2 Minutes With... Kevin Lau, ECD at +Mode by MOCEAN

On working with Dave Meyers for Kendrick Lamar's 'Humble' video

Kevin Lau joins MOCEAN as executive creative director of design and branding. Previously, Lau was an ECD at Digital Domain, overseeing the company's advertising and new media/experiential groups. Prior to that, he was a founding partner of TIMBER, a design and visual effects boutique, where he helped craft campaigns for Best Buy, Samsung, Beats, T-Mobile, Chevy and Comcast. He has also had a hand in developing high-profile music videos for artists like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Kendrick Lamar. Moving forward, Kevin will expand MOCEAN's portfolio of services for entertainment and brand clients.

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

Kevin, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up an hour south of L.A. in Orange County. I went on to get my degree at Cal State University Long Beach, where I studied design. I then moved to L.A. proper, where I spent the last 20 years or so between Santa Monica and Echo Park. Recently, my life has come full circle. Last year, I moved back down to Long Beach, which I guess you can say is the happy medium between my O.C. and L.A. lifestyles. 

How you first realized you were creative.

From an early age I have always been into storytelling and media production. I was always making short films on the family camcorder and using two VCRs to edit the footage together. One time in high school I convinced my history teacher to let me produce a documentary about Pearl Harbor instead of doing a term paper. In the end it ended up being way more work, so I'm not sure if I conned him or he conned me.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Kind of cliche, but I have always been a fan of Massimo Vignelli. I don't think it was a conscious thing at the time, but I was always gravitating towards the same clean designs and layouts as I was starting my design education. Once I connected the dots I realized that his work as a whole was always part of my design refs. His work with the New York City subway system is a great example of his mastery of modernist design. His simple and clean approach to systems and information was always refreshing and boiled down to its key elements of visual communication. 

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

The day my father brought home our first Apple Macintosh (a Quadra 800) was probably the event that sent me down the path I have been traveling for the better part of my life. Photoshop 3 had just come out and it was the introduction of layer-based compositing. That blew my mind. I stayed home reading the manual and messing around with photoshop manipulating pictures while most of my friends were playing Nintendo. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I have always been fascinated with David Bowie. His creative influence spanned decades, and he was always able to stay interesting and relevant. It wasn't just a singular sound or style, but rather a new persona and creative energy with every incarnation. 

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

Always down for a good NPR podcast. It’s been fun listening to the How I Built This podcast to hear all the stories of how some of today's biggest brands got their starts. It really is fascinating to hear the origin story from the founders themselves. 

Your favorite fictional character.    

Indiana Jones. Such a great character. The reluctant hero thrust into amazing adventures in the pursuit of knowledge and truth. Also, he beats up Nazis. What’s not to love? The original trilogy was so well constructed and are some of the best adventure movies in my opinion.

Someone or something worth following in social media.    

@motiongraphics_collective is always a good source for some daily eye candy. It's a nicely curated collection of motion design with no particular style or agenda. Just nice things to look at. 

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

Covid was an interesting time. It reminded me that we are all connected. It was like one of those sci-fi movies where the giant alien spacecraft start to appear in the sky in different cities across the globe. It was the first time in history that we were all facing the same uncertainty at the same time. Covid shrunk the world and reminded us of how we can all have an impact on each other and our community and to remember to spend time with our close family and friends.

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

Working on Kendrick Lamar’s "Humble" was humbling (yeah, I went there). Not only did I get to work with one of my favorite music video directors, Dave Meyers, but the video went on to be a cultural touchpoint. That’s the kind of project that can be really satisfying and fulfilling. Those moments when you create something that makes waves and will leave a lasting impression on a viewer and a time in history. I like to think that this video will inspire some young talented creators to continue making music/art/design in the way that music videos had done for me when I was younger.

A recent project you're proud of.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working on this fully animated short film for Apex Legends. It combined a ton of disciplines across the board and was a huge undertaking.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Saul Bass has always been a great reference and a point of inspiration. Very early on he was able to bridge the ideas of design and animation. He has created some of the most iconic logos in the world in addition to being a pioneer in motion title design.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I have really been into the dynamic type of Mat Voyce. His Instagram is a gold mine of awesome typography.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Curiosity is probably the best thing to help keep your creative edge. Constantly learning and never feeling like the truth is set in stone helps you to remain nimble and not fall into conceptual and stylistic ruts.     

Your biggest weakness.    

Self doubt. I don’t care who you are, that monkey always finds a way of poking its nose into things. But I think in the end it's that sickness that keeps us striving to create and perfect things.       

One thing that always makes you happy.    

A good dance party. But in all seriousness, those moments where you find yourself caught in the moment. It could be a dance party, a logo design, or sitting on the beach with some friends. It's just those moments when you let yourself be consumed.

One thing that always makes you sad.        

Reading the news.

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

If I wasn't in design or advertising, I would probably be in something related to technology. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about renewable energy and battery technology. But alas my brain doesn't work that way and I am much more visually inclined. If I was in charge of batteries, they would probably blow up.

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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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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