Unsung Heroes - the graphic designer: Mei Kimura, Rice

Mei Kimura is a graphic designer at Rice, a strategic communications consultancy.

The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands and clients.

As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, and this is their time to shine.

Having to balance her creativity with her clients' demands is a challenge that Mei Kimura, a graphic designer at Rice, a strategic communications consultancy, embraces. She says she has to strike a delicate balance between meeting their requirements, and ensuring that the quality of the design is not compromised.

Why is your job important?

Graphic design is necessary for effective communication. Data collected from a survey, for instance, can be transformed into an attractive infographic that is not only easily comprehensible, but one that people will stop to read and interact with.

Graphic design is also important for first impressions and credibility. Any marketing material – from the way a logo is designed, to the layout of a brochure, can make or break your brand.

What is the hardest and stressful part of your job?

Print and production. When it comes to print, you want to get it right with as little corrections as possible, because printing is expensive. The tricky thing though, is figuring out the colour and paper material: how a specific colour turns out on different types of paper. It may take some trial and error, but it’s about having as little trials and as little errors as possible!

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing a printed, hardcopy version of my work (ironic, I know!), because it is extremely gratifying when it turns out looking good. Sometime last year, when my team and I created a board game for LogRhythm, a client of ours, my role was to design every visual aspect of the game: the game name, the characters, the manual, and the physical board.

On top of that, I had to liaise with the printer vendors on size, material, and deadlines! There were time and cost constraints on the production of the game, so once the design portion was completed, we had to send it off to print.

The vendors had very little time for production, which meant no test prints, no mock ups - just pick the material and hope for the best. It was definitely a stressful process, but this made it all the more rewarding when we got to see every fragment of the game in its physical form!

First thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?

People think I get to draw, do photo manipulations and all sorts of crazy fun stuff.

How would you correct or explain to them what you do then?

They are not wrong. I do get to draw sometimes, and I do get to work on crazy fun projects too. But most of the time, as an in-house designer, I need to adhere to the client’s brand guidelines. I think that is where the misunderstanding lies. We are not the kind of artists who get to do whatever we want, however we like.

We create in accordance to what the client asks for, and follow the guidelines they provide. It’s all about striking a delicate balance between meeting their requirements, and ensuring that the quality of the design is not compromised

You might see it as a limitation of creative freedom, but I take it as a challenge; I always ask myself: What’s the most I can make out of this situation?

Is there anything you want to change in your job?

Working remotely would be a really cool experience! Haha, but I’ve gotten too used to working on an iMac and this machine makes it a little hard for me to work at the beach.

Who is someone you want to emulate in your industry?

Basically all female illustrators of Singapore – Oak & Bindi, Esther Goh, Lovage, Elen Winata are just a few of the many extremely talented ones whom I have so much respect for. Each of them has such a distinct style, and every project they’re hired for, allows their style to shine through. They don’t let the brief change that, and I hope I’ll one day find my own signature style too.

Which is a campaign you’ve worked on, that you are most proud of?

I would have to say the Voices For Momos campaign we did for WWF Myanmar, because it was for a good cause. The campaign, which ran over six months, was created to save Myanmar’s elephants from poaching. I had the honour of designing the campaign logo and creating fun fact artworks and call-to-action video clips for the campaign Facebook page.

If you weren’t a graphic designer, what would you be?

A cat-sitter.

If you think of someone who deserves to be part of this series, please get in touch with Shawn Lim and nominate them. You can read the most recent feature, which looks at the role of a programmatic trader, here.

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