Five minutes with Annie Yang
Annie Yang, senior designer at the New York office of branding agency Conran Design Group, speaks to Transform magazine about the advise she would give emerging talents wanting to break into the design world, the ways to increase career opportunities within the branding arena, particularly post-Covid-19, and the perks of working within a team as opposed to working independently.
What is your number one advice for emerging talents wanting to break into the branding and design world?
If you want to break into the world of branding and design, it’s important that you start building and seeing yourself as a brand. A designer’s portfolio is their brand. After I graduated college, I had done so many random projects for classes, but not everything resonated with me and not everything was equally strong. When employers are looking through hundreds of portfolios, quality is more important than quantity. My advice is to only show the work that best represents YOU, but also ask yourself which projects you loved the most and why. What type of projects did you want to do more of? The more selective you are on the work that you choose to represent yourself, the tighter your brand will be and the more likely it will help bring the opportunities you want.
Covid-19 has caused an unprecedented economic recession, hitting young people entering the job market particularly hard. What are some ways to increase career opportunities within the branding arena?
Time becomes an even more valuable commodity when you start working a full-time job. If you have any to spare now, then I would invest that in skills you’ve always wanted to learn. I strongly believe putting yourself in unfamiliar experiences is the best way to learn and grow. If there’s a software or tool you’ve always wanted to try, now is the time! If there’s a platform you’re interested in creating content for, give that a go and see where it takes you! When there’s no work, create your own! Most likely your classmates are also in a similar situation, so what better time than now to collaborate on something fun together? Maybe start an online shop with your own brand so you can start understanding how to build one. There are opportunities that exist because of the pandemic as well. Lots of businesses have been struggling and some could benefit from the help of a designer. Reach out to businesses you believe in and see if there’s any service you can provide as a designer to help. It’s not just a good way to start building relationships with people and businesses, but also a great way to give back.
What pushed you to leave freelance and become a full-time creative?
After college, I chose to freelance for two years rather than committing to a full-time role because I wanted the freedom to try different things before deciding what I wanted to specialize in. During this time, I got to meet a lot of people and work under different workflows and team dynamics. The experiences helped me discover my passion for branding, but unexpectedly also helped me realize what type of work environment I preferred and envisioned myself being able to excel in. I started to actively work toward finding a full-time position because I knew only then would I be able to get the full support I needed to develop my skills and further my career. After a long search, I found Conran Design Group, a design and branding agency in New York City, and I couldn’t be happier. Since joining, I’ve partnered with brands of all shapes and sizes. I most recently spearheaded the rebrand for Design Nation Conference, an annual event run by Princeton University’s student-run, undergraduate-focused business organization Business Today.
What are the benefits of working within a team, especially in a sector like branding, as opposed to working independently?
What’s exciting about working with my team at Conran is the overall collaboration process. I work with people with expertise from so many different industries as well as their own area of specialization within branding. There’s access to different perspectives as opposed to just your own and the clients’ when you’re working independently. Getting a multi-dimensional perspective by being able to see the full project through, from client services to strategy to the design, is valuable to me as a designer, even if it’s not my specific role in the project, because it all influences the quality and impact of design at the end. Another benefit of working within a team as a designer is being able to work with other creatives. Our creative director, Ben Solomon, has been an amazing mentor to me. He has taught me the importance of crafting valuable stories as well as continuing to challenge myself to think more conceptually. I’ve definitely grown at a faster pace working with him and the rest of our team than I would have if I continued to work independently.