My name’s Ezra Yew Wah and I’m a 25 year old graphic designer/illustrator/ photographer based in Malaysia. After my stint with art school, I started my design career as a junior designer, working in a small agency at Kuala Lumpur, before leaving to London to further my studies.
The minute I arrived at Heathrow Airport, I instantly fell in love with the city and made a quiet vow to myself. To settle down and work here one day. Since then, I’ve slaved away to ensure the caliber of my work can earn myself a place in the city. At the end of my studies, I was the intern for Wallpaper* Magazine, Empire Design, and Elvis Communications. Then I returned home to Malaysia, and after 7 months of torturous months of planning and arrangement, I went back to London for a one year working experience with Courier Magazine. And now, I’m back in Malaysia again, continuing my efforts to return to London and find my place there.
When did you decide you wanted to be a graphic designer?
When I first graduated from high school, I pressured myself into making a decision of what I should be studying next. I end up enrolling into a business course at a local uni. It was a popular choice among high school graduates in Malaysia after all, so what could anything go wrong I tell myself. Needless to say, my performance was notoriously bad and my grades went from average to a complete joke in no time.
One day when I was designing some slides for one of my presentations, and I found myself editing and moving around the words, colour and pictures much longer than necessary. In fact I think I spent more time on the slides than the actual thesis itself. After the presentation and the submission of my paper, I was only most satisfied with the slides. Then I asked myself, if only there’s a job that lets me create pretty things for a living. And what happens next, as they say, is history.
Would you recommend studying at art school?
Oh yes definitely. I believe that creatives needs to be with other creatives during the development stage because it’s very important that a group of young students that has a passion for the arts can be around those who shares the same aspiration, and appreciation of it. As they can encourage each other in terms of productivity, keeping the passion running, and provide a healthy amount of competition. Plus, it’s imperative that creatives learn the skills and knowledge when it comes to design, from a seasoned designer that’s been working in the industry that most art schools provides. The industry experience and advice passed down from them is crucial for designers to prepare themselves before joining the design scene.
How long was it before design became your primary form of income?
The moment I took my first job right out of college, and receive my first pay check as a junior designer.
Could you describe your typical day?
For now, I’m in the midst of looking for a job/sorting my visa back to London. So it’s freelancing and daily trip to my local coffee house, fire up my ancient mac, spend some time on freelance work and sorting out all my London errands.
What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
That it’s always the hardest when you first venture into design. Typography’s frightening. Illustration’s impossible. Layout’s a nightmare. And they will stay that way for a while. Until one day perhaps, while tweaking a drawing or layout you did, in hopes to make it better, you’ll realise it’s not that scary anymore. It’s actually quite comforting and fun doing it. That’s when design will be slightly easier to proceed and you’ll start falling in love with it. So I wished I knew that. Know that eventually I’ll fall in love with design. Insecurities and doubts will eventually be less overpowering. And most importantly, to not give in to the fear of failure and let it take over you.
What’s the best thing about being a graphic designer?
The privilege of hearing kind compliments from the audience or my fellow designers that my work inspired them. That gave joy and satisfaction to me, knowing that my work reached out further that I can ever imagined. To a different town, state, or even country. That it brought along inspiration to many people as well. That will never cease to amaze, and bring me great happiness.
What’s the worst thing about being a graphic designer?
Our knowledge, skills, and passion about design being invalidated. The invalidation appears in so many forms. From cutting down our prices, people that has no training in design’s insistence of proceeding a design solution with their way instead of ours. Or even just a plain statement being delivered to our face that design is not that hard. Sometimes, the worst thing is, that I allowed what they said, to creep into my mind. Turning them into doubts about me and my skills. A conviction for me as a designer is trained and built over the years, and gave me the confidence to step up and rebuff the undeserving treatments and comments from the people around me.
If you weren’t a graphic designer, what would you be?
Most probably a cook, or even an actor (Most probably because I’m dramatic fool sometimes). A career in a creative field no doubt, as I truly believe it’s in my blood. Plus, I can’t do no decent math even if my life depends on it. So the creative field it is!
Any other tips you could share?
Develop a sense of humour to accompany you along the way. Life is tough and unpredictable. Might as well laugh about it or at yourself sometimes.