Technical Illustration With Krystal Lauk


Hello, guys.
It’s awesome to be here. Roaming the old halls —
[laughs] again. It’s been too long. So I’m Krystal. As Chuck said, I graduated
from the Academy in 2015. In my last two years, I ended up
getting an internship at a digital agency. And ended up being in an employment position
doing UI/UX design. It was kind of my foray
into the design world and tech. And you know, I started getting restless. I really wanted to do illustration again. And so soon after, about a couple years in,
I began my own illustration studio, Krystal X Studios. Working with clients such as Facebook,
Uber, UC Berkeley, Fast Company, Column 5. So some of my work that I’ve done — under my studio and a couple pieces
from my final year at the Academy. So about nine months ago,
I started working at Google, working as an illustrator for Google Play. So how many of you guys are Android users? Okay, fair amount, yeah — [laughs] So chances are you’ve gone
to the Google Play store to buy apps, or games, or movies
and that’s basically me and my … you know, with the team that I’m on — the illustrated promotional content that you see
is what we create every day. It’s pretty fast-paced. We create about four illustrations a week. Just me and myself. Google Play has over a billion users worldwide. It’s a lot of people. So it means that we have to create illustrations
on a [unclear] scale that need to resonate with many different cultures and customs
around the world. It’s really important. What’s even more important is that our illustrations need to make
enough of an impression
for users to engage with content, you know, increasing clickthrough rate,
and ultimately, you know, profit for Google. It’s — it’s all about … So we’re essentially like the window dressers
of this virtual store. Much like the shops that you see
out in Union Square, just on this huge, massive virtual scale. As you can see here, it was — not too long ago, it was Play’s 5th-year birthday,
so I got to create an illustration off of that. Women’s International Day
was not too long ago,
that was global. And Lunar New Year, for example,
this one was for Korea. So slightly different styles, you know,
where a Korean illustration might be
more geared towards that market, that style. And it takes place in many different layouts, too — you could see web, mobile,
different experiences like that. Just a small taste of other illustrations
that I’ve done in my nine months
from all around the world, so — Carnaval for Brazil, for example,
again, I had more … Women’s International Day. A lot of these campaigns,
sometimes we’ll create up to sixteen
different illustrations to launch globally. Some of the other ones we have here
are the Oscars — that was pretty recent. Halloween was one of those big campaigns where we created a lot
of different illustrations for that. My journey into the tech sector
was totally unplanned,
but very organic. It’s something that I kind of just fell into,
so to give you some background, I started going to school at Arizona State University. That’s where I grew up, and there’s just not much in the way of arts
in Arizona, let alone commercial art. You know, I think — I just kept on thinking, what am I going to do with a degree in painting? And after a couple years, I just couldn’t ignore that fact
and knew that I had to go to a private art school, in a city that had opportunity in a creative field. And San Francisco is one of those places. And so I visited San Francisco
and I knew that this was it. I instantly fell in love with this city. I’m sure some of you might be able to relate. About the fourth visit, I randomly wandered
into an Academy of Art Spring Show, and I knew that this was where I needed to go. It took a long time to get to San Francisco. It was a struggle for many reasons. You know, mostly financial. Then, you know, I was going to school full-time. I was working full-time at my retail job
at Cost Plus on Fisherman’s Wharf and you know, just trying to survive in the city. It was really hard. I was hungry and stressed out
and operating on very little sleep
as I’m sure a lot of you guys can relate to. After a little while,
I couldn’t make ends meet financially. I had to take a lot of breaks —
go to school part-time, took me a long time to graduate. You know, and even going to Academy of Art and getting my degree
in something more commercial
and you know, getting — you know, I think being able
to really, really get the technical skills here, I still just had no idea
what I was going to do with myself. And this is some of my work that
I had done in those times where — it’s a little bit all over the place. Definitely trying to find myself. I was really into these kind of
psychedelic gothic styles. Then I met my husband Ben — Robot Ben. Five years ago, to be exact. And he was in tech. Engineer turned entrepreneur. And you know, when we started dating,
I was kind of like, what is this world? You know, what is this language
that these people speak? I was so intimidated. I remember telling my friends this,
and he said to me, one day these people might become your clients. I was like, that’s not going to happen. This world is so apart from what I’m all about. And then it did. Soon after, Ben introduced me to a friend
who had a connection to this digital agency, COG1. And I ended up getting an internship there, and at this time I had absolutely no experience
with Adobe Creative Suite. I was all analog, all about watercolor and oils.
