Freshly Laundered 035 / Lain Lee


San Francisco based designer Lain Lee lives and breathes his personal motto “Design with passion, deliver with purpose.” We had a chance to catch up before 2015 ended and get his thoughts on what that means and how he puts those words into action every day. Read on to learn more.

CB: Your website has a great tagline “Design with passion, deliver with purpose.” What does that look like for your clients?

LL: This is a motto I came up with a few years ago to summarize my approach to design. I have been told that I’m a great listener and that it’s one of my greatest talents. To design with passion, for me, means to start with a good, old fashioned meeting (whether via phone, video or in-person) and try to get into the mind of my clients. I know that their project will go nowhere very fast if I don’t first understand the vision they have and try to extract that from their mind’s eye. My passion in design is deeply rooted in telling a story, which is where I always start. I urge clients to really explore the purpose behind what they’re doing, not just visually, but also “behind the scenes”, the things that may never be verbally communicated but could be tacitly communicated through the brand. Personally, I don’t like to put anything out into the world (client work or personal) that doesn’t have a purpose. Every project I work on has to have a meaning, a goal, an intention. So for my clients, “Design with passion, deliver with purpose” looks like this - a high quality project, from start to finish, customer service to development, design and delivery, that has purpose and meaning.


CB: Building on this concept of intention, what intentions do you bring to your client work? Your personal work? How do they differ?

LL: For my client work, my intention is always to interpret their vision with innovation and quality. A lot of people don’t know what they want to see, but know definitively what they DON’T want to see. Therefore, they have a hard time differentiating between high quality design and “imitations of quality”. For my clients, I will always approach every project with quality in mind.

As a creative professional, even as a young kid doing music and film projects, I haven’t always had the best equipment to produce my work. Therefore, I came from the school of practice and thought where you always made the best of what you had. My goal when I sit down to work on a client project, therefore, is to produce the highest quality product with what I have to work with, and make the seemingly impossible, possible.

With my personal work, I usually don’t have the same constrictions that I do with client work and therefore have full creative freedom over what I produce. However, the goal remains the same at the end of the day. The only way that my intentions with personal work differ from client work is this: with client work, I aim to please my clients; with myself, I’m never happy with the outcome! LOL


CB: Ha! Good point about self as being the harshest critic. How do you overcome your misgivings about a personal project and put it out in the world for others to see and comment on?

LL: This answer is very simple: not being afraid to fail. I’m not even sure if this is something I consciously set out to do. My dad taught me at a young age that you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. He showed me (through both examples of his own as an entrepreneur and the time and money he invested in me and my siblings’ growing up), that if there was ever anything I wanted to do, I simply needed to put actions to my dreams. So for me, my mentality was to just try and if I failed, it wasn’t an end all scenario, it was simply an opportunity for me to improve and try again.

Also, I think our creative culture is so heavily focused on seeing the end results of things, we don’t teach each other to appreciate the creative process. We all go through the highs and lows of creating - the headaches, frustrations, screaming sessions, hair-pulling, nail biting, self-loathing, constipated frustration of not knowing what to do when we get stuck. Instead, we focus on showing the final, polished product and that’s all our peers see. It’s really created a false sense of accomplishment. I think it’s important to share transparently those personal misgivings. I’ve made a lot of mistakes publicly that I can’t take back. Instead of wallowing in them, I go through a grieving period but then see what I can learn from those mistakes to apply to my next public effort. And if you’re going to ask for public feedback or put something out there for your peers to critique publicly, you can’t be too defensive, so it’d really help if you could take some time to get comfortable with failure. :D


CB: I imagine this “don’t be afraid to fail” outlook carries over into your work as a cheer coach, yes? How did you get involved with coaching?

LL: Absolutely it does!

You know, tumbling is not natural by any stretch of the imagination. Everything I teach my athletes to do is a learned behavior, it’s not inherent to the human brain. It’s actually the antithesis of what the brain naturally is programmed to do, which is keep its vessel (our bodies) safe. Therefore, I spend a vast majority of my time as a coach playing more of a psychologists role, helping to explain the roles fear and the brain play in learning to tumble or stunt.

I became involved with cheer when I was in high school. A group of girls saw me and some friends jumping and flipping on, over and off of things after school one day and came over to ask us if we’d try cheerleading. My friends said no, but I wasn’t about to turn down a group of cute girls, haha! Then when I went to my first practice and saw how physically engaging it was, I was actually genuinely interested! After many years, I stepped into a coaching role and saw how poorly a lot of cheerleaders were trained, and witnessed a lot of good kids get hurt. I saw a need for someone to really drill them on their technique to stay safe. That’s why now my mission is to instill in young athletes the tools necessary to stay safe, be leaders in their communities and conquer their fears, both on and off the mat.


CB: It sounds like being a cheer coach is quite rewarding! How do you like to relax and spend time away from work? What gets you re-energized for the week ahead?

LL: Yeah, being a cheer coach truly is rewarding. Nothing gives me greater joy than the smile on an athlete’s face when she or he gets a skill they’ve been working on for months. That “a-ha” moment when they finally make a connection between body and brain gives them such a sense of accomplishment, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

To relax and re-energize, I’ve actually just started a new ritual. Every Friday, I hit up my fave local coffee spot, grab breakfast and just chill in the corner spot with my coffee and laptop for a few hours. It’s close to home and work in case the wife needs me or I need to make a quick change for a client, but remote enough to where I get to seclude myself even for a little bit and just think. I also like to work on personal projects and my other brands at least a few times a month, work and life permitting. Getting to explore different visual styles allows me to not only expand my capabilities as a designer, but also put them hours in and hone my craft. Other than that, it’s the farmers market and chilling with the Mrs. on the weekends :D


CB: That’s a pretty good looking breakfast, Lain. Thanks for chatting with us!

You can see more of Lain’s work on his website, keep up with him on twitter and dribbble, or follow along on his instagram. Lain’s latest CB design, Make The Money, is available for pre-orders until Tuesday, January 26th at 8pm EST.