December 18, 2014

Pratt Alumni Spotlight: Chiung Hiu Chiu

In October I had the pleasure of meeting with Chiung Hiu Chiu --who goes by Chiu -- an award-winning visual designer, art director and Pratt alumni. She has worked with some of the top design firms in the New York City in her career thus far, and after speaking with her, it is obvious she is going nowhere but up.

Tell us about yourself.

“My name’s Chiu, pronounced like a sneeze ‘Hah-chiu’. I love movies - I’ve seen Amelie seven times; I dislike diet food. I love music... all kinds of music. I am currently working on digital campaigns for multiple clients including Samsung and Converse. I like to draw and take photos of everything, everywhere.”

“I first came to New York in 2005 to travel and learn English. After spending some time in New York, I fell in love with the culture and lifestyle of the city. When I went back to Taiwan, I found myself missing NYC so much that I decided I needed to move there. While living in Taiwan, I was actually majoring in chemical engineering. I used to draw beautiful covers for the experiment reports, even though my teacher didn’t ask for them. I never really expected to move to NYC; it was traveling there in 2005 that changed my mind. I moved to NYC in 2006 to attend Pratt Manhattan’s Graduate Communication Design program.”

How do you think your Pratt experience has helped shape you as the artist/creative professional you are now?

“While I was at Pratt I took every class equally as serious - whether it was a design class or a theoretical class. I felt it was important to create work in every class.”

Here is some stuff I did while I was at Pratt:

Images provided courtesy of Chiu. Not for re-use.

“This project was about branding: you picked a company where you felt their branding failed and rebrand it. I picked the New York Sport Club - they have a logo but it doesn’t say anything about working out and it doesn’t inspire you. I noticed when people are working out they always make ‘Uh!’ sounds so I used that as an identifier. I wanted to develop a brand that would inspire people to work out. I decided to do a print campaign where I drew dumbbells and bars and cut finger holes into the pages so you could move the images as if they were real.”

What are some of the challenges that you faced as an international student?

“The first challenges I faced were the language barrier and cultural difference. I always felt discouraged by my communication skills; it was a struggle to clearly articulate concepts to people. I have ideas, but people don’t understand what I’m trying to say. Now I talk to my co-workers first to help me get my point across better. I’m still trying to learn how I can build up my language skills in a more efficient way. Cultural differences, on the other hand, are my nightmare. The culture I’m living in now is completely different than the culture I grew up accustomed to. Also, it’s challenging because as a foreign student when you get a job you have to ask for a work visa and employers have to pay extra to hire you. Most of my friends from Taiwan had to go back to Taiwan after college because New York is already very competitive and you have to get extra help as an international student.”

What is some advice you want to share with current Pratt students?

“It’s important to take every class equally as serious, don’t give up in smaller classes. Looking back, I regret not taking my first semester classes as seriously. My English was really poor the first semester, so the I spent more time figuring out what the teacher was saying rather than actually learning what was being taught. I kind of feel like I lost the first semester. By the second semester I started an internship because I didn’t want to waste any more time.”

“It’s also important to work on your own projects aside from company or school work. There’s one thing you can control - yourself. If you give yourself assignments you can do whatever you want and produce work that is true to your aesthetic, style and self. Most people think that doing work in your spare time is too much but you shouldn’t think about it - just do it! Just sketch and keep sketching and doodling and at the end you will see progress in your work. You should never think ‘What project should I do?’. If you think about things too hard, and you think about too many steps in a projects it will just block you. I draw whenever I can - it leads me to different places.”

Walk us through a day in the life of Chiu.

“Well, I check my email every thirty minutes, and spend about 20% of my day on Facebook. Unfortunately I spend a lot of my time in meetings, but when I’m not, I spend a lot of my day daydreaming and thinking about ideas. I also spend a lot of time doodling to come up with ideas.”

Here are some examples of Chiu’s ongoing doodle projects. You can check out the rest of them of them here:
Images provided courtesy of Chiu. Not for re-use.

Did you do any internships or have any work experience while you were at Pratt?

“As soon as I started going to Pratt I realized I shouldn’t just be a student but I that I should get a job as well. I got a part time job on campus being a lab monitor. My friends started doing internships and that made me realize that I should start looking around for one. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many opportunities at the time. My first internship was with MTV and it was SO COOL, however like many first internships, it didn’t pay. I did a lot of flash banners for the shows. I went there three days a week during the school year and completed the internship for academic credit. I loved the environment and the people I worked with. they ended up asking me to stay but with no pay so I started looking for other internships. While at MTV I got some great advice from one of my coworkers, they told me I have to build connections as a student. If you’re locked up in one place then maybe you’ll just end up there.”
“My second internship was paid working for Firstborn Multimedia. After that I worked for RGA - one of the top agencies in the world. They offered me a job after the first semester and I ended up working there for four years. I was offered a job while I was drawing icons for Verizon and my creative director saw my drawings and thought I was talented so they kept me. Throughout my time at Pratt I was constantly running between work and school. After being at RGA for a while I decided it was time for a change. I was given West Coast opportunities but ended up going to Shanghai, China to work for Wieden + Kennedy, the company that does all the advertising for NIKE. My title in Shanghai was Head of Design - I learned a ton about leadership.”

“After my experience at Wieden + Kennedy I knew I wanted to teach students how to build their portfolio because when I hired people, our recruiters spent very little time looking at people’s portfolios and interviewing them. You have to be extremely versatile. One time an employer asked me: “ Do you ever sleep?” I took that as a compliment. While in Shanghai I was never really able to get used to the Chinese lifestyle. I was still so in love with New York City that I decided I just had to go back. When I went back I had to start all over with getting a work visa, doing paperwork, blah, blah, blah. When I returned to NYC I started working for Razorfish (digital agency) but I didn’t really get used to it. Then I went to JWT (J. Walter Thompson) as a Design Director. I felt it still wasn’t a right fit, then one day I randomly ran into my old boss from RGA. We started talking and he offered me to come back since I wasn’t really happy with my current job. It wasn’t that I was sad about working at JWT, I just wasn’t completely satisfied with the work I was doing. So I decided to go back to RGA - and that’s where I am now.”

My time spent talking with Chiu gave me a great idea of what it is like as a professional after graduating from Pratt, and she has some great projects that she has worked on. To learn more about what she has done, check out these links:


Some work from Pratt

The on-going doodles

Photo Blog

CH!U® Daily Journal

Written by: Christina Nahas 

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