ArtCenter has a reputation for challenging students to meet and exceed their most formidable professional ambitions, often in record time. Case in point: Graphic Design alum Pearlyn Lii, who didn’t miss a beat translating a stand-out undergraduate portfolio into a coveted job in the New York office of the prestigious design studio, SYPartners. The San Francisco-based firm, which describes itself as a “product-creation engine dedicated to helping individuals, teams, and companies be great” (and counts Apple, Facebook, Nike and Target among its clients), first discovered Lii’s unique talents through the series of Student/Space videos chronicling her creative process as she completed a class assignment— a book project about artist Brian Eno.
The College launched the Student/Space video series in fall 2013 to capture the essence of what it means to be an ArtCenter student by illuminating the art of making, from conception to completion. The idea was to capture the agony and ecstasy of creativity itself. So each term, three students from different disciplines were selected to collaborate on a series of three videos capturing the process of completing an ambitious class project, from beginning to end.
Lii was one such exemplary student, whose dazzling visual storytelling abilities and sophisticated ideation resonated with anyone who caught a glimpse of her work. But despite the overwhelmingly positive reception to her Student/Space series, Lii, who has already started work at SYPartners, remains an ArtCenter alum, for whom any creative work is in a state of perpetual iteration. To wit: Lii recently created updated 2016 versions of two of her three original episodes and filled us in on the details of her bullet train-ride to her dream job and the next set of goals on her horizon.
Why did you decide to refresh episode 1 and 2 of this series?
It’s amazing how much change can happen in a year. I created the episodes as I was in term, from the start of the Eno project. It may be counterintuitive, but you think: “Oh, it might be easier to say what you’re doing as it’s fresh in your mind, as you’re steeped in the process.” But truthfully, a story is easier told in retrospect. You see the bigger picture, and that’s what I’ve come to do. I extracted artifacts from that period of time, and repackaged the story so it’s more succinct, fun-sized, digestible.
What did you learn about your own creative process from the experience of making this series of videos about this Brian Eno project?
That it’s never a clear path. But that’s not news. Your brain fools you to believe that with each new project, it’ll go the way you think. Discovery is the only constant, and that’s the stimulant creatives need to stay creative—not knowing what it’ll look like at the end—being completely immersed in the moment, the process.
What are you most proud of from your time at ArtCenter?
Learning that you can never learn enough.
What are you doing now?
It’s come full circle. Because of these episodes I’ve created, some alums at SYPartners discovered this project on the Dotted Line. I got an email from some SYP peeps, and we had conversations and completely aligned. I find that so special, to meet people in this world that you can share a distinct connection with. A year and a half later, I’m here in New York, working at the SYP office. It’s only been a week, and everyday you learn something new. Many things. And that’s what you can only hope for in new adventures.
What are your goals for the near and distant future?
Leadership is so important to me. ArtCenter helped develop that passion from within. I care for people around me, and for those I’ve yet to meet. I think changing the world is often said to be this intangible thing, but it’s through each relationship you foster that makes it otherwise. Leadership, the psychology of it, is so multifaceted, nuanced—every new bit about it can only be unlocked through experience (big or small) and learning from those around you. That’s a captivating challenge.