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Belinda Kou

Belinda Kou

Meet Chicago-based lettering artist and illustrator, Belinda Kou.

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a Chicago-based lettering artist and illustrator with a penchant for all things visually and physically tasty. I specialize in combining hand lettering with illustration to create dynamic, colorful artwork and make it a goal to make viewers of my work creatively inspired and a little bit hungry. 😉

I’ve had a rather nonlinear career path (more on that later!), but have recently transitioned to freelance to pursue my passion for lettering and illustration full time after leaving my agency job as associate art director. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with clients like NPR, The Washington Post, Logitech, Pilot Pen, Ottogi and Lotte.

 

Describe the city you’re living in and what it’s like to live there.

I’ve been in Chicago for over 10 years and love it. It’s easy to be inspired in a city that’s bustling with people, energy, and lots of events. I love that the art scene is pretty active here along with endless options for where to eat.

 

I specialize in combining hand lettering with illustration to create dynamic, colorful artwork and make it a goal to make viewers of my work creatively inspired and a little bit hungry. 😉

 

What is the best and worst thing about living in your city?

There are almost always events going on that you can attend for networking, for fun, and for professional development. I love that there are museums, parks, and plenty of restaurants nearby to explore. It’s hard to get bored in this city!

One of the worst things is the segregation – it’s diverse but still quite segmented.

 

Give us 3 words that describe what it’s like to be a creative in your city.

Inspiring, active, entertaining

 

How did you start your career in art?

Looking back, it seems that my path towards where I am today always started with getting obsessed with a hobby. I’ve always been interested in drawing since I was a kid but grew up thinking that I should focus on pursuing a career in the sciences (something more “stable”) and just keep art as a hobby. In college, I got involved in student organizations and took on the role of communications chair in many of them, which was how I stumbled into graphic design. It wasn’t until after I spent a couple of years in Teach for America working as a teacher (not really knowing what I wanted to do after), that I decided to pursue a career in graphic design. Best decision ever. From there, I discovered hand lettering, got obsessed with lettering as a hobby, and eventually that led to where I am today.

 

Looking back, it seems that my path towards where I am today always started with getting obsessed with a hobby.

Were the people around you supportive of your decision on working as a creative?

When I finally decided to pursue a career in graphic design, I was surprised at how supportive my family and friends were. It was pretty unanimous that they all knew it was going to happen eventually. It was just a matter of when.

 

What are some goals and ambitions you have for your future work?

I keep my goals fairly general and fluid now that I’ve experienced how much my career path can change. For the time being, I am looking forward to working with more of my dream clients, building up experience running a business, and aim to put my teaching skills to use by hosting in-person workshops and teaching online.

 

I keep my goals fairly general and fluid now that I’ve experienced how much my career path can change.

If you could collaborate with any person in the world who would it be?

I’ve always looked up to the earlier lettering artists like Jessica Hische, Eric Marinovich and Dana Tanamachi and think it would be such a great learning experience if I ever had a chance to collaborate with them.

 

How would you describe the women around you?

I am thankful that I am surrounded by women who are strong, independent and motivated. They help me to stay on my toes and provide support in my freelance career.

 

Were there any local female creatives that you looked up to when you were growing up?

I grew up in a town with very little diversity, and unfortunately, there were no local creatives that I knew that I could look up to at the time. The community I was surrounded by was more focused on getting a career in law, business or medicine than anything else. If I had a local role model with a similar background and upbringing, I’d very likely had jumped into the art world MUCH earlier.

 

Are there any challenging aspects of being a female in your industry?

I have not personally experienced challenges specific to being a female when going freelance and working at home, but I think partly that is because the community that I am a part of is very supportive and encouraging. It’s easier to see issues of gender disparity in an agency setting, and unfortunately, situations like differences in career growth, pay, and uncertain attitudes toward maternity leave still crop up.

 

My advice would be to keep pursuing your passion, even if you encounter failures.

Do you have any advice to young women who are aspiring to work in your field?

My advice would be to keep pursuing your passion, even if you encounter failures. It’s not really a failure if you can learn from it. Find ways to create work that you’re proud of and then put that work out there. Keep going even when it’s scary—you’re probably in the right place and about to enter a moment of immense growth if you are willing to embrace that fear and do it anyway.

 

 

Photos courtesy of Belinda Kou.

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