Diana Lee, graphic designer at Bellweather, on her design process, AI, and her rug-making business, plus an insider’s guide to St. Louis eats, drinks, and art.
How did you find your way to graphic design?
I grew up loving art, and I wanted to be an artist. In college, marketing was a field where I could learn about business and still be in the creative world, and then I added a graphic design minor. Once I finished school, I worked at brand agencies, overseeing client services as a project manager, where I worked closely with designers. Those collaborations illustrated how connected marketing, design, and strategy are. Marketing is your voice, graphic design is how you visually communicate, and strategy is your connection and value to audiences. I knew I needed to be part of this process. I started working as a freelance designer and built my design background from there. Seeing my campaigns and designs out in the wild is so rewarding as a designer.
On the design process:
How do you find inspiration?
I love walking through grocery stores and looking at the packaging. I’m also a big architecture and art history nerd. I get a lot of inspiration from house tours and museum visits. My most recent and favorite museum trip was to the Noguchi Museum. I could spend all day sitting in their garden. During the pandemic, I started making rugs (Maedup). Rug-making and graphic design go hand-in-hand. It allows me to translate my designs into something tactile. I typically approach making rug designs with a combination of both traditional and digital art. Inevitably, I’m always thinking about my work as a designer, and I find that I can use my rug-making world as an experimental playground to play with different fonts and programs.
Since the pandemic, I’ve sold commissioned rugs to customers all over the country. I also sell at local art markets in St. Louis.
What’s your favorite part of the design process?
The execution is the most rewarding. We are a remote team living in different time zones and cities, but seeing how well we all work together is incredible. The team comes together to activate an idea after many iterations and refinements to build a campaign or website for millions of people to see. And then, the moment the work becomes real, seeing your work in the wild, seeing MetroPlusHealth ads on a subway banner, or Visit Baltimore ads in New York magazine, is the cherry on top.
What does your process look like? How does it begin?
The beginning is daunting because there are so many options! I get overwhelmed sometimes, and I sometimes start over and over. I spend a lot of time on the computer, so it’s nice to get back to basics, pull out a pen and a piece of blank paper, and start drawing.
Can you describe your aesthetic in a few words?
Functional, quirky, clean, and simple.
On the future of design:
With the recent conversations around AI and ChatGPT, what are your thoughts on how this technology will affect marketing and design?
It is a valuable tool in terms of optimizing processes. I’ve seen AI edit videos, which is helpful to designers because it allows them more time to focus on creating. I also hope it will empower users and open up space in the design world where it may have been limited to communities. This conversation returns to the fact that people want to feel like they belong. We want genuine human experiences to relate to, and I see momentum for human-centered design and marketing in our future.
Do you have any advice for emerging designers?
Design is constantly changing. There are so many choices and decisions to make, so you have to learn to trust yourself and your instincts as a designer. Be open to absorbing and learning, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
On finding the perfect balance at Bellweather:
How did you come to work for Bellweather?
Before coming to Bellweather, I was in client services, working closely with CPG brands and promotional products. Those projects revolved around creating brand awareness for new and existing companies. I loved observing the journey from strategy to design. I joined the Bellweather team as a graphic designer in 2021. In the different majors I had considered in college, the underlying question was always: How can I help people? At Bellweather, I have the best of both worlds. I get to work with purpose-driven clients like MetroPlusHealth, Be SMART, and CalKids, while exploring my creative side through graphic design.
What do you enjoy most about working at Bellweather?
It’s been amazing to have the trust of my team, Bellweather’s clients, and our partners to continue learning and growing. The opportunities I’ve had in the field and seeing our work out there have been such a gratifying experience as a graphic designer.
Do you have a client wish list?
I would love to work with a music festival attached to a purpose or a cause. There are many coveted music festivals out there. Music festivals like M3F Festival and Global Citizen Festival are doing good work. M3F Festival donates 100% of every ticket to a chosen charity, and Global Citizen Festival works to end extreme poverty. I’ve seen a lot of my favorite artists featured in past lineups. I dream of working with my favorite artists to impact our communities positively. Music is unifying and fuel for social change.
Diana’s It List
Last live concert that you loved?
Favorite show/s to binge-watch?
My bucket list travel destination is Vinicunca in Peru (a.k.a. Rainbow Mountain), but I will happily travel anywhere with a lake or ocean view.