Freshly Laundered 034 / Chudo Loo


Product Designer Chudo Loo has been in the industry for over 15 years, coming of age just as the first dot com bubble burst. Learn how his interest in anime and manga turned into a deep appreciation and love for art, which fueled his decision to make a career out of design in our interview. Read on.

CB: Tell us a little about yourself, how did you get started in Graphic Design?

CL: I’m currently a product designer in San Jose, California. I “turned pro” at the tail end of the dot-com boom and have been designing for print and screen ever since. While designing with others in mind is rewarding, t-shirts have always been my outlet for more personal work.

Growing up, visiting my Japanese relatives every summer and attending preschool and kindergarten there left an early impression. I read a lot of manga and watched animated TV shows even after I settled in California. I remember drawing characters from Dr. Slump in kindergarten (and later from Dragon Ball), and knew I wanted to be a visual creator. In high school I looked into architecture but settled on graphic design after discovering the joy of designing logos, posters, and flyers. By the end of college, I transitioned to web design but I’ve luckily been able to work on print projects from time to time.


CB: Was it hard to transition from a life in Japan to California?

CL: Yeah, I was born here in the SF Bay Area but my dad’s work took me to Tokyo when I was three, and also to Beijing from third through sixth grade. I had to relearn English in first grade when I came back from Japan, but I think the tougher transition was coming into an already cliquish junior high as an international school kid from China. I was fortunate that a friend who I kept in touch with helped re-assimilate me before too many people noticed. I was up on Def Leppard and pegged pants in no time.


CB: Whoa, blast from the past - pegged pants! I bet that was quite the transition for sure. Does your Japanese heritage influence your work? If so, how?

CL: Not so much on my day-to-day work, but there are t-shirt designs and illustrations that I’ve done that were definitely influenced by Asian art and design. With t-shirts especially, the limitations of woodblock printing are similar to screen printing so Japanese ukiyo-e prints and even Chinese paper cuts are great sources for inspiration.

I’ve also looked to Japanese patterns, family crests (kamon), and their minimalist design aesthetic for ideas. I love working with patterns so I’ve collected books and origami/chiyogami for reference. In addition to the traditional stuff, manga and anime like I mentioned, and contemporary Japanese art and design have all had an influence on a fair bit of my designs.


CB: I noticed on your instagram feed that you post a lot of art from galleries and museums you visit. Do you also use those visits as sources of inspiration? Why do you make seeing new art/artists a priority?

CL: My first real interest in fine art and museums started when I discovered a magazine called Giant Robot. I felt connected not just to the culture pieces of the magazine but also with the art and artists the magazine showcased. A lot of the artists I follow create works I wish I had imagined and had the skills and dedication to execute. While I don’t think the art influences my design work too much, knowing my own limits and seeing how vastly superior and dedicated these artists are to their passion inspires and humbles me the same way watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” did.

There’s also joy in finding new artists much like finding new music, and ultimately being able to support their work. I think a lot of designers have at some point considered fine art as a profession, and for me, going to galleries and museums is one way to live vicariously through them.


CB: I always feel intimidated in museums and galleries, knowing I will never have the skill set necessary to create works like the ones surrounding me. Being humbled and inspired as you are is a much more positive outcome than what I experience! If you weren’t a designer, do you think you’d try your hand at fine art? Or is there another profession you think you’d have gone into instead?

CL: Oh I feel the same way - I know I’ll never be at their level but maybe it’s a bit like watching elite athletes perform.

If I were to switch it up, I might give woodblock printing a shot and I’ve had fun with sculpture in the past. But for now the closest thing I have are t-shirt canvases for Cotton Bureau.

Outside of the creative realm, I’ve always wanted to open a guest house in Hakodate, Japan, my mom’s hometown, after having some of my best travel experiences roaming solo on a budget. My wife is Japanese-Brazilian so we’d have at least three languages down and I’m pretty sure I can handle the website, branding, and of course, the souvenir t-shirts.


CB: That’s an excellent analogy, I never really thought of it that way before! The guest house in Hakodate, Japan sounds like a great alternative career. How much fun would it be to meet people along their journeys? So many interesting conversations could be had. Thanks for chatting with us Chudo!

You can see more of Chudo’s work on his website, keep up with him on twitter, or follow along on his art gallery adventures via his instagram. Sign up to see Color Triumvirate have another run here.