Success Ideas and Tips from Master Graphic Designer, Clement Mok

mok_2009

Success Secrets from Clement Mok:

  • Think constantly. Be curious about the world.
  • Realize that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that you’re on a quest to figure those things out.
  • Never burn your bridges, and if you do have to burn your bridges, try to end things nicely.
  • A career is really what you make of it, so follow your heart; follow your passion.

mok_applecorp1-9

Title:  Apple 10th Year Anniversary

Early Beginnings:

I was trained as a graphic designer in the late 70’s at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. At that time New York City was the design capital, and it was almost mandatory to work there if one was serious about their career — so like many of my fellow classmates, I made a trek to New York.

I was fortunate enough to land my first job at CBS’s advertising and marketing department. The fact I was around design giants like Lou Dorfsman and Paula Scher, physically or by proximity, meant a great deal to a young and impressionable designer.

mok_applecorp1-16

Title:  Apple Courseware Exchange Identity

After a brief stint at CBS, I went to work for Donovan and Green (D&G), a firm working in exhibit design, advertising design, multi-image shows, as well as traditional graphic design. Working in a studio environment like that altered my perspective and opened my eyes to the different arenas and the kinds of design a designer can be involved with. I no longer felt constrained or pigeonholed as any ONE type of designer.

The experience at D+G allowed me to think more broadly about my design career.  I didn’t have to be a subject expert; design thinking was a way of solving problems applicable to all kinds of endeavors.

mok_applecorp2-1

Title:  Corporate Christmas Card

A job offer from Apple:

My job offer at Apple came about by accident. I was visiting a friend during a vacation on the West Coast. She has just gotten a job at Apple in Silicon Valley. At that point Apple, Atari and Commodore were all the same to me. I didn’t know the difference. I joked to my friend that, “The fact these companies have video games in their lobby sounds interesting to me.” So I showed up at Apple and met Tom Suiter the creative director at the time. He offered me a job on the spot. And I said, “But you haven’t even seen my portfolio.” They were desperate and wanted people who had some experience in reputable places and would be interested in working in this new field called personal computers.

mok_applecorp2-3

Title:  Apple Earthquake Preparedness Brochure

I said, “No thank you. I love NY.”

It wasn’t until I came back to NY that I realized that the company, Apple, had a founder who was on the front cover of Time magazine. I realized then that I couldn’t refuse that offer.

It was a circuitous situation that brought me the job at Apple. I was in the right place at the right time, and I realized that this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

mok_applecorp2-52

Title:  Ode to the Latter-Day Wizard Poster

Real-world postgraduate experience:

Apple was very much a postgraduate course in marketing and business for me. It also tested my design beliefs about what’s good and what’s bad. Steve Jobs challenged anyone who worked for him, and if I didn’t believe in or have conviction about my work, he would know it.

More than anything else, I acquired an appreciation of how to design for the viewer, the customer and the user. Design for usability was a relatively new field and I learned this sensibility by hanging around industrial designers and software engineers.

mok_applecorp2-5

Title:  Phone Class Announcement

During my tenure at Apple, I learned a great deal about software design too. I looked at every project and every challenge from the perspective of what I could learn, even though it might have been kind of boring. For me, it’s always been about learning and being curious.

After 5 plus years, I realized that the most interesting and exciting things going on in Silicon Valley were happening the software industry — not in hardware and computers. So I thought to myself, “It’s now or never if I’m going to start a business. I might as well follow my heart.”

mok_applecorp2-62

Title:  Building an American Dream Poster

Starting a design consultancy: the deciding factors

There were three factors that led me to starting my own firm. I had just spent ten years as an in-house designer as well as a client, and I felt it was time to play a different role. Change for the sake of change was certainly the first of the driving factors. The second was the growing software industry in the Silicon Valley. The smartest and the brightest were leaving computers for start-ups, and I wanted to be part of that growing trend.

mok_applecorp2-6

Title:     4th of July Poster

Also, not too many designers wanted to practice in the tech marketplace at the time, and I knew that if I started a business specializing in high-tech, I could establish myself very quickly. That was the final and main driving factor that led me to start my firm in 1988.

Developing new business at the beginning

At first I acquired business through the Apple network — through people I had worked with at Apple who were now players in this new software industry. It didn’t take long for the word to get around that I had left Apple, and soon friends and colleagues began calling me.

mok_credits-2122

Title: Mirage Hotel and Casino identity

One thing I’d learned at Apple and by working in a corporate environment was the understanding of the client’s perspective. At Apple, “us and them” didn’t exist. We were all colleagues. At the end of the day, Apple still paid my salary, and these people, as much as I called them clients, were really my peers; our goals — change the way people work, learn and play— were the same.

