This week we sit down and chat to illustrator extraordinaire Kong-Yew Wong! If you’re an avid Ohh Deer fan, you’ll have noticed many of Kong’s designs on our greeting cards. As a master of typography, puns and lovely textures, Kong lets us in on his creative background and even his love of hummus.
Right let’s start with your background! Tell us more about what got you illustrating and your progression into being the freelance illustrator you are today?!
Drawing, building, crafting and generally anything creative was always in my sights as a career path. At school my books were always plastered with doodles ranging from weird and wonderful creatures to content probably a bit too risqué to mention... think Jonah Hill from Superbad.
I studied Product Design at uni and after graduating I realised that my heart was in character illustration and decided to pursue a career where I could achieve this. I stumbled into my first job as a greeting cards designer for a well known publishing house and spent 6 years honing my skills and learning from the highly talented in-house design team. I took the plunge into the world of freelance in 2016 and have never looked back. I get to work with awesome clients such as Ohh Deer and the work/life freedom is something that I wouldn't change for the world. A pretty short journey, but it's only just begun!
Kong’s work features muted tones, textures and happy characters (along with a good pun). What is your favourite medium to work with in bringing your ideas to life Kong? And what is a material you are super scared of but would love to try!
My favourite medium to work with, believe it or not, is my iPad and Apple Pencil. Most of what I generate is digital, using a mix of preset and custom brushes, but having a digital canvas to illustrate directly onto is something that I'd highly recommend to any illustrator.
I've never worked with paint much and probably quite strange for an illustrator to say, but I genuinely am slightly scared of the thought of working with paint and more specifically without the ctrl Z (undo) button. It also doesn't help that my wife is also an illustrator with super talented painting skills that I could never match.
The Ctrl Z button is also our savior! Out of all the amazing greeting cards and products you have created for Ohh Deer, what is your favourite and why? Adding to this, is there anything exciting coming out in the near future that you can’t wait to see?!
I'd have to say my favourite would be my very first design with Ohh Deer... the love-itating sloth. It holds great sentiment as it was one of the winners for the Ohh Deer comp, which happened weeks into the start of my freelance career. It was a great confidence boost and the start of a great working relationship with the peeps over at Ohh Deer.
Future designs I'm excited to see would be a set of enamel pins for next year's Valentine's Day. A his n hers pin featuring some cute ghosts and of course accompanied by a standard ghostly pun.
As you have worked in the card industry for a fair amount of time – what would you say are your top tips for designing a winning card?
Hmmm.... my top tip would be to always have a list on the go for ideas. Most of my ideas come from being out and about and usually at the weirdest of times. I keep a list of ideas on my phone... sort of like a modern day dictaphone.
I generally like to keep my designs simple and instantly readable which is helped by using a limited colour palette. Obviously this doesn't work for everyone, but so far has helped me to build a distinct recognisable style.
Super helpful advice Kong! Outside of the studio, what keeps you inspired and motivated? How do you go about over-coming the dreaded “creative block”?!
Oooh the dreaded creative block! I think the creative blocks come about when you're trying to focus on the end result too much. Having an open mind from the beginning and just jotting down and doodling the most random of things usually progresses into something that you'd never expect to work.
Also, having people to bounce ideas off is a great way of taking the focus away and seeing things from another perspective. As a freelancer, I'm lucky to have my trusty work buddy/wife at hand... who is my biggest most valued source of inspiration... nudge nudge wink wink ;)
Quickfire question round; sometimes we like to spice things up with some oddball questions, they are listed below (and get progressively weirder). It’s VERY important that we know the answers to these.
Tea or coffee drinker?
Coffee all day everyday. Can't get enough of that sweet sweet caffeine!
Do you prefer frogs or toads?
I'd have to say frogs as they always seem to have a smile on their face... although I do like the general bloated blobby nature of a toad.
Would you rather swim through hummus or bellyflop into guacamole?
Given that I'm not a fan of avocados (I know I know am I crazy?) I'm going with hummus, breast stroke with my mouth wide open and possibly a carrot in each hand?
How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Hmmm I'd like to know myself. I'm in the middle of renovating my house and a few woodchucks would come in handy with skip duty. Where can I get hold of one?
And finally, what is your favourite card shape; A6 or Square?
A6 all the way. I love a bit of lettering so having the vertical space helps with layout.