a job that relies on creativity, but once something becomes your day-to-day it’s not uncommon to lose a bit of the passion. I used to enjoy hand-letter a lot more than I do now, but I started finding other creative outlets that I still enjoy. I started embroidering, doing puzzles, and even doing more cooking. For design, I really do like hands-on work, specifically illustration. I get that excitement from logos too, and the satisfaction from solving a brief.

Two options: At home or in office. Where do you prefer working from?

I like both. I need my alone time, and to a degree I feel more creative when I have my own space. But there’s also that need for collaboration and being social. I need to be around other humans, beyond just my dog!

*Beyond PR is Brookline Public Relations new podcast – listen to our first episode here.

This is Nicole’s first blog as a Senior Intern at Brookline Public Relations. Nicole has a deep appreciation for creativity and the arts; she longs to one day apply her writing and creative skills to start an Instagram account dedicated to fashion.