Interview with Celina Oh - Gold in Non-Pro Packaging Design 2018 - Indigo Design Award
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Interview with Celina Oh

Indigo Award Interviews with winning designers

Behind the Design with Celina Oh

A recent graduate of the Academy of Art University, School of Graphic Design and Digital Media in San Francisco

Gold in Non-Pro Packaging Design

by Christina Lauren | 5 February 2019

Celina Eponine Oh is a future CEO in the making— even her initials say so. A recent graduate of the Academy of Art University, School of Graphic Design and Digital Media in San Francisco, the young designer is well on her way there. In an interview with Indigo, Oh unveils one of her many aspirations— “Eventually I’d like to run my own company. I’d like to become someone that young, aspiring designers look up to and want to learn from,” she says.

As Oh fits the paradigm for a young, aspiring designer, it’s only fair she helps others get to where she’s already headed. Yet don’t let a fresh face denote naivety, for this designer has what it takes to tackle the realm of design and branding. How do we know? The proof is in the professional accolades achieved by Oh during her undergraduate career. According to the artist, the talent for the design came at a young age: “I drew the members of the acapella group I was in as tiny ninja characters. They all loved the drawing so much, they approached our choir teacher and asked if it could be made into a t-shirt. It was the most exciting thing for me, I loved seeing all my friends wear my work! I wanted to create more things that people would love to show off,” she says.

That was only the starting point, the artist affords, stating— “Throughout my high school and college experience, I would eventually create hundreds of creative works ranging from wearables, stationery, advertisements to brands and packaging. I had the opportunity to work with some really amazing individuals, and now I am interning at a local design agency,” she says. Of Oh’s proudest achievement to date, “My favorite piece has got to be the collaborative project I worked on with Five Keys Schools and Programs, a local non-profit,” she says. “When it came time to choose a group leader, my teammates all decided that it should be me. With their trust, I felt extremely compelled to do the best job I possibly could,” she adds. What got heads turning, however, was the powerful feedback that landed the consumer. “Our branding guidelines and strategy eventually got chosen by the client and can now be seen in the real world today. This project also allowed the opportunity to have an apprenticeship with the creative director of the project, and work directly with Five Keys to flush out more of the rebrand,” she says.

The San Francisco graduate has an exciting path ahead of her, yet where does one look for inspiration in such as demanding industry? To stay on top of the latest design trends, “I usually use Pinterest and Instagram, but sometimes I go on The Dieline and check things out,” Oh says. “I’m extremely fascinated by food packaging. It’s literally feeding me, while also feeding into my work as a packaging designer,” says Oh. Having a grasp on one’s niche is key, but how does one stay levelheaded in such a cutthroat field? “Realizing that the only difference between feeling threatened and feeling inspired is my willingness to learn; that’s been the single biggest influence on my way of thinking,” says Oh. “It’s good to feel competitive to a degree, but that can also cause negativity in working environments with great potential for collaboration,” she says. It sounds like the up-and-coming entrepreneur knows the importance of unity when it comes to team cohesion, for she has not forgotten her mentors and peers along the way. When asked of those most impactful to her aesthetics and approach—”My teachers, mentors, classmates, coworkers, and design friends,” Oh says.

Client criticism isn’t for the faint-hearted, and Oh’s approach to customer feedback remains professional and positive. “The client is the one I need to please. If the client is happy, that’s all that matters,” Oh says. Moreover, in light of harsh criticism: “I consider where they are coming from first. Perhaps they are unaware of how best to critique, but they come from a good place. They wouldn’t hire me and give me hard criticism if they didn’t believe I could complete the project. I respond as positively as I can and with an open mind while giving my own thoughts back in a professional manner,” she says. When asked of a situation in which both parties disagreed, Oh states, “Whenever I disagree with a client, I’ll create what they want to see, create what I want, and create an in-between. I’ll also do my best to explain why I think this other option is better while respecting their decision in the end,” she says. Clearly, client satisfaction means most to the designer —” I love making others feel delighted, whether it be my client or their customers,” she says.

What then, can the world expect from Oh in the future? “I’m passionate about creating a life that I can be proud of. I’m constantly thinking about my future and how it will be affected by the choices I make today,” Oh says. “What this means for me, is creating relationships that will last, producing work that I love, and impacting others positively,” she adds. To leave us with the best piece of advice ever heard and worth repeating? Oh states— “Comfort is the enemy of progress.”

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