For the London College of Communication graduate Suzy Chan, graphic design is not just a way of beautifully crafting information but a public platform for communication. Though some may view graphic design’s sole purpose as a vehicle for sales, Suzy proves otherwise. She stands as an example of what’s conceptually possible within the medium and asserts a clear, articulate voice through her visual language.
Growing up in the “Las Vegas of Asia”, Macau, Suzy first studied at China’s Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts but quit the programme after two years following a disagreement with the institution. Deciding to give it another go, but this time in London, Suzy’s second attempt at a design education proved far more successful. Creating a pretty staggering amount of work that feels quintessentially her own, she’s expanded her practice from a focus on print to all kinds of digital technologies, from web design to animation.
Not only rich in aesthetic but also ideas, she’s designed an adjustable typeface based on the angry voice of protestors, devised an ironic marketing project commenting on the tastelessness of fruit in the UK, and rebranded gummy bears as a cultish religion. And, with a pronounced sense of authorship across each project the graphic designer’s quirky visuals quickly gained the It’s Nice That team’s stamp of approval, sealing her place as one of this year’s deserving Graduates.
Suzy Chan: Casino City
INT: Why did you decide to study graphic design at London College of Communication?
Suzy Chan: Studying in China for the two years previous to my degree in London made me realise how important it is for me to live in a place where I have access to abundant amounts of information. So, the main reason for choosing London College of Communication came down the geographical location. Situated in South East London, LCC has a deep history specialising in both graphic design and printing.
INT: What’s the project you are most proud of from your time at university?
SC: I often feel ashamed or suspicious about my own work. I always feel like my work is far from “perfect”, but someone once told me that you don’t have to make perfect work because true perfection does not exist. If something looks perfect, it must be compromised in some way. Sometimes we have to endure failure. Before I release any of my projects out into the world, I often feel frustrated for a long time beforehand because of the imperfections.
But if I had to choose a project, it would be Casino City. As the main economic income of Macau, the gambling industry has already surpassed Las Vegas, also now known as the “Oriental Monte Carlo”. Through design, I wanted to inspire local residents to communicate with the government and push them to consider the balance between this development and sustainability, designing advertisements for Macau casinos based on traditional Chinese rituals.
I wanted to make people remember and commemorate the “dead city” by the way of sacrificial rituals, scattering fake money and burning joss paper. Through this custom, I wanted the protest information to be carried away throughout Macau and, as part of the action, I designed an ironic traditional costume hinting that you’re “welcome to make a killing in Macau.” I also want to talk about this in the project because for the last three years I’ve been living in a different culture. I wanted to feel connected with myself and my culture again and really considered the audience with this project.
What makes me proud is that I have these opportunities because I am gradually doing design from an academic perspective to a practical one in society.
INT: All of your work is so energetic, fun and colourful. How has this signature aesthetic developed?
SC: Throughout my British education, I’ve had many discreet moments where I’ve tried to find the purpose of my graphic design rather than focusing on “solving problems” through layout and typography etc. I took a step back and looked deep into my roots, gathering the animations, movies, colours and clothes that I loved during my childhood and allowed them to stimulate me once again.
Now I’m at a different point in my life, I’m looking at these influences with a new perspective. For example, I used to adore Hello Kitty, but now I’m more aware of “cute culture” and issues of feminism come to mind when I think about it now.
INT: Your graphic design portfolio is very multi-disciplinary, how have you learnt to do so much in just one degree?
SC: As I mentioned, before coming to London, I dropped out after two years at a Chinese art school and that experience made me realise that, to get a good grip on learning it’s hard work that wins. When I was encouraged to explore my own visual language in LCC, I decided to try out different avenues and I’m still trying to do that. For my next steps, I intend to work on more motion related visual outcomes based on my own visual language.
INT: What was the best bit about university and the worst?
SC: The roast chicken from the LCC canteen was definitely the star to me! The worst bit is that sadly, I can’t use the LCC library anymore.
Suzy Chan: Casino City
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