Feature Friday

Last Friday, I featured some cool people, including one Miss Beverly E, who was a high school classmate of mine. For today, I did a full interview/feature with one of my favorite APA people (and high school accomplice) - Gennia Cui. I don't know why I knew so many talented people in high school. It's awesome.

Gennia is a Los Angeles-based graphic designer and photographer, who has worked on tons of things from movie posters to websites to photographing weddings and sports. She has been an enviable artist for as long as I can remember, which is pretty long considering our decade-plus friendship, and she was my very first collaborator in writing. We used to write fanfic together, and actually, it's rather embarrassing, so I'm going to change the subject now. She is also the person behind The Future Collective.

So without further ado, here's the interview. (My random comments in parenthetic blue and italics.)

Tell me about The Future Collective. Why did you start it?

The Future Collective is a group of designers committed to helping socially conscious organizations solve problems through innovative design.

I started it because I found that many companies trying to make a positive difference in society lack the proper tools and knowledge in marketing. Companies often make the fatal mistake of underestimating the value of a strong brand. Non-profits, especially, are suffering in this recession from a lack of funding. The first thing that usually gets cut is the marketing budget, when in reality marketing is one of the most important aspects of a successful company. I wanted to use my skills and experience in design and marketing to help these organizations achieve their goals in a unique and affordable fashion.

Since you're a designer, I have to ask, what makes a good book cover to you?

I like simple designs. Nothing too fancy, just a nice, clean but clever image. It should definitely reflect the tone of the book without giving too much away. So maybe my taste in covers reflects my taste in books as well...

What's a current cover you really like?

 Oh man there are too many...but I remember really liking the feel and look of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It's so simple and fits the voice of the book so well. Plus, the kid in me always loves cut outs on book covers!

You've designed movie posters professionally and done book covers for fun. What are some differences and similarities you found in designing for movies and books? 

For books, I don't have to stick big floating heads on them. It's sad but true. With the majority of movie posters these days, it's about star power. If you have a star in the film, you have to sell him/her. With books, it's up to the reader to imagine each character (until they adapt it for the screen). In the same vein, the designer has more freedom in general with book covers since you don't have a specific visual style to adhere to, nor do you have images from the movie production or photo shoots of the actors to work with. This means you get to do what you want, but it also makes it more challenging since everything has to come from scratch. Of course, there are exceptions for both.

But what I do enjoy about movie key art design is that it's such a collaborative process. So many people put their blood and sweat into making a movie, and the same thing happens when the key art comes into existence. Many designers, illustrators, filmmakers, production artists, and others have a hand in the outcome of a single piece of key art. Book jacket design, much like the craft of book writing, is often more solitary.

What's more fun?

I honestly cannot say which one is more fun...it really depends on the movie/book! Every single one is different! Unless you're doing Twilight covers/posters, then you can do them with your eyes closed.

(I like the book jackets for Twilight fine, but the movie posters are quite unfortunate...)

Remember the days when we wrote together? We were going to attempt an epic fantasy. We started on a Grapes of Wrath sequel! Would you ever be up for that wackiness again?

Yes! I miss our weird writing. I enjoy Peaches of Anger more than Grapes of Wrath. We should write a weird book together and get it published so other weird people can read it.

(Yes, Peaches of Anger! We also have a title for a third. Yes, we did this for fun...in high school.)

What did you read last and would you recommend it?

Speaking of Steinbeck, his book The Winter of Our Discontent was actually one of the last books that I read. I love the way he writes so I definitely enjoyed it and recommend it. Steinbeck's writing inspires me to write, hence Peaches of Anger. Though we were poking fun at his characters, we were inspired by his prose at the same time or else we wouldn't have imitated him. This Steinbeck book inspired me to write something as well, but it wasn't nearly as funny as Peaches. Those were the glory days... 

It's Asian/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. Do you think commemorative months like this are important?

I do think it's an important month to celebrate. I feel like in America, Asian Americans often overlook their heritage for various reasons. Considered as the "model minority" by some, we sometimes do too good of a job at assimilating to society and adapting to other cultures. Along with this ability to fit in, comes the danger of forgetting where we came from. So it's definitely important to set aside a time to remember and celebrate our heritage in our daily lives.

Lastly, what's awesome about being APA?

Amazing math skills. (For YOU, maybe. My math skills are pretty abysmal.) Just kidding. I think being an APA is awesome because we have so much history in our blood. America is a relatively young country in the larger scheme of things. Living in a younger society with progressive thinking definitely has many benefits. But as APAs, I think we're also lucky to also be a part of something with thousands of years of history and culture. For example, in the past 2 years I've done a lot of traveling in China and Korea, where my ancestors came from. It's really amazing to see how far my family tree reaches back and how intertwined these two cultures are.

Thanks Gennia! Please design my future book cover (when/if I ever have a book)! You can find Gennia and her lovely work online at genniacui.com, The Future Collective, and her photo blog at Light Leak, which is also linked in the sidebar.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone!


Lydia Kang said...

Great interview! Nice to meet Gennia (and cool name too!)
Have a great weekend!

Tahereh said...

super awesome interview!

thanks for sharing :D

lisa and laura said...

This is fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing!