We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative Vivian Lu ("VL").
Vivian Lu is a visual designer who has worked on exceptional stage to much market applause. In the past 5 years she has worked on over 60 productions from theatre sets to costume designs, runway shows to large elaborate events, both regionally and internationally. Her main aim is to break the mould of traditional theatre, and challenge boundaries by exploring daring concepts. She experiments with different mediums and technologies to explore methods that best evoke emotional connection for the audiences. She believes thats constant curiosity and awareness of your everyday surroundings is the best way to find your identity as a designer and the best way to allow audiences to relate to the work and world you create.
Vivian Lu Designs
We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by Vivian Lu.
Designer Interview of Vivian Lu:
DI: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
VL : As a stage designer, I am constantly trying to find ways to strengthen connections between audiences and my set design. Recently i have been attempting to bring in new technology and innovations to traditional theatre. Although nothing can replace traditional stage, i truly believe in utilising more technology as a medium to further elevate a stage allowing more interaction and immersion for the audience. Since i was a kid, I always knew that my passion lay in visual communication. I was known to be the "crafty kid" in school, involving myself in painting props or sets for our school plays. Thus I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the design industry. However it wasn't until my foundation course where I got to try out different art mediums that I was so sure that 3d Art Installation was my calling
DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
VL : Our companyis an award-winning creative agency specialising in all things events related. We interject a spark of magic in all we do. The perfect equilibrium between bold imagination that tugs on emotions and rational practicality where every detail is meticulously considered, we sweat the small stuff. With our background in both the design and art industry, we build the bridge between the art world and commercial setting, tackling corporate events with art-tainted lens, hence creating long lasting and impactful experiences through the environments we create.
DI: What is "design" for you?
VL : As a designer, I like to explore bold & daring concepts, paying attention to shapes & experimenting with different mediums. I strive to pull on the audiences heart & evoke emotional connection, with my main aim to break the mould of traditional theatre. I think that design and art is very subjective and how people react and connect to different works are very much based on their personal upbringing and surroundings. Hence for my designs, it is my interpretations of events in my life, things I have seen and emotions I have experienced. It is my way of telling my story and shedding a light on topics that are important to me, in a way that is visual engrossing for audiences.
DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
VL : Theatre Set
DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
VL : Anything from Es Devlin
DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
VL : I did Costume Design and production for a stage production
DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
VL : Doing modelling with foam board and creating forms with paper
DI: When do you feel the most creative?
VL : I feel most creative when im surrounded in a new environment, and i get inspiration from things around me.
DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
VL : Shapes and forms
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
VL : The most exciting phase is when you first came up with your first initial idea for the design, as it creates so much different possibility on how you can create space and how you can tell the story visually.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
VL : Its always very fulfilling and great to hear different interpretation from the audiences and to see what they have gotten out of my set design.
DI: What makes a design successful?
VL : A good design is able to capture people’s imagination and encourage thoughts or spark conversations that may not have existed before.
DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
VL : Plagiarism
DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
VL : As a designer, our main job is to fulfill and provide a solution to a problem or need, and to ensure the solution provided has a positive impact on society. So to achieve that we must understand and study about the social, cultural and environmental implications our designs and finish outcome has on all factors of society. As a designer, I think it is no longer about creating beautiful aesthetics, but have a beautiful visual whilst having all the consequences carefully studied and considered. As a designer, I follow and agree with the term, form follows function, but for me the term "function" expands beyond the intended purpose of a design, and now includes the environmental implications and social responsibilities, its not only only to consider about the immediate environmental impact of our designs, but also the method of manufacturing, the use of material, the disposal of a design after it's life span, the elements in a production that can be reused in other design etc. For the social responsibilities, it is to ensure I make myself aware of the impact my design has on the community and society, whether or not there are cultural and political implications, whether of not my design serves as a catalyst to spark conversation on important issues and stimulate change, whether my designs improves the quality of the community. As a designer, we have the power and ability to shape the society and environment around us, we have the creativity, vision and ideas to shape a better society, we have the ability to come up with creative solutions beyond the limitation that are set for us and so I think it is our responsibility to best utilize this skill of ours to change our society for the better.
DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
VL : I think we are all very curious about how digitally can be involve int theatre, and the world is now training digitally for the theatre and finding potential outcome with what it can become. There is a lot of interweaving into virtual reality as well and people are seeking new ways of telling a story through digital methods.
DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
VL : Last work was Absinthe touring in Shanghai 2020 January before the Pandemic. Releasing my new work from my Dortmund research once this chaos is over.
DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
VL : Anywhere. I can get inspired by small little details in daily life to experience or things I see when I go on vacations. I then journal it in my brainstorming notebook and to try to develop it into something when im back to my studio. I have been reading a lot about neuroscience lately and found a lot of similarities between neuroscience and theatre.
DI: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
VL : As a designer, I like to explore bold & daring concepts, paying attention to shapes & experimenting with different mediums. I strive to pull on the audiences heart & evoke emotional connection, with my main aim to break the mould of traditional theatre.
DI: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
VL : I was raised in Macao, a city in China that was previously colonised by Portugal. The multiculralism, specifically the influence of East meets West became a strong influence in my designs. Macao is Asia's Las Vegas, therefore a lot of art performance opportunity are given.
DI: How do you work with companies?
VL : Communication and transparency is key.
DI: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
VL : When working with a designer I think it is important for the companies to have a clear outline and understanding of what they are looking for, they should outline a detailed brief of what they want achieved, who their target audiences are, the objectives they are trying to reach and what are the exact final outcomes they expect delivered. The more detailed information given, the clearer visual imagery the designer has to achieve the best and most seamless results. When selecting a good and compatible designer for the job, I would advise companies to not only look at portfolios, but have the designers explain and talk through their portfolio, so there is a better understanding of why they decide to showcase these specific works. Asking about what and whom the designers draw inspiration from, so companies can have a better understanding of a designer's style, aesthetics and creative process. I would suggest companies to have a face to face interview or video interview with the designers if possible, so they have a better understanding of how they express themselves and their ideas, how the present themselves and a clearer understanding of their personality and if you think that this designer and the company would work well together.
DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?
VL : I usually start with very little research and roughly sketch my initial ideas out. Then I would make prototypes and models to get a sense of space sizing in the space. Rough Model that doesn't require any accuracy in regards of materials and texture. I usually use foam boards or paper to get the flexibility to change things quickly. I'll continue this process of drawing and modelling until I come up with my first design. I usually use AutoCAD as I do modelling to get a more accurate sense of size.
DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
VL : My plants, My bed, My Cutting Board, My Notebook & My Coffee
DI: Can you describe a day in your life?
VL : Coffee is the first thing i think about when i get up. I like to head to the coffee shop i always go to and get my "thinking" tasks done before heading back to my studio to draw & sketch. I like to write my to-do lists for the week in the beginning of the week as i'm normally tending to a few projects at the same time.
DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
VL : There are many interpretation of "success". There are always going to be designers that have worked more jobs or have worked in more famous theatres than you. However, the key to really enjoy your work and be "successful" in your own work, is to have your own opinions in matters; your own way to tell a story and share what truly matters to you.
DI: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
VL : I love my job.
DI: What is your "golden rule" in design?
VL : Dont over research
DI: What skills are most important for a designer?
VL : To have your own voice in your story telling.
DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
VL : Adobe Software, Moleskine notebook. Books, Podcast. Sketchups, Unity, AutoCAD
DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
VL : I dont. Its still chaotic
DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
VL : Around 3 months.
DI: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
VL : What software do you use?
DI: What was your most important job experience?
VL : "Absinthe" because it truly embodies my transformtion from a designer to an artist. With Absinthe, I tried to merge different forms of senses together (sound and sight) and to magnify them to create a lasting visceral experiences for the audience.
DI: Who are some of your clients?
VL : Banks, Government Shows, Stage production, Commercial Companies etc.
DI: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
VL : Theatre Set Design for Plays,
DI: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
VL : I am working on a research program in The Academy of Theatre and Digital trying to explore different digital methods to magnify senses in the theatre.
DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
VL : I work alone in theatre stage designs, but I work with my partner on all commercial work.
DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
VL : Check out my instagram vlu.designs
DI: How can people contact you?
VL : People can see my work from Instagram: vlu.designs. They can also email me at email@example.com
DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
VL : No.