Herman Lee is a designer currently based in Hong Kong after living most of his life in Toronto.
His works have been featured for notable brands such as Phoenix Suns of the NBA, Levi’s, And A, CLOT, Stussy, VLONE, Indiana High School Athletic Association among others.
Intervew by Dominique Musorrafiti
China-Underground: How did your adventure in the design world begin?
Herman Lee: It all began when I started submitting artworks to t-shirt design competitions Threadless and Design by Humans in the early 2000s. A couple of my designs were chosen for print, and then I pivoted most of my designs into fashion and apparel graphics. Then recognition I got from those two sites helps build a steady base of clients in search of t-shirt graphics for their label.
“if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re in the wrong business” I love your shirt
Did you do specialized studies or your work are the results of your passion?
I studied Graphic Design at Toronto’s George Brown College, majoring in Advertising. I started submitting t-shirt designs at the same time, so I would say my works and designs are the results of both my passion and specialized studies.
What are your sources of inspiration and what is the creative process behind your T-shirt?
Usually, my creative process behind my t-shirt designs are pretty much all things around me. Daily news, chats, forums, vintage archive digging and daydreaming. My first personal graphics outlet for my designs I launched late last year called Virtual-Vagrant (www.virtual-vagrant.com). Each launch is categorized as a case study, each item is labeled with “Case Study 001” to give the item a collector’s vibe feel. For my first capsule, my inspirations were based on Time Travel, which the concept I was heavily intrigued by since I’ve watched the first Back to the Future film.
Do you also create designs with educational messages or that reflects your personal philosophy of life?
I wouldn’t say my designs contain any kinds of really deep messages or personal philosophy in it. Most of my designs I would ask myself “Would I wear it?”, so I suppose in a way that my personal philosophy, haha.
What did it mean for your artistic path to grow in Canada?
In Canada, the vibe is quite chill and the pace is much slower, which sculpted my personality and at how I approach things. Whereas Hong Kong is such a sleepless city, where everything around you revolves so fast and is in constant change. I would say had I stayed in Hong Kong and didn’t immigrate to Canada, my artistic path would have been really different. I can’t exactly pinpoint what would be totally different in the grand scheme of things, but I personally think my artistic path may take an altered direction because of the vast difference between the two countries.
How important is the web in promoting your work?
I think social media is the most important media promoting one’s work. Lots of promo information we gather are from the web, whereas traditional media such as television or magazine aren’t as strong as it was 5 years ago. Lots of publications and broadcast channels are going under or pivoting their focus because of the strong presence of web.
Photos courtesy of Herman Lee