“It’s never been easier to learn something”: designer Jordi Ng on asking questions and trusting your instincts
The self-taught designer has been busy illustrating, art directing, designing and working on editorial projects.
- Alif Ibrahim
- 13 August 2021
Since we last wrote about self-taught designer Jordi Ng, she has been continuing her design practice alongside illustration, art direction and editorial projects. During the pandemic, she and her partner also started sourcing old art and design books from the 80s and 90s to sell under the name Common Use Books that she also uses as design references. Reflecting on the year as a while, she says: “This year has been one of trusting my instincts, being extra kind to others and in general exercising a bit more discretion in the projects I choose to take up,” she tells It’s Nice That. “There are times where a client reaches out with a project and all they want is ‘A Designer’— any designer — to get something done, but there are also other times a client reaches out because they’re drawn to my body of work specifically and they see something in me that fits within their needs.” With this newfound understanding, she has gotten better at distinguishing the two types of projects that she comes across, choosing those that she feels are more challenging and that would fit her goals better instead.
“My learning experience has always been largely informal and fluid. I would say that to this day I learn from a great variety of sources whether it’s a Japanese illustration book from the 80s, directly from the talented artists and colleagues that I’ve had the privilege to work with, or simply through just Googling something,” she says. “It’s never been easier to learn something on your own. I don’t shy away from asking about something I’m unsure about. My practice remains a very instinctual one, but I guess I’ve just learnt to trust these instincts a bit more than I did two years ago.”
For a recent project that she did titled Munchies, Jordi designed the visual world behind the events and marketing that they planned for the month-long initiative by LA-based Sundae School to celebrate AAPI Heritage Month. The apparel and cannabis company wanted to highlight a specific part of AAPI heritage every week for the celebrations and its third week revolved around food. Jordi was briefed to design and illustrate a cookbook-cum-zine that featured recipes from a diverse range of AAPI chefs. “When designing and illustrating the zine, it only made sense for me to borrow from the larger visual world that I had created for the month-long project,” she says.
In order to achieve this goal, Jordi started with her own brushes on Photoshop to achieve a hazy and dream-like look for the illustrations. “This was something which I thought helped to beautifully capture the somewhat murky and blurred nature of a collective Asian-American identity, but also alluded to the sensation of being slightly, well, high,” she says. “When I was drawing them, the colours and texture of the illustrations almost demanded to be Riso-printed to bring out their richness, an instinct that I followed through on and turned out to be the right one.” It was during this process that she learnt the importance of checking papers out in person when printing. She had her mind set on using textured paper that she thought would be perfect for the zine, but felt that its beauty distracted readers away from the actual illustrations after receiving proofs. “The nice thing about that is that now I have a fat, unused stack of beautifully speckled Cordtone French Paper sitting in my bedroom waiting to be used for the perfect project,” she mentions.
Outside of the Munchies project, Jordi also helped with designing the exhibition catalogue for the Fantasy America exhibition held by Studio Elana Schlenker. The exhibition dealt with the flimsiness of the “American Dream” in contemporary society as a response to Andy Warhol’s America publication initially published in 1985. “Under Elana’s creative direction, we used colours in pleasing but also jarring ways, and also abrupt and unexpected paragraph indents to create somewhat discordant layouts on the page, alluding to the disarray and complexities that belied the American Dream,” she says. “I deliberately kept the overall design rather loose (and colourful, as with many things I do) for this one, using a variety of typefaces and layouts for different pieces.”
Currently, Jordi is redesigning a print magazine on running culture, but also taking some time off in August to pause, read fiction and be as unproductive as possible. It seems like this is a well-deserved break that might inspire others who feel like they have their hands full to take one as well.
Jordi Ng: Sundae School: Sap Sup (Copyright © Jordi Ng, 2021)
About the Author
Alif joined It's Nice That as an editorial assistant from September to December 2019 after completing an MA in Digital Media at Goldsmiths, University of London. His writing often looks at the impact of art and technology on society.