Nothing digital. And so I had to learn really, really fast. And I worked my ass off. Within two months,
they hired me as a UI/UX designer. And I did that for a couple years. It was my — like I said, my first foray
into the creative industry and tech at the same time. And the two colliding together really changed my world. So — designing websites and apps. Branding for companies —
that was so essential for me, to be able to understand the way
that illustration can be applied and utilized
in a real commercial way has value to companies. My illustrations became very influenced
by the rules and philosophy of design. Illustration is such a fluid communication tool,
but while it’s great on its own, it has such a special,
valuable relationship to design. I want you guys to remember that. You know, not only in the conventional sense,
like publications for newspapers or magazines. But within the interface,
where everything exists nowadays … So I think now more than ever, it’s crucially important to understand
and have a grasp of that framework
in which your illustrations exist. More importantly, the value that they bring
in a commercial sense. So, going back to the interface,
the thing that we spend hours a day on — our computers and our phones — Technology is paramount in our society,
we know that — but the great challenge is making the products
that we experience on here delightful and human. After all, they’ve become an extension of ourselves
even more when you think about virtual reality. So it’s more important to bring
this emotive value to the interface. You know, what it means to be human. What resonates with us on that essential scale. Delight is one of those emotive values. At Google, delight is really at the center of its brand. Google knows how important
the experience of delight really is. It helps shape their identity and their personality, and it helps the perception (of Google)
into this really kind of positive, approachable,
almost kind of cuddly brand. Even though — let’s face it —
it’s the Big Brother, you know,
company monster of the world. So people are really connected
to the brands that they resonate with. Almost in a tribal sense, right? Some people are really, really into Nike
and some people are really, really into Adidas, and you know, what’s the thing that
kind of boils it down to that — is all these values that these brands push out. What’s one of the biggest tools that create delight? You guys all know this — it’s illustration. And when you examine Google’s products,
you know the vast sense of it. You’ll actually find illustration in many, many places. There’s actually a lot of opportunity there. So Google was one of the first tech companies
to really understand this, and include illustration in their identity and products. It all kind of started with the Google Doodles. But the amazing thing that I’ve seen,
just in the past couple years, being kind of out in the field, is this trend of more and more tech companies
embracing illustration in so many ways, from marketing campaigns to product,
both internal and external, and even in the cornerstone of the branding. So, Uber, for example — they recently did an amazing brand refresh
that utilizes illustration to create a richness that carries
across continents, basically. They use this illustration language everywhere
from avatars and products to entire marketing campaigns, their website. And they’ve done it in such a way
that Uber can maintain the high-end identity
that they had previously. But it brings in this essential thing
that they were missing all this time — was warmth and approachability. So continuing the conversation about Uber — illustration can also be used
to inspire and inform product. It’s something that you see on the inside,
and that can be through storyboarding. So through this method,
designers can actually get a sense
of realistic-use case scenarios through an empathetic approach
going frame by frame imagining how their users, what do you use this product for
and storyboarding helps so much with that. So in this example, I created
a series of illustrations to inspire developers
when Uber opened up their API. They were all launched
on the Uber developer blog. And that carried across many different tech sites,
like Bloomberg Technology. And this was so developers could see these,
get inspired, and create apps off of the back of Uber. Another thing is Airbnb also, I’ve heard,
takes on the storyboarding approach
for their product. And as you may have seen,
Facebook is also really embracing
the use of illustration. For example, Facebook launches
these illustrations, Cultural Moments, to celebrate different holidays around the world
that appears on everybody’s newsfeeds. and this is so important because
it really connects all of us. Because it celebrates diversity and inclusion, and that’s such an important kind of value
that companies are really trying hard
to push out into the world right now. And it’s also something that we —
it’s a big part of what we do at Google Play, and it’s something that we’re always thinking about. And this is kind of a really, really cool one — is that companies are even inviting their users
to be expressive in their own way, and have illustration kind of guide that. And you know, inviting them
to even take part in creating it. So, you know, Facebook stickers or Google Allo, it allows you to be expressive,
and individualize yourself through
all of these different kinds of illustrations. Airbnb Create, you can actually take their logo
and make it your own through illustration and design. And of course, you know —
illustration can take the complex
