Zipeng Zhu is a Chinese born designer, illustrator and art director. After graduating from The School of Visual Arts, he worked at Pentagram and Sagmeister & Walsh before starting his New York-based studio, Dazzle, where he wants to make everyday a razzle-dazzle musical. Some of his clients include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Netflix, The New Yorker, Refinery29, and Chobani. Zipeng is an accomplished creative who gained recognition as Print Magazine’s visual artist and The One Show Young One’s winner, in addition to exhibiting his world globally!
He recently visited the Shillington New York campus to talk about this path to becoming a designer and present his favorite projects. We caught up with Zipeng afterward to find out more about his creative journey and discover more of his amazing work.
Originally you were planning on pursuing a career in an entirely different field before deciding to move to New York from China to study design at SVA in 2009. Describe your creative path to where you are now.
When I was a teen, all I wanted to be was a manga (Japanese comic) artist. Unfortunately, after years of practicing, I realized I had absolutely no talent in drawing. But that left me with a huge amount of Photoshop knowledge, so I started to make posters and got absolutely hooked. At that time I was a biochem student and was set to study that at college. One day my art teacher asked me if I had ever considered graphic design as a major. The second I learned that I could make a living by making posters, the rest became history.
You were interning at Pentagram for a few months before getting the amazing opportunity to work at Sagmeister & Walsh as their senior designer. Tell us about your experience working there.
SCARY! Well, the first week was…I was having non-stop nightmares every single day when I started. Paula was not scary but definitely intimidating. She was super patient with me and all my colleagues, though. Besides the scary first week, interning for her was extremely rewarding and very surreal. After four months there I walked away with six projects under my belt and had become the fastest working I’d ever been.
Tell us about your experience of starting your own studio.
I didn’t have any specific reasons apart from the fact that I felt it was time.
I felt I’d worked in two of the world’s most prestigious design studios and it was time for me to try it out in the real world by myself. I’m very blessed and lucky that I haven’t had the need to look for any clients yet.
What do you look for in a new hire?
For a new hire, I’m looking for is a kind, hard-working person that can bring a different perspective, voice, and skillset to the project.
What have been your favorite projects so far?
Whichever one I just finished. Every single project I worked on comes with a huge effort, so it’s really hard to name my favorite child! Working on A Nightclub, a VR game, a musical, and my own online store. I’m also working on a persona project that I can’t tell you about yet. Stay tuned!
In your lecture, you mentioned the importance of standing out, finding out how to differentiate your work and discovering what makes you unique. What other advice would you give to designers starting out in their career?
Work hard and be nice. Don’t take things personally.
Which designers or artists are you loving at the moment?
Your Instagram is filled with colorful creations—from illustrations to type-based designs. Do you think it’s important for designers to have side projects outside of their work?
It really up to the individuals. But really worked for me and it has become my therapy, so if you have the time and the passion, go for it!
What is your proudest career achievement to date?
Achievement-wise it’s definitely still living in NYC after ten years. I still can’t believe it.
Huge thanks to Zipeng for coming to the Shillington New York campus and sharing his amazing colorful work with the students, and chatting with us afterward. Stay up to date with Dazzle Studio on Instagram and website.
At Shillington, we had creatives from top design studios visiting for a guest lecture. Check out more interviews from guest speakers!