Having grown up in the Bay Area, it wasn’t until Kimberly Low sojourned south, to study at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, that her love of design solidified and she realized she wanted to return and practice her craft here in San Francisco. A Chen Design Associates’ intern-hired-full-time-designer success, we paused her busy workload to hear more of her story and introduce her to you.
Q: I understand you had a memorable experience with Chen Design Associates before ever coming here. What happened?
During my freshman year in college I went to hear someone in the industry give a talk. I figured it was a good chance to see if graphic design was really what I wanted to do with my life. It turned out that the speaker was Josh Chen of Chen Design Associates.
I remember seeing the Verve logo, The North Face hangtags, and the Fort Mason brand (among other things) and falling in love. Mixed in with my amazement—that’s what graphic design is?—was a realization that I really, really missed San Francisco. If this power to elicit such strong emotions was graphic design, then it was magic! You can say that the talk left a huge impression on me.
Q: Tell us more about how you came to join CDA’s creative team.
The following spring, a Cal Poly alumnus working at CDA gave a lecture on portfolios. That person turned out to be Max Spector (current Design Director). I sent him inquiries at the end of every school year and he kindly responded, but not with an invitation to stop by for an interview. By the time I sent him my fourth inquiry during my last year of school, I was given the chance to intern with CDA. I started my internship in June of 2013 and have been happily here every since.
Q: When did you know you were a designer or wanted to be a designer?
There wasn’t a specific point when I realized that I was a designer. There were probably clues that popped up when I was a kid, although I didn’t know it at the time, like choosing books by their covers and obsessing over the tidiness and organization of my class notes. I went through my college classes hoping I could be a designer, and somewhere along the way I realized that I had ideas and solutions that people found interesting.
I think I really wanted to be a designer after hearing Josh’s talk my freshman year. Until then, I wasn’t sure. When I experienced firsthand the effect that design could have on people, I knew I wanted to create those types of experiences. After that first jolt, any chance to learn more about design history and the industry got me excited about becoming a designer.
Q: Any highlights to share—or new things you’ve learned since being an intern, now full-time designer here at CDA?
I have learned so much since I started at CDA: the many approaches to finding a worthy design idea; what makes the visual part of design amazing and unique, or just mediocre; how to build relationships with coworkers and clients; even how to enjoy life in the city to the fullest.
A couple of mistakes have taught me a lot about being meticulous and careful. No one at school told me that preparing files for handoff to printers and clients was such an important part of the process! Without the correct preparation, your design can be ruined, regardless of how much time you spent on it and how amazing it looks on screen.
Q: Where do you turn for inspiration? What feeds your creativity?
My inspiration comes from blogs and other forms of curation, my experiences in San Francisco, and my peers. During my years at Cal Poly, I was very close with my classmates, and we also developed strong relationships with our professors. I learned a lot from our shared pain and happiness, in both classes and in life, and I continue to be inspired by what my classmates are doing this past year since graduation. We still share news and projects with each other through social media.
I’m also fueled by strange ideas and challenges that I come across. The bigger the challenge, the more I want to come up with a brilliant solution!
Q: What do you like to do when not working hard here at CDA?
I like to think about food, whether I’m considering what I’ll be making for dinner, or where I can meet up with friends for the authentic San Franciscan dining experience. There’s a lot of experimentation and improv involved in both of those to keep things interesting. Sometimes I’ll spend an afternoon just walking around the city to see what new things there are to discover (I pretend it’s my exercise.)
I also like to continue creative pursuits outside of the office—cut paper, lettering, digital painting, and DIY house decor projects, just to name a few recent ones. With the time that’s left, I read as many books as I can and catch up on the news.
Below are some of Kim’s favorite projects that she’s contributed here at CDA (so far).