and make it easy to understand. We are such a fast-paced, information-heavy world, so much of what we absorb goes really, really fast, and so it needs to be visual. It needs to really stick. And infographics do a great job of that. What we can learn here is that
it’s all about creating an intimate connection
with the user and product now. Illustration is at the heart of that. It’s so versatile, it’s such a liberating medium, that it makes it really easy for companies
to leverage those important values
that I was talking about. The light, expression, inclusion,
diversity, empathy — you know, these are things
that illustration can really communicate. And of course, making the complex
simple and approachable. When you think about illustration in that sense, the value is huge, and this is the key
to a successful illustration career
in my understanding — is understanding that value. Of course your illustration has to look good. No doubt about it. But that’s really only a small part of it. Companies care about what’s
going to make them money. Whether that’s from user engagement,
or brand recognition. The more that you streamline
your illustration style and content to be viable to the industry
you want to work in, the more you’ll be successful. For example, when I started
getting really inspired by design and I was starting to see these
trends in technology and illustration, I streamlined my style to be more graphic and flat — similar to Google’s material guidelines, so I can have more of that opportunity so I can fit into what I ultimately
wanted to get myself into, which was illustration in tech. And content as well. The content that I chose to create
for my school projects, for example, became a lot more highly conceptual. More evocative to the themes that I was seeing
with illustration being used in the tech industry. So, getting an illustration job in tech. Some key takeaways. It really helps to have a portfolio
full of vector work. Watercolor and oils and all of that is great,
but at the end of the day, it is the default medium for every project
for a practical reason. Vector art is very versatile,
it can be leveraged at any scale, it’s easy to do multiple revisions. And of course it’s easy to bring
to your animation, to make it interact. And one thing that I kind of learned — I think there’s this kind of basic assumption, old school assumption out the door
that you need a representative,
you need an agent, but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s something that I did on my own — not only does an agent take away
anywhere from 30 to 50 percent
of your earnings, but they also insulate you
from these business skills
that you require when you DIY it — such as managing clients
and managing budget and your time. Not only are these good for being able
to run a successful business, but if you climb up the ladder
to art director roles
or creative director roles, those kinds of skills are going
to be useful in those positions. Today, there are so many tools
that allow you to be successful at this
at very little cost. For example, a service like Harvest app
is a time-tracking and invoice creating tool. That’s like, ten dollars a month. Zoho is another service that allows you
to manage your customer relations. For example, it will remind you
when is a good time to email back that potential client that you’ve been
wanting to get work from. As we know, as we kind of learned, sometimes it’s good to kind of just bother
these people until it happens. One thing about that is — in terms of getting jobs with technology companies, they’re all about cutting out the middleman, and a representative is essentially
kind of that middleman, and so they’re less likely to consider you
if you have all of that excess cost. Networking is everything. View every relationship as a potential opportunity. Know someone who works in marketing? Great. Grab a coffee with them and talk to them,
learn about what they do, and see how you could be of value to them. If there’s an illustrator that you admire
out in the field that lives in your town, or you’re about to visit somewhere, reach out to them. Ask to grab a coffee,
ask to pick their brains, they won’t bite, and it’s one of the most
useful things that you can do — and the awesome thing about it is,
they might even potentially — refer you if a project comes their way — maybe the budget is too small,
or they don’t have time, so it’s pretty useful stuff. These days, illustration jobs
are not just through art directors. I’ve been hired by marketing people
and CEOs of startups and authors and tech analysts. That’s kind of going back to the whole
“view every relationship as an opportunity,”
because it might surprise you. Yeah — streamline your work
to be viable, not just pretty. Think about how it communicates
effectively in the real world. Go out there, keep your eyes peeled,
and see who’s using illustration. Keep tabs on that, and contact those people. And cut your teeth — work really hard. Push yourself into doing the things
that really intimidate you, like public speaking. And you know, the struggles that I had
in my twenties kind of getting through school and living in this city —
stuff like that really prepares you. Kind of makes you feel like
you can get through anything. So, love the hustle. So, what’s the exciting thing
about illustration in tech? This is the industry that’s
on the tip of everyone’s tongues, and it’s here to stay for a very, very long time, and the awesome thing is,
you’re already here. It’s in your backyard. And so it’s something for you
to take advantage of. You know, it’s important
to the longevity of your career, and tech companies will pay you
pretty damn well, too, so — that’s it! Thank you!

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