We had the good fortune of connecting with Suzy An and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Suzy, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I grew up with creativity being an outlet for many facets of my childhood. I used it to play and entertain my siblings, cousins, friends, and myself. I was a visual learner and dyslexic growing up, so I used it to help overcome my struggles with reading and writing. I trained my right brain to work with my left—leveraging creativity to learn in a way that worked for me.

My parents had always been supportive of my creative passions. They didn’t see my interest in art as simply a phase or children’s play, nor did they get frustrated that I needed more attention in academics. I was still young, and they knew that I had many more opportunities ahead—very progressive coming from first-generation immigrant parents. Instead, their open-mindedness helped me realize that while I might not be good at expressing myself in words or good at memorizing my times tables, I could use colors, shapes, and composition to express my thoughts and find visual ways to learn.

My parents had introduced me to my earliest mentors, who had seen me become more dominant with my creative side while growing up. They guided me to OCSA, an art school in Orange County, in the seventh grade. All my prior struggles with dyslexia were gone by now, and I was doing well in my academic and conservatory (art) classes. During these years, I realized that art did not have to be just a hobby but that I could turn it into a career. A deeper dive into art exposed me to different avenues within the umbrella of art and design early on. I was fascinated by graphic design, which felt like a means of communication familiar to me—using type, color, and composition to communicate ideas. Similar to how I used them in my childhood.

I was the editor and chief for our school’s yearbook my senior year. It would be the first published project I worked on and a glimpse at what graphic design, team projects, deadlines, and leadership would be like moving forward. After graduating, I knew where I saw myself next. I found myself at my dream school ArtCenter. It was the most intense four years of my life but the most rewarding—surrounded by creative energy, inspiration from like-minded peers that had drastically different life experiences, and the network of creatives working in the industry as my professors and mentors.

What I wanted most out of my college education was practical—taking a skill and turning it into a career. I wanted to know how to take my passion for creating things and turn it into something I could make a living doing. I saw this as the most practical way to contribute to society while being excited and passionate about my work. Since then, I have worked at three different start-ups as a designer, bringing me to today.

I am currently a UI/UX designer for an LA-based food app in Koreatown called Foodup. I work with a team of designers and engineers to help our users find their favorite restaurants in LA’s Koreatown. I’ve channeled years of passion, practice, and process into my career. I’m excited to see the use and impact of my designs and happy to say that even after all these years, I haven’t lost touch with my creativity.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I entered the field as a multidisciplinary graphic designer‒a jack of all trades coming out of ArtCenter. I had a fundamental understanding of traditional graphic design, branding, motion design, and UI/UX design but was overwhelmed about launching my career and where to start. Initially, knowing how to do a lot of everything felt worse than being good at one thing. Having no prior experiences outside of school made me doubt myself. Thus, there was some trial and error when the time came to apply for jobs. Selling myself was a struggle as I am my worst critic and originally an introvert by nature. While speaking to one’s successes is one thing, what got me to where I am today was not through words but my actions.

Luckily the job hunt wasn’t long. I was offered my first role as a designer for a startup introduced to me by a friend. They hired me on the spot as my friend vouched for me during my interview‒of course, I also checked the boxes for portfolio and resume. They were looking for someone to multi-manage design projects for different businesses‒a restaurant franchise, B2B service, and a car trading app. I found out that I liked the excitement of channeling my creative energy into multiple projects. It kept me thinking of what was next and ready to learn something new. The best part of this role was that working alongside stakeholders and engineers helped me overcome my intimidation of public speaking.

Besides gaining more field experience as a designer and narrowing down my specialization to UI/UX design. I learned a lot of the soft skills that I still use today, and it’s opened a lot more opportunities for me as a designer. I get asked to be a part of projects and work for clients that come to me similarly through word of mouth. For example, I am currently working at the startup Foodup. We are a group of designers, engineers, entrepreneurs that collaborate well as a team, leave our egos behind, and love food. It’s still early on in my career, but my attitude towards how I work and the people I work with are just as crucial to the work itself. I think that’s what sets me apart‒it makes me unique.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a movie fanatic. So I’d base my tour around the movie La La Land as a starting point because it covers some classics spots around LA. Starting with a hike from Griffith Park to the observatory‒the hike isn’t a stroll, but the views are so much more rewarding, I find, this way. It’s also more efficient than driving up when traffic is bad, and there’s nowhere to park.

I’d drive out of LA and head to Pasadena, where we’ll pass the Colorado Bridge and make a pitstop at ArtCenter’s Hillside Campus, sit with the deers for a bit and enjoy some student artwork. Then, head down to South Campus and visit old town Pasadena to enjoy coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee and remanence about college.

I’d make a day out of downtown LA to visit Grand Central Market and Angel’s Flight in one go. Since we’re in the area, we’d pick up some Eggslut for brunch. Then make our way to the Arts District, explore the site, visit Poketo, take photos with the street art as our backdrop. There’s a restaurant in the area that I got introduced to recently called Damian. I’m so obsessed over the vibe and the selection of cocktails that I plan to take everyone I know there. The patio seating is a must, though I’d like to try indoor as well the next time I visit.

I’d make my friends stay at the June hotel. It’s a cute boutique hotel near Venice Beach that attracts millennials like myself. The aesthetic is modern but with elements of wood to give a welcoming atmosphere. It’s about 20 minute drive to one of the best brunch spots I’ve been to in a while. Fig Tree has checked the boxes for both taste and being Instagram worthy. It sits right next to the beach, so it’s great for a weekend brunch.

I am wrapping up my tour with a final hike, this time near Santa Monica. Los Liones Road leads to Parker Mesa overlook, where a grand panoramic view stretches as far as Catalina Island. It’s a view that I recommend everyone in LA try once.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
A shout out to my professors Ming Tai and Petrula Vrontikis from ArtCenter, who has always been an email away. A special thanks to Richard Lee, CEO of Foodup, who nominated me to have this interview and share my story with a community of creatives and entrepreneurs.

Website: https://www.suzyan.info/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/suzyan94/

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