Nicola Fan – Graphic Designer + Filmmaker
‘A Date With Ains’
Many of my ‘Date With Ains’ guests have a creative streak and the uber talented Nicola Fan is no exception.
After working on creative projects for major clients such as Red Bull, Samsung and New Balance, (just to name a few), Nicola took a leap of faith and went out on her own to pursue her passion of filmmaking combined with graphic design. With a successful music video under her belt as well as two documentaries including her most recent, “She Objects,” which she directed for The Women’s Foundation, Nicola has a lot going on!
Over coffee we chatted about all things clarity, confidence and connection in life and business as well as our favourite Disney movies and why Pokemon Go is Nicola’s childhood dream come true, (she is a true creative with a deep passion for visual communication and storytelling!).
So tell us a little bit about yourself Nicola!
I was born in Canada and I grew up in Hong Kong. I then went off to the US for College and work.
Now I’m based back here in Hong Kong, continuing my practice in graphic design and film/video.
Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by motion pictures, graphic novels, designs, installations, musicals/plays, etc. When considering what I wanted to study at college, I knew art school would be the best fit for me. Thankfully I was accepted to my dream school – Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
It was in college where my passion and craftsmanship in visual communication and storytelling started to emerge. I majored in graphic design and took film/video/animation classes.
I really love the fact that anything can happen on screen; I feel it’s the best space for letting my imagination run wild!
After I graduated from RISD, I worked as an Art Director at different advertising and marketing agencies and companies. But since 2013, I’ve been working independently as a graphic designer and filmmaker and I’m grateful that I’ve picked up a number of fun projects along the way!
What does ‘clarity’ mean to you? When you’re lacking clarity in life or business, how do you get ‘unstuck’? What practices or strategies do you use?
To me, ‘Clarity’ is knowing what you want and making it your mission/goal.
When feeling stuck, it usually means the mind just needs a break, in order to think from a different angle or take a new direction.
When I feel I need clarity I break away from my usual routine – I do something else and come back to it later.
I also like to chat things over with colleagues, friends, and family when I’m feeling stuck with something. This always helps me regain clarity!
I’d love for you to share a time when your self-confidence has been at an all time low and what you did to pick yourself up and get back out there.
I’ve always had a simple goal- to tell stories through design/film.
However, the opportunity to do so at my previous job never eventuated.
I felt I was repeatedly doing work for the same products with the same taglines/promotional messages. I wasn’t able to fully utilise my strengths nor explore and experiment.
Over time, my motivation was quickly chipped away. I would wake up every morning worried that this is real life and that this is going to be the rest of my career!
I was hungry to tell stories and to create my own video work.
It took a huge leap of faith, a large amount of courage with a slab of uncertainty to quit the advertising agency I was working for. The only thing I was really holding on to was my savings, which thankfully cumulated due to long working hours with no personal time. A blessing in disguise!
With a friend’s support and my own savings, I created a music video and a short documentary. Luckily, people enjoyed them and work opportunities started rolling in.
Through the experience, I’ve learned to never be passive with your dreams. Actively pursue them or create the opportunity yourself.
How do you stay connected to your purpose and your passion?
My passion is pretty much a part of my core.
It’s my natural therapy, escapade, a free space for me to truly express and create with no judgement.
My eyes always wander towards unusual things, things that stick out from the crowd.
This is the beauty I look for. Life is art in itself!
When people tell me my work has touched them… those are the precious moments that drive me to do what I do as well.
Who and/or what inspires you?
A lot of artists inspire me, especially musicians.
It’s especially dear to me when they pour their heart through their lyrics, with melody and voice coming together in fluidity.
Good music fuels me, it springs me to life.
What’s next for you and your business?
I will continue to practice design, whether it be logo, print-layout, booklet, website, branding, etc.
With my film/video work I’ll continue to create commercials, short films, music videos and the like.
I love working with different clients on various projects!
I have a few film ideas brewing as a passion-project, where I plan to venture into surreal/psychological/psychedelic realms.
What do you love about living in Hong Kong?
I love that people are efficient and resourceful here; they get to the point and finish things well.
It’s also a condensed city where networking is made much easier. Sometimes the best opportunities come from your network!
Hong Kong is a vibrant city, filled with bright people and unique opportunities.
If you dig just a bit deeper, there’s something special for everyone here.
My words of advice for young women about taking the leap and following their dreams would be….
Do it for yourself, serve your own mission.
Along the journey, it’s also about how much you’re willing to give for what you want.
Observe and learn from everyone you cross paths with. Take risks yet be well-informed.
And finally do you have a quote or a daily mantra you use to keep you feeling clear, confident and connected within your business and life?
Do at least one thing you love everyday.
Nicola Fan graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, where she grew her passion in communication design and storytelling through moving images. She is a graphic designer + filmmaker, based in Hong Kong.
She works as an art director for marketing and campaign material; and a director for commercials, music videos, documentaries and short films. Her clients included Red Bull, Sunkist, Samsung, New Balance, J. P. Morgan, Time Warner.
Recommended by Hong Kong International Film Festival, her music video “The Eve” was sponsored by Hong Kong Arts Centre to be sent to film festivals worldwide. Her short documentary “Inspire Hope” received positive reviews and the attention of The Women’s Foundation, who then appointed her to direct “She Objects”, the first documentary of its kind in Hong Kong on promoting positive portrayal of women in media.
Take a look at Nicola’s work over on her website.