October 28, 2014
Last week was a strange karma week. More than one friend called and asked for advice about retirement. The main theme was friends were worried they had not saved enough or were not saving early enough in their careers. By chance, Fred Norgaard from the New York Times called with an article titled, “Do you have enough saved for retirement?” for a special section on wealth. Since the main worry I heard from friends was outliving their savings, many of my ideas tried to catch this anxiety. Fred and I agreed on an approach which emotionally caught the story, but we almost went with a more humorous approach. After finishing the approved sketch, I went back to finish the alternate idea since it was also strong. Much thanks to Fred and I hope everyone is able to sleep a little better about their finances.
This was the approved art which went to final. Fred and I really liked the tone which we felt would catch reader’s anxieties.
This was the more humorous concept we also really liked. It was very close to being picked. I went to final after the assignment since it was a fun approach.
Sketches. The first was a more “literal” approach then I played with the anxiety angle for the rest of the sketches.
October 21, 2014
Michelle Furman, art director for American Teacher magazine called requesting a series of illustrations for a feature about reimagining technical education. The article was the challenge to rethink the role of education and realize there was much untapped potential. The theme of breaking out of boundaries became the theme for the illustrations using a butterfly as a metaphor for potential. Michelle specifically asked that the metaphor be carried through the series and it turned out to create a nice flow through the series. Who knew that butterflies would one day be something I enjoyed drawing?
October 14, 2014
My wife is a Hong Konger so I’ve had the chance to visit Hong Kong enough to feel a connection to the city. As you can imagine, the news has been very heartbreaking regarding the protests. Christopher Mok is opening a new gallery in Hong Kong and asked for a piece for an exhibit dedicated to the protests. Naturally I said said yes.
In my book, creating protest imagery is a tricky balance. Many ideas can be too simplistic but you need an immediate image to catch the eye. Demonizing an opponent makes for great visuals, but often seems like a creatively lazy way to communicate. Offering solutions like “peace” lose meaning because it is easy to call for peace but often impossible to achieve peace.
The solution I chose was trying to find a space where an emotional connection could happen. The main emotion a lot of my Hong Kong friends feel at the moment is heartbreak. My approach was hope in the face of impossible odds. As long as there is hope, there is a chance for the landscape to change. The Terracotta army of China was the inspiration for the metaphor of almost impossible obstacles Hong Kong faces. The yellow umbrella has become a symbol for this hope.
Much thanks to Chris for inspiring me to create a piece for a city that is near and dear to the heart.
October 7, 2014
Laura Baer at New Jersey Monthly called requesting illustrations for a series of stories about the future of education. Since the story was about reforms in place and ready to be launched, a playful space metaphor seemed the perfect idea. Since I went to elementary school in the 60’s the space program was a symbol of progress and hope.
Much thanks to Laura for letting me channel the inner school child for this assignment.
September 30, 2014
Computerworld Magazine AD Stephen Sauer called with a fun project for a series of spreads about mobile security. Security is always a fun subject for me because it usually comes down to facing or avoiding fears. Since this project was for an online publication, bold colors seemed perfect and the background was kept very simple to give the designer options for working with type.
I have a nice relationship with ComputerWorld and they always seem to select my favorite sketches.
Here’s the art:
And here’s the final spreads:
September 23, 2014
An email popped in my box from my financial advisor about the Alibaba IPO. Many clients were interested and he advised against it because he felt people were too enthusiastic. By coincidence I had received an assignment from Dan Smith from the Wall St Journal about the phenomenon of IPO’s shooting up at the beginning only to fall sharply after the excitement was over. It was a quick assignment and fortunately a story like this is always a metaphor for risk or danger. Most of the mistakes people make are looking in the wrong places for danger only to be surprised.
Balloons seem to be a theme for me this year and it seemed perfect for a story about unbridled hope. A nice accident was the choice of red thorns. I sometimes use red to communicate danger but it is also a stock symbol for down markets.
Much thanks to both the Wall Street Journal and my advisor for seeing eye to eye.
September 16, 2014
Working for Hutchison Whampoa’s Sphere Magazine is a huge undertaking for an illustrator. You are asked to illustrate the cover plus a series of illustrations for 2 to 3 articles. Besides creating a series for an article about cities of the future, I was also asked to create a series for an article titled, Training Day. Since the article was about training to prepare for any disaster, my inspiration was loosely based on monster movies from Japan. I always loved how everyone ran into action in uniforms and safety helmets when the alarms went off. Since the client had concepts for the illustrations, this was a way to make it work with my style.
Greg Crandall, publisher of Hong Kong Media, is a friend of many years and we were both excited to have a chance to work finally work on a project. It was almost like we were playing make believe at work.
September 9, 2014
Andree Khalmorgan called with an assignment for Time Magazine about Wall Street’s infatuation with clean energy. Clean energy has become big enough to catch Wall Street’s eye and financing they can provide could be a huge boost for the growth of clean tech.
Andree and I go way back to Businessweek days so it’s always fun to reconnect and nice to work together again. I thought it might be fun to do a humorous image of solar panel and windmill characters with money raining down. Having lived though the go go tech years of the 90’s it’s easy to see the impact Wall St can have when they love a sector.
