Vanessa Lam is a freelance designer out of Los Angeles, a recent graduate from Art Center College of Design, she currently lives in Los Angeles where she specializes in print, branding, and packaging design. Her UFO zine S.S.I.P.A.C.A. sold more than 1000 copies, allowing her to connect and collaborate with like-minded creatives. She’ll be featured in an upcoming issue of IDN magazine in October, as well as in a book published by Sandu this season. Besides braving the typographic grid, she really likes treasure hunting, strong coffee and quality leather.
Could you please tell us more about your background and career?
I was raised in Northern California, where my family and I traveled and went camping regularly. I was lucky to see Europe and Asia at such a young age, and since then I’ve always loved the idea of travel and exploration. At 18 I moved to Los Angeles to study Fine Art and communications at UCLA. After college I worked in fashion for a short time before deciding to major in Graphic Design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I was there for a few years, lived in Switzerland for half a year, returned to graduate and am working in Los Angeles for now.
Which of your commissioned works did you like the most? Why?
I’m working on a project for LACMA (lacma.org) that I’m pretty excited about, but it’s still in process. As far as ones I’ve completed, my favorite is a conceptual rebranding of the Center for Land Use Interpretation I did as a senior project for school. Not only did the project involve traditional print design but also website, iphone application, and environmental design. The task of combining such a disparate, transmedia system to work together as one living, breathing brand challenged me to rethink what design could be and do.
What would be your perfect kind of collaboration? Why?
I’ve found it’s most fruitful to collaborate with someone who has complementary skills and views to your own, who will provide insight and ideas that can feed off of yours. You might not always agree, but how else are you going to grow?
Could you please tell us more about your infographic zine about UFOs?
Society for Scientific Inquiry of Paranormal Atmospheric and Cosmic Anomalies (SSIPACA) was a result of watching too many X-Files episodes as a kid. I found it intriguing that despite the plethora of “information” we have on extraterrestrial life, we’re still none the wiser in terms of where we stand in the universe. The zine plays with the tension of this “is there or isn’t there” uncertainty, and is a merging of half objective scientific data and half tongue in cheek absurdities. I tried to not let any preconceptions I had about what the project should be get in the way and really let the material and process drive the end product.
What are your favorite fanzines and magazines?
Cabinet magazine (cabinetmagazine.org) is my absolute favorite. I also like browsing Lapham’s Quarterly and Purple Magazine from time to time. Veronica So also runs a brilliant zine called L_A_N (http://lanzine.com), for the fashionable futurist. She’s rad.
Are there any graphic designers / artists who inspired your work?
I love the Dutch design studio Catalogtree, they have a way of making incredibly complicated data systems that are also evocative and meaningful. As for artists, I’ve always been a fan of anyone who has an penchant for making the mundane surreal. Or vice versa. Robert Rauschenberg, Gordon Matta Clark, Tim Hawkinson, Maya Deren, Ed Ruscha, Lee Bontecou, Giorgio de Chirico… the list goes on.
What is the most common trouble in you job?
I had a teacher once say “Design is an iterative process.” This has become a sort of mantra for me that I find myself repeating on a daily basis.
What are your favorite places in your city that you’d recommend to visit?
Griffith Park area, Museum of Jurassic Technology, Hammer Museum, Clifton’s Cafeteria, taco trucks, and of course, the beach! There are also some amazing California deserts nearby: Mojave, Joshua Tree, Red Rock, all with unearthly fantastical landscapes unique to the region.
Who is the woman you’d like to see featured/ interviewed here?
Semâ Bekirovic (semâbekirovic.nl), her work is a fascinating balance of control and unpredictability.
File under: Interview