We chat to artist and graphic designer, Keith from Dekanimal
Hi Keith, Firstly- thanks a bunch for taking the time to talk to us here at Cut Out + Keep. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself and your origins?
Hello, my name is Keith Lee and I am an illustrator from Hong Kong. I graduated from a design school in Osaka, Japan and am the owner and designer behind Dekanimal where I sell my original prints and stationery.
And how did you become a professional graphic designer?
I have always liked graphic illustrations, but never imagined I would open a shop and sell my art online- I used to only design things for myself and friends, until one of them encouraged me to put them up on the internet in late 2009 and Dekanimal began.
Dekanimal’s an interesting brand name- How did you come up with it?
The main theme of my shop is about “animal”. I wanted to incorporate animal themed art in home decoration. So I started by choosing these two words “decorate” and “animal”. Then I switched the letter C (decorate) to K (deka) because my English name is K(eith) to make my shop name “Dekanimal”. Coincidentally “deka” means “ten” in Greek and it carries special meaning in my life.
You’re clearly passionate about animals as they’ve found a place in a lot of your design work- can you tell us a little more about why this is?
Well I lived nearby a zoo when I grew up in Hong Kong and Japan and it became my family’s habit to bring me there every weekend and nearly every day in summer. I guess that is the reason why I am so naturally obsessed with animals and their art forms.
What is your favourite animal and why?
Bears and dogs are my favourites, love from first sight...
Your artwork is really fresh and bright - would you say this style reflects your personality?
I take this as a compliment. I think this says something about my attitude in life and the type of person I aspire to be: bright, fresh and colourful. Sometimes it’s difficult to get started on a new project.
How do you get inspired and stay motivated?
I travel a couple of months a year on average. I always take my time wandering in the cities I travel to- the local people, culture, architecture and fashion always gives me new challenges and ideas. Many of my first drafts from Dekanimal were scribbled when I was on my way home from my travels.
Where do you travel - do you have a favourite place to go?
I’ve always travelled- I grew up in Hong Kong and I also spent few months every year in Kobe, Japan where my mother ran her business. I went to Sydney when I was younger to study, then back to Japan and then travel began more frequently. I’ve been to many cities in USA, China, Middle East and Asia, most recently San Francisco but I look forward to visiting Europe and Africa more seriously. New York, Tokyo, San Francisco give me most innovation, insight and incentive but certainly Hong Kong is the best!
What tools do you use to create your work? Can you talk us through your process?
Ink, paper and a computer. Ideas often come as “flashes” in my mind at any time, more so after my trips. Whether I can catch them up with the next available moment and put them out as profiles on watercolour paper or on my computer is always a matter of time, passion and patience.
Have you done any high-profile or commercial projects?
Yes, shops often asked me to do jobs based on what I have put up on my website and online shop. I had been invited to do purely commercial jobs before for a couple of companies, but I turned them down. I create naturally based on my ideas and interests and if I don’t have much understanding or interest in the company it can be hard for me to create.
When you are not designing, what do you to relax?
I work out and go jogging- Ideas flow better when I am refreshed in body.
What plans and aspirations do you have for the future?
I am currently working on some new products for my shop; tote bags and even kitchen products and homeware. I hope one day Dekanimal becomes something important and in many homes.
And finally, what sort of advice would you give someone who is just getting started in design?
Design with passion and follow only your mind, not the trend.