2 Minutes With ... Isaac Lee, Design Director at MCD Partners

On Samsung.com, goodNes and museum visits via Google Arts & Culture

Isaac Lee is a design director and head of the visual design group at MCD Partners, a digital marketing and experience design agency that's part of M&C Saatchi Worldwide.

He is responsible for developing original creative design solutions and approaches for large-scale experiences. He leads a team of designers, art directors and animators, and also teaches digital design at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York).

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


Isaac, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Seoul, Korea. Now living in Long Island, New York.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

It's kinda embarrassing, but I wanted to be a K-pop artist. Ha!

How you realized you were creative.

My family came from an art background. My dad's side had a few fine artists/painters, my mom has a passion for fashion, and my sister studied fine art at Pratt and became a designer. It was my sister who encouraged me and helped me get into art school. Once I got in, I had no doubt this was my life.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

There was this comic book series called The Terrifying Mercenary Baseball Team that I was a huge fan of growing up in Korea. The artist, Lee Hyun-sae, was my idol. I remember myself always doodling and copying his styles and the ways of expressing the emotions. I still hold that skill.

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

I always liked drawing, but I didn't have the support at the time for an expensive art school. So, being lost and not quite knowing where to go after high school, I decided to join the U.S. Army and take the chance to explore. l spent four years serving the country and during that time I had the opportunity to travel to various places in the world. It was a priceless experience and a turning point in my life.

A visual artist you admire.

Dieter Rams, an industrial designer known for designing products for Braun. His principles for good design—less, but better—are always inspiring.

A band or musician you love.

My range of genres is pretty wide. Classical is probably my favorite, and that's probably because my wife is an opera/classical singer. However, I also dig hip-hop, K-pop, country, rock, electronic and everything else.

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

I'm currently reading a book called Give and Take. Learning to become a giver so everyone can win.

Someone worth following on Instagram.

Christoph Niemann. He is an amazing illustrator and a visual storyteller who I quite enjoy every Sunday. His playfulness always reminds me to be like a child—creative and original.

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

Working remotely has always been in our agency's DNA at MCD Partners. We work across many different offices as well as clients, and in some ways, we are doing much better than before. There are so many great digital products that make team collaboration possible.

Personally, I was lucky enough to move out of the city just before the pandemic. Having more space, I was able to set up a home office and even extended the house to build a small cafe, so I can have an informal workspace. Not having to commute, our family is happier spending more time together. I can say that I've become more productive both for work and personal life.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.

I'd say Samsung.com. It's my motherland's brand that I'm proud of, and I was the lead designer for about five years, working on digital marketing and experience design. We were the ones who launched the very first responsive website for the U.S., which was then carried over to the global sites. Since then, the site has been redesigned again by another agency, so sharing the link is not appropriate. However, our bold decision to remove the oval shape around the logo still lives today.

A recent project you're proud of.

We've been working with Nestlé's internal agency to launch goodNes.com, a home of Nestlé's 28 brands under one cohesive design system. I'm proud of our team for pushing the technical boundaries and working directly with each brand to bring their unique voice and identity into the larger experience.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

This is really a cliché, but from the point when I got into art and design, Apple has always been an inspiration. They fuel creativity and innovation, and I can't imagine a world without them.

Someone else's work that you admired lately.

Since the pandemic, it's been tough to get out and enjoy museums. Then I came across this highly experiential website/app made by Google Creative Lab called Google Arts & Culture. The experience includes AR/VR, 360° videos, street views, interactive games and more to explore art and virtually visit museums around the world from just about anywhere. It's truly amazing!

The main strength of yours as a creative person.

Although I spend most of my day overseeing many designers and coaching them, I do get very hands-on to tackle the most complex problems. Sometimes, there is a need for the master to just roll up the sleeves and show how it's done.

Your biggest weakness.

I can be a control freak sometimes. Being very hands-on with designers, I often get very specific, leaving less room for their ideas. I'm working on it, though.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Once a year, I do a solo trip to recharge and experience different parts of the world, thanks to Airbnb. Just me with a backpack and a camera. The last place that I visited was Machu Picchu, Peru. Amazing! I shall continue when the pandemic is over.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Goodbyes.

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

I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

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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