Since graduating from Shillington, Nataly Lee has cultivated a vibrantly diverse creative career working as a stylist, photographer, blogger and designer. She’s made her own rules and reality—splittings her time between creative pursuits in Australia and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
We sat down with Nataly to learn more for Shillington Post 03—The Maverick Issue.
How did you get your start?
Having a creative career wasn’t something I imagined was possible as I came from an immigrant family and the expectation—or so I thought—was to become a doctor or a lawyer. It wasn’t until I was at university, interning as a stylist for a local publication that I discovered my passion, and natural talent, for all things visual. Unlike styling, which I feel I came into by accident, the move to becoming a designer was very intentional.
What have you been up to since graduation?
The day after I graduated I moved to Cambodia. Since then, I have been working as a freelance designer, photographer and Creative Director in the capital, Phnom Penh. Aside from my freelance jobs, I also have a lifestyle brand, SAAT, and I’m setting up NOOK, a positive and creative space that focuses on food, design and community. Since Shillington, I have been presented with so many incredible opportunities—opportunities that may have always been there, but which I did not have the confidence to pursue.
What do you love about being a designer?
I love the fact that I get to be creative every day. I love that I get to work on interesting projects and collaborate with so many talented and inspiring people.
I love that through design I get to live a richer and more meaningful life.
Tell us about your blog, A.HA. How does that venture enhance your work as a designer?
AHA is a food/photography blog which I created initially as a way to hone my photography skills. Since then it has become a platform for me to showcase all the wonderful things I see and a medium in which to develop my voice, visually and otherwise. This voice informs my work as a designer.
Could you tell us about a favourite recent professional project?
My favourite projects are the ones where I can work with a client early on in their journey and help them tell their story. I recently did the branding for a sustainable furniture brand called Alchemy Design Co. It was a big branding project which included everything from logo design, stationery design, styling, photography, video and website design. It’s so rewarding seeing a brand come to life from the very beginning.
Tips for freelancers?
Always be nice to people. Maintaining good relationships is the most important thing in business and this is never more true than when freelancing. Most of your work will come from recommendations so if you are an easy person to work with then you are more likely to get the work. Also, care. The best projects are always the ones where you have cared about the work you are producing and the clients you are working with. If you care, it shows. If you don’t, it also shows.
How did Shillington help you create your own creative career?
I can honestly say that studying at Shillington was the best thing that I’ve ever done for my career. To say that it gave me the confidence to put myself out there as a designer is somewhat of an understatement. Not only did it teach me the technical skills (which I felt were a missing piece of the puzzle), but it gave me the confidence to go for bigger jobs and challenge myself in ways that I thought were unimaginable.
What’s the biggest lesson you took away from Shillington?
Like life, everything in design has a purpose. Don’t use a colour or a font just because you like it.
Ask yourself, ‘why?’, and if you don’t have an answer, dig deeper.
Any advice for fellow creatives?
Develop your own style. The thing that makes your work different from others is YOU. Understand yourself, what you like and dislike, and develop a personal style that is reflected in your work. Let your work be an extension of who you are, and create things that you like. If you do that then it doesn’t really feel like work. Do everything wholeheartedly. It shows. Finally, be authentic and kind. It goes a long way
Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?
Well, if all goes according to plan, I will be in Cambodia, doing exactly what I am thankfully able to do now; living my dream.
See this interview feature and more in Shillington Post 03—The Maverick Issue. View online!
Photography Credit—Petris Tension