Uprising in association withLBB & Friends Beach

New Talent: Henry Chung

Advertising Agency
London, UK
DigitasLBi Designer talks 3D, illustration, digital... and knives

Concentration was tough for the young Henry Chung. He was a self-proclaimed hyperactive, easily distracted kid. But via a culturally diverse journey through school and college, he has honed his craft, quickly learning the value of patience in perfecting one skill before getting your hands dirty in every piece of the creative process. And it’s a trait that’s paid its dues. Henry landed an internship at DigitasLBi immediately after graduating in August 2012 and has now cemented his place at the agency after being employed full-time as a designer. LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with him to talk Wizard of Oz-inspired Converse, knives and how he’s still really a big kid at heart. 

LBB> Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you?

HC> I grew up in Hong Kong and then went to school in England at the age of thirteen. Hong Kong was very international back then, more so than it is now. England - Shrewsbury specifically - was your typical, quiet Midlands town. 

As a kid, I was quite hyperactive and easily distracted. I was quite sporty so I put a lot of energy into football and rugby. When I was younger, concentration was hard work. I was the sort of child who would sit at the back of class and draw. So as a kid there were three things I loved: drawing, video games and sport.

LBB> Where did you learn your craft?

HC> I learnt my craft in two different stages of my life. First was in art class in school in England where they taught us how to figure paint. The technique was hard and involved using oil paints, which were difficult to use when your prior experience was mainly ink and pencil. It taught me patience and the need to constantly practice and be dedicated to improve my craft.

Wanting to move to the big city, I studied 3D Design at Camberwell College of the Arts in London. I learnt very early on that, especially in design, it is important to be hands on but it’s difficult to have a hand in every part of the process. There are people out there who have dedicated their lives to a craft so why not ask for their help or expertise? The course taught us how to prototype our ideas with the tools and machines in the workshop but also when necessary to communicate our idea, so components of our design could be made by experts and manufacturers to maximise the quality and workmanship. Also, being in London forces you to be proactive in many ways since resources are few and far between.

Check out Henry's unusual CV here.

LBB> Your portfolio reads "a good kitchen knife makes a difference". Can you tell me a bit about that and how that kind-of metaphor influences your work? 

HC> I guess this goes back to some of the things I said above - the idea of the right tool for the right job. With most jobs you can’t have control of everything. Even at DigitasLBi, it’s the same. There are times when you want to have control from start to finish when you’re unable to.

I love to cook so I notice the difference when I have a better knife. It makes the job more efficient, and you’re able to cut with pleasure, accuracy and ease so you can focus on the actual cooking part. If your tools are good, the final outcome should be good as well.

LBB> How would you characterise your work? 

HC> I try to shift between 3D objects and more graphic or illustrative media when I can. Obviously 3D projects are more time-consuming so they come by less frequently than I’d like. I often try to mimic illustrators I follow to try and tailor my style using things I like about their work. In that sense, I’m always looking to learn from others and my environment.

With my 3D design education, designing things which solve a problem and have a user-centric approach are fundamental. At DigitasLBi, I try to combine user-experience with design for our digital products. I try to mediate between designing for function as well as for beauty and pleasure.

LBB> You say that you draw inspiration from "graphic novels, comics and type, knives, cooking and other weapons". Why are these things important to you and how does each one influence the work you create?

HC> Ha, that was a bit of a tongue and cheek comment with the weapons bit. But all of these are things that influence my own work. I’ve loved graphic novels and comics from an early age so they help my illustration and storytelling. As said earlier, I love a good knife and cooking. They keep reminding me the importance on getting the right tools for the job and having patience. Weapons... There was a period when I began making knives, tattoo guns and knuckle-dusters. They’re just little dark interests of mine.

Check out the rest of Henry's 'Peacemaker' knuckledusters here.

LBB> What trends in digital design are particularly exciting you at the moment?

HC> The combination of digital and objects is exciting. We’re all accustomed to using our phone or electronic devices to enhance your ability to do and communicate in everyday life. Sometimes I do feel engagement with digital can make us lose touch of the things around us despite the new possibilities digital offers us.

But it’s good to see studios like Berg try to combine these two aspects in ordinary household products, which are usually completely absent in anything digital. With digital design being popular, it’s also refreshing to see people take interest in understanding with how things work.

LBB> Which piece of work that you've been involved in recently have you especially enjoyed and why?

HC> At DigitasLBi we entered a Google and Converse competition to ‘hack a pair of Chucks’. Inspired by Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz tapping her ankles and taking herself home, we wanted to create a shoe which could do something similar. Having to learn Arduino very fast, I helped build the electronics and make slots and buttons so the components could fit in a pair of Converse. The hacked Chucks were passed on to a developer who helped program it. When the shoe was turned on and the heels touched, it would bring up your specific location on a custom app the team designed.

LBB> Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

HC> I enjoy drawing a lot, doing projects outside of work when I have the time. Recently I went snowboarding with eight other old pals in France, so as well as enjoying my work, I still love being active as much as possible. Deep down inside, I’m still that hyperactive kid!

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