2011 NVA Winner: Angela Zhu

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By the Print staff

Title/Type of Work: Designer, Art DirectorFrom: Hong Zhou, ChinaLives in: Los Angelas, CaliforniaAge: 28Education: BA in Illustration, Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California

Angela Zhu was a painter before she was a designer, and she says one of her earliest role models was Andrew Wyeth, whose ability to create an alluring and living world in a painting made her want to do the same.

“Painting taught me how to translate what I see onto a 2-D surface through prioritizing and simplifying, so that others can see how I see. Understanding that concept has helped me create believable worlds and evoke emotional connections in the work,” she says.

After earning a bachelors degree in Illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Zhu saw her training as a bridge to her career as a video art director. “I see motion as sequential painting, which has the same ability to tell stories,” she explains.

HP commercial "Fergie."

The fusion of narrative and art is a major part of Zhu’s vocation; the talent she has for marrying these two concepts is apparent in her work on the IBM commercial “Data Baby,” which shows how advances in technology lead to more efficient healthcare and medical developments, and how this, in turn, can ensure the best possible care for an infant. Zhu wanted to maintain a sense of humanity; in the commercial, an ethereal digital mobile circles around a baby, providing a glimpse to the technology from which the child will ultimately benefit. “Visual inspirations come from every source,” she says. “Nature is the best designer. Through imitating nature, I have learned how to create.”

Design frames for Tanqueray "3 Glasses" commercial.

It all goes back to a painting sensibility; in the case of “Data Baby,” Zhu made an invisible world—the detailed data of technology we often don’t see ourselves—visible. She describes her own progression best: “Painting taught me how to see,” she says. “Design taught me how to think.”

I see motion as sequential painting, which has the same ability to tell stories.