Karen and Masato Nakada are Los Angeles-based graphic designers who work in various platforms from motion and editorial, to print and letterings. In Karen’s studio, Epic Layers, she creates vibrant and detailed designs for clients such as Nike, Coca Cola, and Target (just to name a few). Karen gives us a peek at how she does what she does:
Did you always want to be a graphic designer? How did you first get involved with design?
Like many other kids, I enjoyed arts and crafts since early on. However, designer was never my path as my dream was to become a scientist or architect. I didn’t find my true passion until my first exposure of design and illustration through my high school design class and my first design teacher, Mrs. Harman. The class, which I took for three years in a roll, expanded my knowledge, skill, and my possibility of becoming a design student at CalArts.
The colors in your projects are so fun to look at! Where do you find your inspiration?
Thank you! Color has always been a big part in my design but value is the driving force behind my color choices. Most of the time, I design in greyscale. Once the design is completed in black, white and greys, I then mix and match different colors to find the most appropriate combination to match greyscale value.
You do a wide range of projects, from letterings to motion graphics. What is your favorite type of project to work on? Are there any projects you have not yet approached, but would love to tackle?
There are great things about each type of project and how I can approach the design problem from different angles. However, lettering is always my favorite type of project since I can fully customize every single element in the piece to find the best solution for each job. As far as things I would love to try; there’s a long list on my website and it continues to grow. To name a few, I am interested in designing on dimensional objects rather it be a cup, lamp or a dish. Also, it would be wonderful to design projects that require physical interaction between the design and the user, such as a puzzle or a pop up book.
The detail in some of your projects, especially the Metamorphosis Project for CalArts Graduation, is beautiful. Do you have a design process you like to follow?
Project always begins with idea and concept. As for Metamorphosis, the idea is transformation. My goal was to design a piece that transforms in the user’s hand. With the goal in mind, I begin to explore form, design, style and tone while giving myself restriction based on the material, dimension, and printing technique. Calarts is a highly experimental and creative school and its graduation program should capture and reflect all its traits and principles in an expressive way. Metamorphosis is a mix media collage with drawings, found imagery and typography to represent the variety and uniqueness of the Calarts graduating class. Each element was carefully laid out to create the overall harmony of the piece. On top of that I utilized the offset printing to give a subtle, yet special, copper ink that will give a light shimmer as the user opens their program during the outdoor graduation.
Every step of process is designed and planned to bring the viewer a transformational experience.
Is there any advice you would give to someone who is just starting off as a graphic designer?
Design is a constant learning and exploring career. No one, even the best designer in the world, should think that they know everything about design. Never be too comfortable about one particular style or medium. Trying new things will bring new perspective and idea on how to solve a design problem.
Epic Layers is Karen’s solo portfolio, but recently Karen and Masato have joined forces to start a husband and wife design studio, The Happening. While Karen does a lot of motion and lettering on her own, Masato is very skilled in book design, coding and branding. Together, Karen and Masato are able to produce a more complete branding identity for businesses across all platforms. They are currently reaching out to agencies and local businesses for upcoming projects in 2014. If you think Karen’s work is beautiful, you’ll love the work coming from this talented team. Make sure you check out their website The Happening.