Coleen Baik — Independent
Independent product designer and visual artist based in New York City.
Growing up in a family dominated by bankers and teachers, there wasn’t really anyone around me who had a creative profession. But I remember my dad used to draw and sketch on the side, and that also became my hobby at a very young age. At the bank, he used to challenge me with some images for me to copy in the most accurate way possible with minimal checks on the actual image and then add elements from my imagination to it (I guess that’s how he kept me busy at his workplace).
I think my sense of design started with drawings and with small tattoos on friends bodies at high school, I would do customized initials with some hidden graphics based on their interests. It was very cheesy and the taste of a teenager but it became quickly a side job of mine between classes and after school gatherings.
After university and a couple of studios later, I landed on branding where I’ve truly encountered systems, methodologies and limitations. Knowing the rules I really enjoyed the part of teasing the boundaries. I try to give a little bit of unexpected in every project, while still knowing though that these ideas can’t always be the winner :). It’s a dynamic creative process that keeps me engaged and constantly evolving.
A typical day starts at 7.30am (most of the time), a little bit of sports (NOT most of the time) then breakfast (always). Arrive at the studio, pour a coffee, chat with people, check calendar for meetings or active projects... best time of the day.
Since our studio grew from 15 to 70 people in the last couple of years, daily life has become more demanding on planning. Between 10am-12pm It’s time to be fully focused on the projects I have on my plate (ideally), 12pm-1pm chats and meetings with the team for ongoing projects. 1pm-2pm is an essential pause in the whole studio as we always have lunch together. Then another focus session by myself or with the team for a couple of hours until 6-7pm (sometimes 8, 9, 11 to be honest, depending on the project). We also have a couple more planning sessions with the senior team and designers regroup meetings throughout the week (It's still an ongoing process to find most the efficient amount of time dedicated to each task).
Different levels of inspiration come from different locations, most of them away from the computer. I often do trips to other countries for exhibitions, events, or anything that takes me away and makes me see the bigger picture and gets me inspired (I think it’s a UAE thing, travelling feels easier).
For quick inspiration, the best moments are the calmer ones, either at home or at the office library. If I don’t want to leave my desk I have my bookmarks or images that I’ve saved when I’m not so busy and continuously seeing eye-pleasing projects from other designers and colleagues or hearing them talking on platforms like Nicer Tuesdays also helps.
Inspiration also comes with good sleep and rest. Just by going to bed early and with my eyes closed, thinking about the projects and I am able to bring some good ideas the next day.
My favourite is the mini stool, with its circular cut-outs to reduce weight, light enough for children to easily carry by grabbing the round bar handle from above when they feel like it.
I also have this new pen that is my current favourite everyday product, the mini Kaweco Liliput ballpoint.
For a while, I only worked for restaurants. I did menus, interiors, packaging, signage... It was all amazing, making seasonal designs, little changes here and there, and details under my control, loved it.
Then I opened my horizons to wider audiences after I moved to the UAE. The scale of the projects and the impact got way bigger. I was happy with the work I’ve done back in Turkey but nowadays I am so proud of just being involved with great historical projects like Abrahamic Family House by David Adjaye, House of Wisdom by Foster and Partners... Fortunately, there are many more that I could name, as when you live in a rapidly developing city, you get to be lucky enough to play a little part in amazing projects.
I can highlight The Abrahamic Family House as It is a compound that contains 3 religious houses, a mosque, a church and a synagogue in one place, which I feel carries so much symbolism and importance in the current world’s events.
For this project, I’ve explored three potential focus points: the Architecture and Space, the Abrahamic faith origin, and the shared ground of these three houses. Ultimately, the space and architecture-driven concept was the winner which doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the striking beauty of the buildings.
Working in a company that’s located in a country that’s continuously growing and developing, everything needs to be quite fast-paced. Client's patience might be your biggest challenge I would say. Dealing with the urgency and trying to give your best, can be quite hard to balance.
Above all be curious. Trust the process and know that there is always room to grow as long as you keep working. Be humble and put your intention’s in the right place.
Waiting for the day I open my new restaurant and start promoting here. But until then; @mumuge myself. @mumu.muge if anyone wants to witness another newborn illustration/lino print (or whatever I want) Instagram account. I’ve just started putting it out there.