When I was a child watching movies, an animated ad with dancing drinks, popcorn and candy would sing along to the tune of “Let’s all go to the movies”. This must be the reason I love humanizing inanimate objects.
September 2, 2014
It has been a good year for working on assignments requiring multiple illustrations and when long time friend Greg Crandall called with a request to illustrate the entire issue of Hutchison Whampoa’s magazine, “Sphere” I quickly said yes. Greg is the owner of Hong Kong Media LTD and we have history going back to the 80’s. We both worked with many of the same magazines born during the tech boom so it was only natural the assignment would be about designing cities for the future. Much to my delight, they requested a Jetson’s like approach to the art. Once again I was more than happy to comply.
It’s not often you get a request to indulge your childhood pleasures.
August 26, 2014
John Korpics at ESPN and I go back to Washington DC days working for Regardie’s Magazine in the late 80’s. Since then we have played many rounds of golf together and as a team have never won a match. It is an unblemished record we are still proud of today. He asked AD Chin Wan to call and request stickers for an ESPN fantasy football league which opened up this year. The timing was perfect because I was wanting to create a series of stickers. Football was also my favorite sport as a child and probably my best team sport. You wouldn’t think it but as a tiny Korean running back in Oklahoma, nothing made me happier than breaking off a run and pretending I was in the NFL .
Not only was it a perfect project, John had the perfect art direction. He asked me to go a little nuts.
Much thanks to John, Chin, and Neil Jamison for making it happen.
To download the app and stickers from either iTunes or Google Play visit here. My team is called the Super Crushers. (Inspired by The Crusher from Bugs Bunny)
August 19, 2014
This is how you know SooJin Buzelli is an excellent art director for illustrators: Illustrators are excited about a magazine about financial planning. If someone were to ask me how she managed to pull it off the answer is simple: 1) She is a fan of illustration and knows good work 2) She has convinced both her editors and illustrators that good ideas will be used and 3) they pay a fair budget. It is no surprise illustrators put out their best effort when SooJin calls.
She called with a story about advisors who find many tiny accounts that are forgotten by their owners. They are usually the result of accounts moving to different firms which get lost in the shuffle. SooJin needed to communicate the concept of collecting and finding a way to responsibly manage these tiny accounts. By coincidence it was the last week of preparation for ICON8, and illustration conference in Portland and as a board member I was scrambling around with last minute details. Naturally, the metaphor of “herding cats” or “ducks in a row” came to mind. Soojin liked the frantic approach. Even nicer was turning in the assignment and seeing her next week in Portland.
August 12, 2014
Coming from a family of scientists, it’s always exciting to when Scientific American calls and even better when the subject is about language. In my book, language as a subject matter is fertile ground for ideas. Patti Nemoto had a fascinating series of articles. The first article dealt with a study finding bilingual people have more empathy in their native vs second language while the second discussed the structure and rhythms of language. It was fascinating learning about how languages were developed and how humans innately have a common understanding about structure.
Much thanks to Patti and Scientific American for a fun and creatively satisfying project.
August 5, 2014
Got a nice call from Jia Baek, art director for the Wall St Journal for a cover piece about investing like a hedge fund. The idea is the tools are available for small investors like ourselves to unleash our inner George Soros. Since I always joke to friends about “The Yang Global Hedge Fund” this right up my alley. The direction which immediately came to mind was getting inside the head of the big boys analyzing complex data. Jia also sent a comp of the type and space which always helps with imagining the proper approach for the final art. The space screamed for a colorful approach against a white background.
In case you’re wondering how the Yang Global Hedge Fund invests, a financial manager handles it for me. I prefer leaving that stuff to the big boys.
Here’s the layout for the top part of the page. The art almost drew itself after seeing the space.
July 29, 2014
Golf World’s Art Director Tim Carr and I have worked on different golf publications together over the years. He is one of the few art directors to see my growth both as an artist and golfer. It’s nice to mix the passions of golf and illustration and work with an art director who appreciates both. His most recent assignment was an idea by a columnist for a team competition of older stars vs today stars. Golf is one of the few sports where it’s possible to see a competition between stars from different eras. I did a few fun competition metaphors but we both agreed the dueling metaphor was the most elegant idea.
Tim mentioned how much I’ve grown as a golfer the last time we played. Hope he won’t be too harsh when he sees how much it regressed this year due to lack of practice.
Here’s the sketches. I felt the story would be perfect with a humorous quick to read idea catching competition between generations.
July 22, 2014
Art Director Dan Smith for the Wall St Journal is the first person to assign me a project by tweet. After returning from an exhilarating week in Portland at a biennial illustration conference known as ICON8, I tweeted about feeling pressure to bring it after seeing so much great work. Dan saw it and tweeted asking if I was ready to bring it for a project. We continued tweeting “Bring It On” lines from the cheerleader movie for laughs.
The assignment was for an article about a trend among CEO’s to pick successors from their alma mater. One proposed idea was CEO’s as Siamese Twins-like cheerleaders. Dan went for he idea. It wasn’t until later I realized the irony of doing a cheerleader metaphor after our “Bring It On” routine.
Much thanks to Dan for the assignment and great anecdote.