The whole concept of the client being a partner was ingrained in me early on in my career. There was no sense of being victimized by clients or any notion of clients as evildoers. At the end of the day, clients want things that work and that are effective and connect with their customers.

mok_credits-17

Title:  Apple University Consortium: Wheels for the Mind

New business development now

Business today mostly comes to me through my network of friends and their clients, and by word of mouth. I’ve never burned bridges, but if I do have to burn a bridge, I try to end things nicely. (Laughter) I work solo or collaborate with a team my client might assemble. Most gigs are design planning and consulting initiatives which are not about designing things, but instead designing offerings, processes or organizations. I’m still designing, but not in the sense that most designers would recognize.

mok_credits-18

Title:  An Apple For The Teacher Promotion (left), Apple’s Student Break (right)

Planning for the future

The one thing that I’ve done consistently over the course of my career is to perform an assessment every 2 or 3 years to review my situation. I’ve always had a mental image or picture of what I want to be doing over the coming 5 years. I say to myself, “Okay, am I doing what I said I would be doing. Am I happy?” And if not, “What are the causes.”

Self-assessment has served me well.  It drove my decision to start creating software products. This came to light when I realized that I was developing the identity and software packaging for a few of my ex-Apple colleagues’ new ventures. They had hired me to design and market their products and company.

mok_credits-38

The process involved in launching a product is relatively simple, and I thought, “Why shouldn’t I do it? “As I worked with more and more software engineers, I realized, “They don’t know how to do this.” I understood the pitfalls, and by around ‘92, ‘93, I’d gone through the drill of putting all of the pieces together enough times that I decided to start my own software company. My assessment exercise proved once again to be been an invaluable tool for me.

mok_credits-261

Title:  Cover for AIGA Design Conference Technology Expo Guide

Favorite accomplishments

I still consider myself a designer, and the fact that I don’t create or make artifacts might turn a few heads. A media-agnostic designer would be the best way to describe the career stage that I’m in. I’m very proud of the fact that I am comfortable in my own skin, whether I’m being called a designer or a management consultant.

For me it doesn’t matter what kind of design I do. I will figure my way through any problem using my design skills, whether it’s a product design, the design of an organization, a process problem, or a complex technology issue.

The pigeonholing of a designer in any medium is an idea that I have consistently fought against. I have always looked at Charles and Ray Eames as role models. I admire the scope of design disciplines they practiced and I aspire to be like them. In the broadest sense of the word, they DESIGN. I’ve not reached their stature, but the fact that I’m comfortable being a media agnostic is a big personal accomplishment.

mok_credits-271

Title:   IBM Online Brand Presence Consultancy

What would I do differently?

I wish I had listened to my clients more. I’ve recently built a house, and I played the client role to an architect. Being a designer myself, I cut the architect some slack. But looking back, I was way too generous as an art director by not playing the real role of a client.

I saw how the architects, like designers, sometimes don’t listen and just design for their portfolio. This architect’s behavior was similar to how I behaved as a young practitioner many years ago.

mok_credits-272

Title:  Kasparov vs Big Blue

Throughout the design development process I would say, “I see how this is elegant and fits a certain esthetic framework, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for me. It doesn’t work, and here are the reasons.” The architect would come back with 3 solutions that were a slight variation of the same idea! “Hey,” I would say, “I know this trick! Don’t pull this on me!”

After a while, I wondered why the architect was behaving that way, and I came to the realization that it was all about having a great photo for their portfolio—a shot to enter into contests and competitions.

mok_credits-28

Title:  CMCD Royalty-Free Stock Photo Library Titles

We’ve all been there. And, I was furious about the process that had gotten me there. Had he listened carefully, and tried different things and listened to my needs, he would have made the process much more enjoyable. And this situation was not about aesthetics. It was about functionality. I needed things to work and be usable! This is where my HCI (Human Computer Interface) and usability issue sensibility came into play.

As much as young designers are good at creating compelling imagery for today’s cultural currency, they still don’t have the life experience in understanding how to make things usable. They can make them desirable, but mastery requires a lifetime of learning.

mok_credits-29

Title:  CMCD Visual Symbols Library Website (left), CMCD Visual Symbols Library Ad and Promotion Materials

Major influences on Clement’s career:

My design heroes and role models are Charles and Ray Eames. They were curious about the world around them and explored new technologies via their work for clients and for themselves.

