For her, design is all about chemistry
Confessions of a graphic designer
Graphic designer Kelley Cheng, who has been in the business for more than 25 years, gets a knee-jerk reaction every time she sees a bad design on a billboard, sign or poster.
It makes it difficult for her to unwind after a tiring day at work.
Says the former group creative director of Page One Group: "I'll start to wonder why the person chose to do it that way and then come up with solutions on how to do it better.
"It does get in the way of proper rest. Even before sleep, I'll be flicking through (image-sharing site) Pinterest to load my brain up with visuals."
Another pet peeve is the common use of Comic Sans, the typeface meant to emulate the handwriting of a child that comes pre-installed in every Windows computer.
Using the infamous font in a design is a well known faux pas in the design world.
To Ms Cheng, it is a mortal sin if used inappropriately.
"Well, let's just say it has a few uses, like in a comic speech bubble. That is about it," she says, before quickly adding that she has never used the font before.
Having a penchant for aesthetics has also attracted acquaintances who come asking for free design help.
"People don't understand that even a simple logo takes a long time to create.
"I will never give free help unless they pay my firm, or if they are really close friends," says the 44-year-old.
Her toughest assignment to date was to design an edible candy house for a production of Hansel and Gretel for theatrical company Wild Rice.
She has even entertained requests from restaurant owners to design for an "Ah Beng and Ah Lian" audience.
The outspoken veteran ignited a debate two weeks ago when she made a Facebook post about a clause in a tender she saw on government website GeBIZ.
The tender by Whitley Secondary School had called for "unlimited changes" for creative services, prompting two ministries to call it unfair.
Even then, the tender was able to attract some bids.
Ms Cheng, who now runs publishing and design consultancy The Press Room, says: "One typical scenario is that clients don't know exactly what they want and keep rejecting what you do and want changes.
"Many clients don't even have a design brief at all."
She estimates that one out of 10 clients her firm encounters end up making unfair demands.
She says: "For most clients, we are willing to go the extra mile. But how far is that? 10 changes? 40 changes?"
To avoid this, she has rejected working with clients right after their first meeting due to the "lack of chemistry".
While it may seem arbitrary, she confesses this is based on her instinct or if she has ethical disagreements with the client.
For example, requests for an advertising campaign for a cigarette company or a product that harms the environment will get a quick rejection from Ms Cheng.
Once, a client thumbed through her firm's portfolio and rudely tossed it back, asking her to tell him why he should hire them.
"At that point, I knew it wouldn't end well if I accepted the job. I had to decline him," she recalls.
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1 It is an essential skill to know how to use the thousands of typefaces. Good graphic designers are almost always typography geeks.
2 There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all design. Avoid recycling your work and come up with new concepts instead.
3 For aspiring designers, keep an extensive visual library in your head that you can draw inspiration from.