Quick look around our careers website or LinkedIn profile and you’re already familiar with what his team has been working on. Michael Lee, Klook’s Creative Director, has his finger in the pie in every area that involves visuals.
From the cute cartoon characters that appear in our collaterals to the design of our Google Slides presentation templates, much of the credit can be attributed to Michael and his team.
I was fortunate enough to take an hour to discuss Michael’s management style, what he actually does and his tips to develop an eye for aesthetics.
Michael Lee, Klook’s Creative Director, has his finger in the pie in every area that involves visuals.
So what exactly does a Creative Director do?
The first order of business was to figure out what exactly a Creative Director does. When asked, Michael says it’s simple, really. There are 4 main aspects of what he does:
1. High-level creative direction
High-level creative direction sounds like an abstract task, but it’s really straightforward. It can be boiled down to “what does a logo mean?” One of Michael’s biggest responsibilities is to ensure that all creative collateral viewed by the public is consistently aligned with the company’s brand.
After all, consumer confidence is built on knowing that our branding is stable. As explained by Michael, “the consumer journey is important. If you clicked on the Klook app and the in-app colors are completely different, you’re going to be less confident that you’re going to get the product you paid for.” It’s very much about building trust in the consumers’ minds. Ensuring a coherent design direction, as such, goes a long way towards keeping consumers engaged and confident in our products.
2. Creating guidelines for logos, guidelines, and videos
A recurring theme that our conversations went back to is just how much thought goes into each design element — even the ones that look incredibly simple.
\The 13-panel carousel Creative team designed for our 2020 in review post was truly a masterpiece
For example, if you look at this infographic created for the 2020 in review LinkedIn post, you’ll notice that:
- The background color palettes are complementary, all of which go well with the Klook Orange.
- For each background (beige, purple, green), only specific skin tones are used, ensuring that viewers will be able to immediately see the figure
These are qualities that most people will not be aware of until they are highlighted, and there is a rigorous process that goes into each element the Global Creative Team produces.
3. Maintaining brand integrity internally and externally
When the Global Design team works with stakeholders, Michael appreciates open and straightforward feedback. However, the responsibility of his is to ensure that this feedback is implemented within the creative guidelines.
How lax are the guidelines? How do we scale existing design elements? These are some questions that he faces regularly. As Klook is in over 14 regions worldwide, the sense of what is “nice” can differ heavily from China to Australia. It’s a tough job, but someone needs to ensure that while regional teams practice flexibility in creating designs, the final products need to be consistent with the overall branding.
4. Building relationships and efficiency across teams
The Creative team is really close-knit and supportive of each other.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with a highly talented and motivated team, without which many of our achievements would not have been possible,” Michael shared with us.
The last responsibility is one that Michael ultimately shares with all other team leads: how to ensure the teams work together. It may seem straightforward, but given how Covid-19 has kept everyone working from home, most of us are now kept in smaller siloes than before. And especially for more subjective topics like design, the teams need a greater degree of openness and conversation to ensure a consistent end product.
How to develop a sense of aesthetics
If you’ve seen Michael’s LinkedIn profile, one part of it may strike you as being strange. He didn’t study anything design-related. Instead, to keep his (Asian) parents happy, he took up a practical diploma in programming.
Still, he always knew what his passion was and at age 13-14, he was already using extremely early versions of Photoshop. Even as he was studying programming, he found a way to marry his studies with his passion: he started designing websites, with the pinnacle of all that being his Final Year Project designing an e-commerce website for his then-girlfriend, under an “internship”.
Visual arts are not the only passion of Michael's: just check out this guitar collection!
If you’re interested in picking up an eye for design, Michael has a few tips. Firstly, take 5-10 minutes a day to look through Behance and get inspired. Most of us are exposed to the same types of design types daily, and Behance curates the best and puts it on the front page for easy access.
Secondly, learn about what the industry is doing, what’s working or not working. Designer Brian Collin's brand consultancy Collins might be one that you'd want to look into.
Lastly, give yourself some time — Michael finds this advice from Ira Glass especially inspiring.
Looking for a new challenge?
Posted by Chris Soh, Assistant Marketing Manager
Chris has a lifelong goal of visiting every single beach in the world. He aims to be the world's first official beach connoisseur.