I want to be known as a designer not only in the world of print but also in the digital domain. To accomplish this means I take on projects that are on the bleeding edge. This also means the projects may go over budget and the business will have to absorb the difference.

What might be good for a PR profile might not be good for the business’s financial bottom line. My business almost went under in 1993 because I funded a software business using the profits of my design service and consulting business. I ended up selling the distribution and management rights of my software business to competitor just to keep my design consulting business afloat.

mok_credits-35

Title:  Designers’ Saturday Invitation

On business wants and needs:

My goal is to build a design business that’s well respected and considered a thought leader. As an example, for Studio Archetype to grow and keep up with the pace of Internet e-commerce design consulting services in 1996, I needed to grow the depth and reach of the organization. That meant hiring people that knew more than I did and giving them an equity stake to help expand the business. It also meant rethinking the way I go about capitalization the business. I had to be disciplined about managing projects, and to walk away from low margin work during this growth period, even if they were high profile or highly creative.

mok_credits-37

Title:  OmniPage 1.0 — OCR Software Launch

On personal wants and needs:

I believe it’s not too much to ask for a life that’s balanced between work, friends, and family. Sometimes, though, it seems as if business and career goals are at odds with each another.

How do I reconcile this? I am fortunate to have a business and life mentor who guides me through a series of questions using the Viable Living System model — a cybernetics model of organization. It has helped me see my shortcomings and identified the things that I should let others help me do. Doing this has been an eye-opener, and I continue to use this diagnostic tool when I consult with my clients.

mok_credits-2121Title: The Republic of Tea identity

Tips for people just starting out

Think constantly. Be curious about the world. Realize that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that you’re on a quest to figure those things out.

Clement’s thoughts on business coaches and seminars

When I had just turned 30, I started my business. I was very fortunate to have a mentor who was in the cybernetics field. The gentleman has since passed away, but the life lessons that he taught me are still important guiding principles.

As far as keeping up with current business issues, I’m not unlike many of the business wonks in Silicon Valley. I keep a portfolio of trade journals and attend business conferences. So in that regard, I do have multiple networks of friends and peers. That’s how I keep up.

mok_credits-39

Title:  Macromind Product Suite Identity

Thoughts on personal balance

For personal balance, I enjoy cooking and my pets. I have 2 large dogs, a Golden Doodle and a Rottweiler. A Golden Doodle is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle. It’s very much of a California designer dog thing.

When I took a leave of absence during the post-Internet-bubble period, I decided I needed a rest and I also needed something to ground myself. Working in the IT and the Internet field, my work almost exclusively dealt with abstractions of one kind or another. I design things that people don’t see most of the time, and the only visualization comes about when it’s on the web.

I needed something to ground myself. Cooking is both a set of skills and an art form that is very much akin to design. All kinds of cooking intrigue me, from the classic to the ethnic.

mok_credits-161

Title: Macintosh Software Packaging

Thoughts on building and sustaining a career.

A career is really what you make of it. It depends. There are no rules these days. I would suggest that you follow your heart; follow your passion. Be constantly curious about the world around you.

Clement’s thoughts on getting good clients:

When it comes to getting good clients, the most important thing I would suggest is “Ask good questions.”

Clients want someone who will bring new insights. The client wants you to think, not merely decorate. If you behave like a decorator, they will treat you like a decorator, and they will become the client from hell. But if you behave like a thinker and ask questions and provide good insights, they will see you as valuable.

mok_credits-24

Title:  Revo Brand Identity

Asking the right questions:

Most clients will come to me with a project that they are convinced requires a software or hardware solution. Very often that’s not the case.

For example, a client asked me if I would help develop the user experience for an internet portal that would be a mash up between Second Life, a virtual world site, and Match.com, a dating site.

I read the business plan and reviewed the features of the product along with the financial models.  During a follow-up meeting, they asked me, “What do you think the user interface should be?” I said, “Whoa. Back up. It looks like a guy wrote your business plan. There’s no point-of-view and perspective from the other half of your audience — the women. Do you think it’s safe to ignore the drivers and needs of that segment of your market?”

