What caught our attention was her work for National Geographic, where she illustrated extinct and endangered animals from the letters A to Z. It had detail, it was informative and it wasn’t messy. We caught up with Elen to find out more about her experiences and tips she have for graphic designers.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
- Elen (E): I am an art director and illustrator from Indonesia currently living in Singapore. I originally started my career doing graphic design, but have since ventured out to other medium like interactive, advertising, and illustration.
- What has your experience in Kinetic and DDB taught you, to enable you to be where you are today?
- E: Kinetic and DDB are two agencies I’ve been very fortunate enough to work with. I’ve met a lot of people there from whom I’ve been continuously learning.
I’m grateful to have started my career at Kinetic as I believe it has laid a solid foundation for me as I continue to walk on the creative path. I’ve been blessed enough to have met some of the most talented people there, who are also some of the humblest people I know. Everybody there is given a fair chance to work on projects, and as a junior it opened up a lot of opportunities.
DDB has expanded my horizons in terms of creative work, as when I joined them advertising was almost new to me. Working at DDB made me realise the importance of an idea, and how a powerful idea can change the world. Of course, I’ve also met many good people there – some who have turned into lifelong friends.
- Can you tell us more about your works? Of the Stamp collection, SilkAir and Nat Geo?
- E: The stamp series started off as an outlet of my thirst to travel. In a way, it works as a bucket list of places I dream of visiting one day. I also had a lot of fun playing with the gradients in this project. In order to achieve a detailed but clean style, I had to take a step back multiple times and remove elements which are excessive. Sometimes details distract instead of improve, and I had fun experimenting with that balance in this project.
- E: My drawing for SilkAir was commissioned by Tribal Worldwide Singapore. They came up with a scavenger hunt-like social campaign that asks users to explore Laos through an Instagram account created for the campaign – a few SilkAir tickets were hidden within the images and those who found it stand a chance to win. I’ve actually never been to Laos before, and I enjoyed researching the various landmarks featured in the drawing. Most of my works tend to be flat and vector based, so it was also fun for me to play around with texture and brushes for this project.
- E: Nat Geo was one of the first projects I’ve worked on while at Kinetic Singapore and joining the industry, and it was one of the most memorable. First of all, I think the issue that we were trying to tackle is very real – more and more animals are becoming endangered and going extinct due to human interference. Education about the issue is the first step to tackle the problem. It was also through this project that I started experimenting with my current illustration style. Having majored in Graphic Design, illustration wasn’t really the main career path I was preparing myself for – but this project made me believe in myself a little bit more and gave me the confidence to venture into the field.
- Your illustration style seems more inclined to 2D with a lot of details and good colour combinations. Some are also animated. Can you bring us through your process of doing one artwork? Sketch (or not) to FA?
- E: I won’t recommend this for everyone, but I usually go straight to the drawing board skipping the sketch process entirely. I do most of the visualisation of the drawing and colour combinations in my head. While sketching is beneficial to some people, I find it limiting. For personal projects, I like to let the work flow on its own, adding and removing things as necessary. Of course for commissioned projects I usually sketch out a rough B&W drawing for review first, but that’s another story! I also do the overnight test a lot, where I leave the artwork for a while only to revisit it later. It helps me freshen my thoughts and see things I might have overlooked the first time around.
- You seem to have found your style/niche. Are there any tips you have for graphic designers who are trying to establish theirs?
- E: I believe that research is really important, see what’s out there and see where you fit in. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes while experimenting with new styles, because I believe mistake is a necessary part of growth. There is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ style, depending on the project the ‘wrong’ style can be ‘right’ – and vice versa.
- Takeaway message for readers?
- E: I’m going to steal this off Nike – ‘Just do it’.
Read on for more about Elen Winata!
27 | ~9 Yrs of Exp | Gemini
Creative Approach // Overthinking kills – creatives tend to be overly critical of themselves and their works. Being overly doubtful of yourself can cause the work to look neither here nor there, because you keep making unnecessary edits that don’t really add any value to the work. If you believe in your own work, it shows.
Fact // I’m probably one of the few Indonesians who can’t eat spicy.
Message // When in doubt, follow your gut feeling. Even if it ended up being something you weren’t expecting, at least it stemmed from your own decision. Make mistakes, own them – and more importantly, learn from them.
FUSSY // Probably my Spotify playlist. I only listen to a certain genre while I work, changing it would be a disaster!