An art director’s journey from studying business to designing campaigns for Nike
An emerging art director on following his heart and making a switch from business to the creative industry
From studying business in Singapore to eventually becoming an art director at the Wieden + Kennedy Shanghai office, New Blood Academy participant Edmund Chang followed his heart to make the switch into the creative industry. Here, he tells us about his experience at D&AD’s intensive academy programme for emerging creatives, the advice he wishes all creatives knew and how he changes his mindset when he’s feeling imposter syndrome.
What’s it like being an Art Director at Wieden + Kennedy? How did you land that job?
I feel extremely grateful to be working alongside some of the most insanely talented people in the Shanghai office at Wieden + Kennedy. Relocating in the middle of the pandemic (I moved here from Singapore) was a bit strange and intimidating, but it has been an exciting journey for me. I had emailed the ECDs of the WK Shanghai office way back in February 2022 — with the subject header “You owe it to yourself to at least try”. Unfortunately, W+K Shanghai office wasn’t hiring at the time (and the city was going through a difficult lockdown) so It was only in the second half of 2022 that I was able to resume conversations and ended up landing the job.
What was your break into the creative industry?
I came from a background in business so my route to becoming a creative wasn’t the most conventional one. I remember having to work diligently on my ideas and craft and to go through a huge amount of work to get my portfolio into a state in which I was even comfortable to share.
Can you tell us a bit about the projects you're working on?
I am currently working on a summer campaign on basketball for Nike China — CHBL (Nike China High Basketball League). It is the one and only official national level high school basketball league in mainland China. The scale of the campaign is impressive, reaching 22 provinces, 135 cities and over 8,300 students. It’s all about making basketball cool and swag again, and driving school pride.
What was the biggest challenge that you have faced on your career journey and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that I have faced in my career journey is the feeling of never being good enough for the industry. In fact even today, I wouldn't confidently say that I have overcome it. That said, over the years I have slowly grown to learn how to manage the imposter syndrome and recognise those thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, on good days, I even turn those feelings into a reminder to stay motivated, to keep learning and working hard on myself as a creative.
Has anyone helped you on your career journey so far, if so who?
Definitely, and there are too many to mention them all. Every creative that I have had the honour of crossing paths with has helped me to grow and become a better creative. Pann Lim. He is the founder and creative director of boutique design agency Kinetic Singapore, who I had the privilege of doing an internship with and gave me my first foray into the creative industry. My internship was for a short period of three months but I learned so much from him and everyone in the agency. The creative founders in my previous agency — BLKJ Havas who reminded me to never discount myself as a creative.
What made you apply to the New Blood Awards?
This might come across as a little contrived, but I applied to the New Blood Awards in order to get a shot at entering into New Blood Academy (Editor’s note: New Blood Award Pencil and Portfolio Pick winners are eligible to apply to New Blood Academy, an intensive training programme fuelling the trajectory of hot new talent into the creative industry). I truly do believe that the ultimate prize of getting a New Blood Award is the chance to apply into the academy.
I was also really excited about the opportunity to respond to real briefs that are set by real clients as good practice to improve as a creative. I personally felt I wasn’t getting a lot of those opportunities when I was a student so it was a really good exercise and a way to build up my portfolio too.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience at New Blood Academy?
I was part of the 2019 New Blood Academy. I believe that over the years there has been some adjustment to the academy structure. For previous years, the academy was conducted for one week but I was the fortunate class who went through two weeks of the program in 2019. It was a privilege to have an additional week of learnings, talks and workshops — peeking into the brains of some of the most talented creatives in London. I remember sitting down fervently scribbling down notes and absorbing as much as possible. It was humbling to be learning from my peers as well as the academy brought together people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences.
Who are three creatives who have inspired you, or who you think are doing interesting work?
I do find that there is a lack of a spotlight on the Singapore creative scene (there are so many studios and individuals doing some amazing work in Singapore) so I would like to give them a shout out. Temporary Press, a small scale publishing press. Practice Theory, a design studio in Singapore doing some amazing branding and design. Lenne Chai, a Singapore-born photographer who I believe is currently based in New York but I had the privilege of working with her when I was in Singapore.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the creative industry?
Radio host Ira Glass's quote gave me a lot of comfort. He said, “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone told me, all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste, but there is this gap. The first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good, it's trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not, but your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. Your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.” It resonated with me because I really hated (with a vengeance) the work I did when I was a student trying to break into the creative industry, but it was really through a volume of work that helped me slowly find my voice and improve my craft, ideas and design sensibility.
Get in touch with Edmund Chang on LinkedIn.
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