This question had nothing with the interface design. It was about something that most designers assume lay outside the realms of design, when in fact, that’s exactly what a designer should be paying attention to. As designers, we need to be sure we’re solving the right problem.

mok_credits-262

Title:  1999 San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race Identity

About Clement Mok:

Clement Mok is a designer, digital pioneer, software publisher/developer, author, and design patent holder. Mok, a former creative director at Apple, founded multiple successful design-related businesses — Studio Archetype, CMCD and NetObjects. He was the Chief Creative Officer of Sapient, and the president of AIGA. Currently, he consults for Sapient and other Fortune 500 companies on a variety of design planning and user experience projects. Mok has been published internationally and has received hundreds of awards from professional organizations and publications including I.D. 40 most influential designers Chief Executive Magazine, which named him 1998’s Tech 100 CEOs and AIGA, 2008 Gold Medalist. He also serves on the advisory boards of numerous technology companies, colleges and non-profit organizations.

mok_credits-4122

mok_credits-4121

mok_credits-4123

Credits:

Title: Apple 10th Year Anniversary
Client
: Apple HR
Produced
: 1986
Firm
: Clement Mok
Creative Director
: Clement Mok and Hugh Dubberl
—————————————————————–

Title: Apple Courseware Exchange Identity
Client
: Apple Higher Education
Produced
: 1986
Firm
: Apple Creative Service
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
—————————————————————–

Title: Corporate Christmas Card
Client
: Apple
Produced
: 1984
Firm
: Apple Creative Service
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Lindy Cameron
Artists
: Jim McMullan, Brad Guice, Michael Patrick Cronan, Katsu Kimura and Milton Glaser
—————————————————————–

Title: Apple Earthquake Preparedness Brochure
Client
: Apple Human Resources
Produced
: 1986
Firm
: Apple Creative Services
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Steve Sieler
Writer
: Rich Binell
Illustrator
: Lou Beach
—————————————————————–

Title: Ode to the Latter-Day Wizard Poster
Client
: Apple Progrmmers and Developers Association
Produced
: 1985
Firm
: Apple Creative Services
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Lindy Cameron
Writer
: Rich Binell
—————————————————————–

Title: Phone Class Announcement
Client
: Apple Human Resources
Produced
: 1985
Firm
: Apple Creative Services
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Jill Savini
Writer
: Rich Binell
Illustrator
: Clement Mok
—————————————————————–

Title: Building an American Dream Poster
Client
: Apple Education: Trade Show and Seminar Support
Produced
: 1986
Firm
: Apple Creative Services
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Steve Sieler
Writer
: Robert Giusti
—————————————————————–

Title: 4th of July Poster
Client
: Apple Corporation
Produced
: 1987
Firm
: Apple Creative Services
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Clement Mok
Writer
: Phillipe Weisbecker
—————————————————————–

Title: Mirage Hotel and Casino identity
Client
: Mirage Hotel and Casino
Produced
: 1991
Firm
: Clement Mok designs, inc.
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designers
: Clement Mok, Sandra Koenig
—————————————————————–

Title: Apple University Consortium: Wheels for the Mind
Client
: Apple Education Sales & Marketing
Produced
: 1985
Firm
: Apple Creative Service
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Clement Mok
Illustrator
: Clement Mok
—————————————————————–

Title: An Apple For The Teacher Promotion (left), Apple’s Student Break (right)
Client
: Apple Education Sales & Marketing
Produced
: 1986
Firm
: Apple Creative Service
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Clement Mok
Illustrator
: Clement Mok
—————————————————————–

Title: Cover for AIGA Design Conference Technology Expo Guide
Client
: AIGA
Produced
: 1989
Firm
: Clement Mok designs
Illustration
: Clement Mok

Recognition: American Illustration Annual
—————————————————————–

Title: IBM Online Brand Presence Consultancy
Client
: IBM
Produced
: 1996-1999
Firm
: Studio Archetype
Strategists
: Clement Mok, Mark Crumpacker, Judith Hoogenboom, Tom Andrews, Donald Chesnut , Rich Radka, John Grotting
Designers
: Bob Skubic, Matt Carlson, Phil Kim
—————————————————————–

Title: Kasparov vs Big Blue
Client
: IBM
Produced
: 1997
Firm
: Studio Archetype
Strategists/Producer
: Judith Hoogenboom, Donald Chesnut , John Grotting
Designers
: John Grotting, Bob Skubic, Matt Carlson, Phil Kim
Writers
: Rich Radka, Tom Andrews
—————————————————————–

Title: CMCD Royalty-Free Stock Photo Library Titles
Client
: CMCD
Produced
: 1992
Firm
: Clement Mok designs
Designers
: Clement Mok, Josh Distller
Writer
: Clement Mok
Photographers
: Various
—————————————————————–

