Eric Kwan Tai Lau’s Story

From Portfolio Review to Prepping for International Exhibitions

Art Director Eric Kwan Tai Lau has accomplished a great deal during the short time that he has been in the advertising industry. Now, Eric is an Art Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, where he works on 360-degree campaigns and brand experiential design for brands like PlayStation. Before Jack Morton, Eric worked at Saatchi & Saatchi as an Art Director with a passion for outside projects. How did one of ADC’s top 200 graduating seniors in advertising and graphic design at National Student Portfolio Review 2009 climb his way up the corporate ladder with enough time to delve into photography and international art exhibitions?

At his high school, Eric was already juggling creative responsibilities by mastering music, computer science, publishing and design. He studied at one of Hong Kong’s oldest high schools, where tradition is not as important as a student’s degree of freedom, which is exciting for a city where most students end up practicing banking, medicine or accounting! By starting with posters for summer camps and fliers for Christmas parties, Eric decided to create a book that summarized his small graduating class’s collective memory.

Due to the size of his class, those on the project couldn’t sleep much. Eric remembers nearly sleeping through the deadline after two consecutive days of work! Constructed out of Legos, “No Boundary” is very much like Eric’s motto: you can build up something, destroy it, build up something and destroy it again, with unlimited possibilities until you perfect the end project. Equipped with a Lego play hand, “No Boundary” resembled a gramophone and held a DVD for each student in his class. He also made a calendar out of Legos, so that one could easily break apart days of the year.

In 2009, for this project, Eric was the youngest Graphis winner in the history of the awards since 1944! The awards department contacted him to ask, “Did you put your wrong age?”

Since 2006, Eric has visited his old high school to share his work and help students establish their portfolios. He also has assisted two semesters of an advertising design course at Parsons with Tom Mcmanus because he remembers the people who have helped him get this far. Moreover, he subscribes to the theory that there is a lot to learn from looking at young artists’ works and discussing the creative process with them in person. He finds inspiration in new ways they handle problems.

We are sure that students learn more from him, though, as he tells us his advice to new creatives:

Work very, very hard! There’s a whole world out there, and there’s so much more you can learn from other artists. Don’t get caught on something that you are satisfied with, keep pushing. When you know different levels of people in the industry, you learn that something you thought might be “brilliant” could be average work in another level of the game. It’s good to meet real professionals.

It’s easy to get discouraged by others’ works, but be true to your self. The best work comes from understanding and using your own voice.

Also, it is very important for young creatives to find their own media and spend time outside of work or school to do creative stuff: either attend some ADC events or check out some gorgeous Young Guns work to compare yourself with them, inspire yourself and set your bar higher. In the end, work harder to achieve a higher level. You can learn about completely new creative arenas, and on could be your future job.

Speaking of other media, Eric recently sold his first street photograph, which is part of an artistic pursuit that he’s been working towards since he first moved to New York. He started seriously shooting after viewing an inspiring Sony photo shoot while interning at JWT Hong Kong. Now that he is happily working in an advertising agency, he notices that there are a lot of marketing concerns. With constraints, such as target audience and budget, the final result—although rewarding—is really controlled by these as well as input from CDs and ECDs. Photography is a different way to express himself. It’s “purely for fun, purely for creative expression,” very much like his LEGO album. Eric dreams of putting up this personal photography show one day.

With professional and personal projects, Eric tries to link two unrelated ideologies and is currently going crazy for snowflakes. Comparing Chinese calligraphy (based in spirituality and philosophy) with Western typography (scientific and quantitative), Eric wants to develop a graphic language of his own. He explains, “Calligraphy and typography is complicated, and it would be cool to find something that is more pure. I think that the snowflake is the perfect subject matter.”

Snowflakes start out similarly. As they fall, they cut through different layers of air that have different temperatures and different humidity. That’s why they form different shapes. You can unfold the life of the snowflake, and—unlike advertising—aesthetics, or the form of something, can actually be directly related to its story.

His snowflake art has been on view at Parsons’ Galleries and Exhibition Centers as well as Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

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