Claire Kang is a designer, animator, and ceramicist negotiating the boundaries of dimensionality through her interdisciplinary craft.
Having recently joined Nike’s brand design team in Portland, and named the recipient of Motiongrapher’s Best New Talent, Kang’s dynamic work is defined by stylistic and material fluidity between analogue and digital sculpting practices.
Her practice illustrates the conversational qualities of 3D to inform and facilitate impactful design, digital and otherwise.
“When trying to solve a 3D design problem, it helps to look at it through the lens of a tactile, analogue approach.”
How does being a ceramicist influence your 3D work?
I was always very interested in making objects with my hands while attending Art Center College of Design. I love the art of crafting—the process of experimenting with materials and building sculptural forms.
I discovered Cinema 4D and Motion Design during my third semester and became instantly infatuated by the possibilities. With a whole new array of tools in my arsenal, I expanded my obsession with crafting into a different platform.
I often find myself using the different mediums to inform each other. When ideating shapes or series of clay, I play with 3D forms first. And when trying to solve a 3D design problem, it helps to look at it through the lens of a tactile, analogue approach. To me, 3D is simply another tool with extraordinary capabilities. I approach both mediums with the same design thinking.
Are there other analogue mediums you are interested in introducing into your design toolkit?
I’d love to get into working with metal and fabric! I’m fascinated with the world of Industrial Design and would love to explore building furniture and other function-driven objects.
“It’s great fun to make shiny and glossy objects within the 3D world. But so is exploring ways to make evocative visuals and forms that have human touch and emotion.”
What's your process like?
I draw inspiration from so many different things. People, environments, music, art, technology, internet, culture. My interests and tastes are constantly evolving and changing. This probably explains my eclectic range of work that can sometimes go in all kinds of sporadic directions.
“I enjoy the unexpectedness formed out of different influences and factors.”
But I think that’s what keeps things interesting. Juxtaposing ideas, working across mediums, learning new programs and creating new things. It keeps me intrigued and excited about it all.
I think the process of tinkering is important for a designer and artist. I like to experiment on small personal projects without setting parameters, just to see what can organically grow from the process. I enjoy the unexpectedness formed out of different influences and factors.
Tell us more about learning VR.
I had the chance to work on some amazing VR projects with the brilliant David Chontos, Director at Psyop and the motion team at Wieden + Kennedy of Portland. Definitely some of my favorite projects I’ve had the chance to take part in. There was one project during which we spent weeks conceptualizing and visualizing a new VR platform.
“The impact of your design grows exponentially because you are creating an entirely immersive experience.”
There’s a lot more to consider while working in VR because it enables creatives to have new perspectives and therefore, able to produce interactive and compelling work. The impact of your design grows exponentially because you are creating an entirely immersive experience.
There’s always room for innovation when designing for VR. The challenge is how to create new content that is both engaging and narrative. It’s something I’m eager to continue exploring.
“I strive to create visuals that capture emotion or even just a moment, however fleeting it may be.”
How would you define your design approach?
I’m interested in the connections between the tangible and intangible, the interactions between the digital and physical world. It’s great fun to make shiny and glossy objects within the 3D world.
But so is exploring ways to make evocative visuals and forms that have human touch and emotion. For me, it’s a collaboration between varieties of context and mediums. I strive to create visuals that capture emotion or even just a moment, however fleeting it may be.
How has it been working on Nike's brand design team?
Before I made the move to Portland, I was working as a freelance designer at motion production companies and agencies in LA. We worked on some really cool commercial spots, experiences and games. Now working at Nike, the scope has grown even broader. We are working on global campaigns that have so many moving parts and all move simultaneously.
“That’s what keeps things interesting. Juxtaposing ideas, working across mediums, learning new programs and creating new things.”
Our process goes from strategy to visual design to photoshoots to retail design to motion design and beyond. There are a lot of new things to consider and concept. It’s been eye opening to be on the other side of the design process, basically as the agency and client; crafting the vision and brief, visualizing the big picture.
At Nike I’m surrounded by incredibly talented people that challenge the way I design and think. Being able to apply and evolve my design aesthetic to new formats and have the opportunity to help shift culture is really exciting.
I’ve discovered and met some super talented artists and designers through social media. We have a few collaboration projects in the works. I’m stoked to see how our different personal styles and ideas will collide and create something cool and fresh.
Definitely want to continue finessing my craft as a designer and exploring new mediums. I’d love to get a studio space in Portland where I can work on my ceramics, make projection mapping and installation art, print risograph and make endless 3D worlds and visual experiments.