2 Minutes With ... Shu Hung, ECD at AKQA
As an experienced creative director, editor and designer, Shu Hung has worked with global companies to create products and experiences that bridge business and culture. She is passionate about building diverse teams and ensuring that companies remain as connected as possible to the most important issues in the workplace.
Shu worked on marketing and digital strategy for Nike Women and Nike Sportswear, was global creative director at UNIQLO, and most recently led the creative team at Everlane. She is also the founder of Table of Contents, a physical and digital retail platform known for bringing avant-garde aesthetics to the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
We spent two minutes with Shu to learn more about her background, creative inspirations and some recent work she's admired.
Shu, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born in Quanzhou, Fujian, China. We immigrated to Hong Kong and then eventually settled in Seattle, Washington when I was 3. I split my time between NYC and L.A. these days.
How you first realized you were creative.
I remember my grandmother would have me read into a tape recorder when I was around 4-years-old as a way to help me learn English and also as a way to save memories. We would pick the books we wanted to read and I would add flourishes with my voice and even act out scenes from the stories. She made something very straightforward feel incredibly creative and fun.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
There were so many! I was obsessed with Roald Dahl books and would check them out by the armload from the library. I couldn't believe someone could have so many incredible, fantastic story ideas in their head. My dad would take me to the Fred Meyer store (a local chain) across the street every few months and buy me a CD of my choosing. I was ecstatic when I got my hands on Prince's 1999. My brother and I were huge Prince fans—I think we watched Purple Rain at least five times.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
My high school English teacher, Elaine Wetterauer, took me to a Maxine Hong Kingston reading once. In the car ride back, she said she imagined me doing exciting things in the future. I'll never forget that small but important moment of encouragement.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
I admire my friend Mariah Robertson. Her photographically-driven work transcends categorization and she has always stayed true to her vision!
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
I just finished reading Dr. Jenny Wang's book, Permission to Come Home: Reclaiming Mental Health as Asian Americans. Dr. Wang writes with such heart and insight about the mental health issues that are often overlooked and ignored in Asian American households. Her candor, generosity and tenderness left me teary-eyed on more than one cross-country flight!
Your favorite fictional character.
Kermit the Frog. He's considered an "order muppet," but I think he has elements of "chaos." He's charming, intelligent and can ride a bike and play the banjo at the same time!
Someone or something worth following in social media.
My friend Asmeret Berhe-Lumax started the community organization One Love Community Fridge. Along with a team of volunteers, Asmeret fills and maintains community fridges in New York that serve a growing number of people. Their social media is amazing to follow and gives you insight into the hours they put in ensuring all people have access to fresh fruit and vegetables (and sometimes ice cream) in the city.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
I was able to live with my in-laws in rural New Jersey for about eight months during the pandemic and it was an amazing way to reconnect with family and with nature. That time was really important in helping me develop ties to my partner's family and also to the place where he grew up. Remote working has made it possible to contribute and collaborate from anywhere and I have benefited from that freedom.
On the negative side, my parents haven't been able to see their extended relatives in China for years and it's possible they may not see them for a long while. My maternal grandmother is 96 and in assisted care in Xiamen; so it's heartbreaking to think we may never be reunited.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.
One of my favorite creative projects was 'Pitch Perfect" with The Fader and Nike Sportwear. Working with amazing partners at The Fader, we created a transmediaexperience that spanned music, community, sport, art and design. This was all against the backdrop of the World Cup in South Africa. I still find immense joy listening to the playlists created by global DJ's from each continent who contributed to the project.
A recent project you're proud of.
When I was the creative director at Everlane, I worked with the marketing, design and sourcing teams to produce the 100% MY BODY t-shirt. This limited-edition project was inspired by the 100% HUMAN campaign and 100% of profits went to the ACLU to support reproductive freedom. This was a direct response to the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe vs Wade and I was amazed by how quickly we mobilized to protest this decision using the tools we had, ie: t-shirts! We donated over $30k to the ACLU through this project.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
The films of Taiwanese director, Tsai Ming-liang, in particular What Time is it There? The pacing, casting and intensity of his films were incredibly inspiring.
Someone else's work you admired lately.
I admired the work of my friend Matt Jay, the founder and curator of End of Summer, a cross-cultural art program dedicated to exploring and supporting contemporary art from Japan. Matt was also the co-founder of THAT YEAR, an interdisciplinary creative studio and shop. I traveled to Portland, Oregon to see the last project Matt curated before he passed suddenly last year, Kenji Ide: A Poem of Perception at the Japanese Garden.
Your main strength as a creative person.
Finding great people and making sure they have what they need to do good work and have fun.
Your biggest weakness.
One thing that always makes you happy.
One thing that always makes you sad.
Indifference to suffering.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
Running a shop with vintage books and magazines from all over the world.
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.