- Presented by Havas New York

2 Minutes With … Brian Lai, Head of Design at Havas NY

On 'Opi's,' 'The Issue Within the Issue,' and seeking out experiences post-Covid

This edition of "2 Minutes With" is paid content presented by Havas NY, a supporting partner of the 2022 Clio Awards.

Brian Lai joined Havas New York as head of design last August after four years as creative director of design at Grey, where he helped run the agency design group. 

Brian is a traditionally trained graphic designer who has a hybrid background in branding and advertising design. He has worked at brand consultancies such as Landor and Interbrand and advertising agencies including Leo Burnett and Droga5.

We spent two minutes with Brian to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations, and recent work he's admired.

Brian, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I've always been big a city guy. I was born in Hong Kong, grew up in Chicago, now living in New York City.

How you first realized you were creative.

When I was praised for making cool signs for school fundraisers in middle school. I drew/doodled them by hand with a Sharpie.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Fashion designer Alexander McQueen. He masterfully used his designs to challenge societal standards.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

Freshman year in college, I absolutely couldn't cut a straight line with a bandsaw and almost cut my finger off. Failed the equipment safety test for industrial design. It solidified my decision to go into graphic design.  

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Yayoi Kusama. I'd never get tired of exploring the different emotions in Yayoi's work.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Everything Everywhere All at Once. The level of imagination is next level and it is one of the most visually stimulating films of all time.

Your favorite fictional character.

Miranda Priestly.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

@shoshibuya. His work is incredibly simple yet extremely impactful. He's a master in simplicity.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

Covid has shifted my perspective in many ways. I used to be a bit of a homebody and preferred staying home. Now I am always out doing something, chasing after new experiences.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

"Opi's." An awareness and fundraising campaign for infants born withdrawing from opioids and a guide for at-risk mothers to the treatment they need.

A recent project you're proud of.

"The Issue Within the Issue" with the Ali Forney Center. It's not every day a designer gets to use design and creativity to do good and impact society in a positive way.

The Issue Within the Issue
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Michael Bierut is an OG in creating smart, conceptual designs that are bold, institutive and impactful.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

Tien-Min Liao is a really cool typographer who does custom type in both English and Chinese.

Your main strength as a creative person.

The ability to step back and edit.

Your biggest weakness.

The inability to crack a joke. Need to work on my humor.

One thing that always makes you happy.

That my parents are happy and I am making them proud.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Setbacks in human rights and inequality.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I would want to be a food journalist.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Havas New York

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