Title: CMCD Visual Symbols Library Website (left)
CMCD Visual Symbols Library Ad and Promotion Materials (right)
Client
: CMCD Visual Symbols Library | Clement Mok
Produced
: 2003
Firm
: Department Three / Clement Mok designs, inc.
Art Direction
: Clement Mok, Guthrie Dolin, Matt Carlson
Writer
: Clement Mok
Photography
: Various
—————————————————————–

Title: Designers’ Saturday Invitation
Client
: Progressive Architecture Magazine
Published
: 1982
Firm
: Donovan and Green
Creative Direction
: Michael Donovan
Art Direction
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Clement Mok

Recognition: AIGA Annual
—————————————————————–

Title: OmniPage 1.0 — OCR Software Launch
Client
: Caere Corporation
Produced
: 1988
Firm
: Clement Mok designs
Creative Direction
: Clement Mok
Art Direction
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Clement Mok, Charles Routhier
Photographer
: Hunter Freeman
—————————————————————–

Title: The Republic of Tea identity
Client
: The Republic of Tea
Produced
: 1991
Firm
: Clement Mok designs, inc.
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designers
: Clement Mok, Nancy Bauch
Calligrapher
: Georgis Deaver
—————————————————————–

Title: Macromind Product Suite Identity
Client
: Macromind Inc.
Produced
: 1989-1991
Firm
: Clement Mok designs, inc.
Creative Direction
: Clement Mok
Art Direction
: Clement Mok
Designer
: Sandra Koenig
Illustrator
: Ron Chan
—————————————————————–

Title: Macintosh Software Packaging
Client
: Macintosh Sales and Marketing
Produced
: 1985
Firm
: Apple Creative Service
Creative Director
: Clement Mok
Designer:  Lori Barnett
—————————————————————–

Title:  Revo Brand Identity
Client:  Revo
Produced:  1989-1998
Firm:  Clement Mok designs/ Studio Archetype
Creative Direction:  Clement Mok / Mark Crumpacker / Grant Peterson
Art Direction:  Clement Mok / Lori Barra /
Mark Crumpacker / Jack Herr / Gregg Heard
Designer :  Lori Barra / Sandra Koenig / Jack Herr
—————————————————————–

Title:  1999 San Francisco Bay to Breakers Race Identity
Client:  San Francisco Examiner
Produced:  1999
Firm:  Studio Archetype
Creative Direction:  Clement Mok
Designer:  Clement Mok
—————————————————————–



7 Comments:


  • By margolj 09 Apr 2009

    Hi Will,

    One of the things I’ve been questioning lately is just what are the benefits of AdPros, what’s it about and what is offered at meetings other than just talk among peers? I can now see that this article is one of the benefits. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m gleaning a lot of information from it.

    Here are some of his quotes that I can take to heart:
    “As much as young designers are good at creating compelling imagery for today’s cultural currency, they still don’t have the life experience in understanding how to make things usable. They can make them desirable, but mastery requires a lifetime of learning.”
    Thank you! So many people don’t recognize this fact.

    “My design heroes and role models are Charles and Ray Eames.”
    So are mine! They were practicing in Venice when I was in college. They were a local phenomenon and their Eames chair is still a classic.

    Joan Margolis-West

    “Cooking is both a set of skills and an art form that is very much akin to design.”

    A career is really what you make of it. It depends. There are no rules these days. I would suggest that you follow your heart; follow your passion.
    “I always say that.”

    “On clients: If you behave like a decorator, they will treat you like a decorator, and they will become the client from hell. But if you behave like a thinker and ask questions and provide good insights, they will see you as valuable.”

    Enough of the quotes from me already! You get my gist – thanks for sharing.

  • By Personal Accomplishments Quotes | AllGraphicsOnline.com 16 Mar 2011

    It’s a tough business to stand out in. You have to be willing to do it differently and work a lot harder than the other guy.

  • By Benete 20 Jun 2012

    thanks for such a nice information. i appreciate your work.http://www.alternador.org

  • By ?? 22 Jun 2012

    The layout of the weblog is absolutely messed up when I look at it in Opera. Plz fix it.

  • By Randy 17 Mar 2013

    Randy…

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with my …

  • By Graphic Dig 08 Jul 2014

    Great post! Good information and it will help me in my work. Keep up the great work. 🙂 http://www.graphicdig.blogspot.com/

Leave a Reply



© 2013 - The Sherwood Group
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now

×