Gian Wong’s Illustrations and Type-Focused Designs Pack a Big Punch

Bold, whimsical, artistic, and colorful are just a few ways to describe how Gian Wong’s illustrations capture your attention. Hailing from Manila in the Philippines, Gian is a type-focused designer and illustrator who works at a tech company by day and moonlights as a freelance designer in his spare time. Gian’s approach to his work varies from client to client, but he has become renowned for bright, funky, and electric visuals that have become his signature typography style. His portfolio spans publishing houses like MacMillan, clothing brands such as UNIQLO, or cards from Hallmark. We sat down with Gian to chat about managing his side hustle, working as a freelancer, and how he collaborates with clients.

How do you manage working full-time and having a side hustle?

Juggling a day job and side hustle is definitely not a walk in the park. But when you come from outside the country’s capital and want to work there, bills and rent don’t come cheap. I needed to have another source of income and that was offering design services outside of my full-time job. Aside from that hard truth, I needed to have my own thing. I needed to do something where I make the decisions, express my own ideas, and establish my personal brand so I grow in different avenues in my career.

In a few words, can you describe your design aesthetic?

My work mostly centers around dynamic typography that combines expressive lettering and punchy colors. It’s always vibrant, energetic, and if described in one word: FUN.

Describe your design process from concept to final product

Like most design practices, my work always begin with research and auditing—knowing my client’s brand and understanding its pain points. Afterwards, I craft a  strategy or proposed design solution for them and get it approved. Then comes the (actually) easy part—the designing or visualization of the proposal. After some back and forth in between, the files are then finalized and delivered for whatever purpose (printing, digital, etc.)

Which brands or designers have had the biggest influence on your work?

Hey Studio, Karan Singh, and Lazy Oaf. If you know these brands/studios, they live and breathe color too! I love their work because of how much they’re able to communicate with color in every project they work on. There’s always a sense of statement, boldness, and freshness in their work and I resonate with that so much.

What have you learned from working with big-name brands like Hallmark and Levi’s?

  1. Big brands most likely will notice you and get in touch with you for your style or quality of work, so being consistent really pays off.

2. Expect that timeline is really tight, be sure to communicate your availability with them and commit to that.

3. Give them a good deal. Don’t be shy or afraid to negotiate or work on a good deal if you think their budget isn’t enough. Exposure won’t pay the bills.

How does the use of expressive lettering and bold colors enhance a brand’s message?

Lettering is a straightforward way of telling a message. I believe that if you play with it and explore unique letterforms, you’ll be able to tell a story and make it unique for a brand. Couple this with vibrant hues, you can make anything a head turner. Using both of this approach can definitely reinforce a brand’s message.

What are 5 tips you could give for working with clients as a freelancer?

  1. Prepare proper documentation. Make sure you protect yourself as a freelancer by having your client sign all agreements you have for the project.
  2. Try not to disclose your actual timeline with your client. If it could be done in three days, say you’ll need a week. This is helpful if you’re working on other projects as well and to give way for anything that may come up.
  3. Don’t undervalue your work. Never let clients shortchange you or trick you into getting exposure as payment.
  4. Charge a down payment and cancellation fee. This is to guarantee that the client has fully decided to work on the project with you and the hours you spend are paid for.
  5. Be professional and commit to the timeline. This is probably a no-brainer but if you deliver on time and become a pleasure to work with, clients will surely work with you again or refer you to other potential clients.

How do you manage a client’s needs and expectations?

Personally, whenever a client reaches out the first time—I always confirm if they prefer my approach and style. Additionally, having a mood board or stylescape is part of my research process to confirm if the look and feel is what the client is looking for.

How do you incorporate your own unique style and color palette to a client that has existing brand colors?

Usually, clients that hire me are comfortable working on multiple colors or palettes outside their brand colors. If the client reaching out has an existing color palette that doesn’t really match the type of colors or combinations I work on, I don’t move forward with them and communicate that someone else might have more expertise in the look they’re going for. People might think that’s a loss for me, but this is probably the advantages of having my own design practice—I get to decide which projects to work on.

What role does your website play in your business?

Having a portfolio website makes my design practice look more professional and of quality. It’s the one place potential clients or collaborators can have a look at my work and process. It makes the filtering of clients easier because they get a glimpse of the type of work I create and my approach to projects. Then if they like what they see, they could easily email me from there.

What tools or products do you use to manage your website?

I use WordPress as my content management tool and Semplice Studio for the look and design of my website.

What are your personal organization or time-management tips for a professional designer’s workflow?

Having a digital project management tool definitely helps in managing and having an overview of what projects are queued or what projects needs to be finished ASAP. This is helpful so I don’t overpromise and set my clients’ expectations regarding my timeline. Having it also digital is helpful, because I’m able to access it anytime, anywhere. Tools like Notion, Monday(dot)com, or Trello are good ones that I’ve tried out.

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Desiree Johnson
Desiree Johnson | Content Specialist
Desiree Johnson is a Content Specialist at Bluehost where she writes helpful guides and articles, teaches webinars and assists with other marketing and WordPress community work.

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