Interview with Lola Yiting Zhang from the United States

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Lola Yiting Zhang

Lola Yiting Zhang is a concept artist in the entertainment industry, currently working at Sony Interactive Entertainment's Sucker Punch Productions. She has collaborated with major clients like Sony, Microsoft, and Netease on various AAA game projects, including the acclaimed Halo franchise and several other unannounced titles.

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

I am Lola Yiting Zhang, a concept artist currently working with Sony Interactive Entertainment at Sucker Punch Productions. I specialise in translating visionary ideas into compelling visual narratives that significantly enhance the gaming experience.

Throughout my career, I have collaborated with major clients such as Sony, Microsoft, and NetEase on a variety of AAA game projects, including the renowned Halo franchise and several other unannounced titles.

Beyond my design work, I am an active professional speaker at industry events and for top AAA game companies across North America. My speaking engagements have included the Lightbox Expo 2023, Ideation Workshop, and ArenaNet, as well as various art institutions.

I am dedicated to continually exploring new ideas and techniques in the concept design field, aiming to contribute thoughtfully to the innovation of our industry.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?

My fascination with the creative worlds of video games and anime from the 80s and 90s was the catalyst for my artistic endeavors. These mediums, rich with intricate worlds and compelling narratives, ignited my passion for creating and led me to pursue a career that combines my love for art and storytelling.

The ability to evoke emotions and bring imaginative visions to life through design continues to drive my passion as an artist.

3Tell us more about your agency/company, job profile, and what you do.

As a concept designer, my role involves translating visionary ideas into practical, detailed designs that guide film and game productions. I blend artistic creation with problem-solving, ensuring each design is not only functional but also feasible.

My approach often draws on principles from industrial design, which helps me create innovations that are both practical and inspiring. This dual focus ensures that each project I work on meets high standards of functionality and creativity, facilitating seamless transitions from concept to completion.

4What does “design” mean to you?

To me, design is a powerful form of communication and expression. It goes beyond mere aesthetics to craft visual stories that convey emotions and experiences, engaging audiences deeply. Design involves problem-solving and innovation, challenging both the creator and the audience to rethink and re-engage with the world around them.

It acts as a bridge, connecting diverse perspectives and enhancing our collective understanding and interaction. Through design, we can influence perceptions, provoke thought, and even drive change, making it an essential element of how we interact with our environment.

5To you, what makes a “good” design?
A good design, to me, is one that balances functionality with emotional resonance. It should solve a problem or address a need while also invoking an emotional response from its audience. Beyond its visual appeal, it should provoke thought, evoke a sense of wonder, and invite the viewer to engage with it on a deeper level.
6How did you come up with the idea for your award-winning design?

The concept for "Mirage," an evocative art series that explores a speculative future where Earth is a desolate relic, originated from contemplations on environmental decay and human tenacity.

Inspired by the idea of a future where scientists embark on an odyssey to unearth traces of Earth's once-abundant waters, I sought to capture both the bleak realities and the metaphorical quest for survival against overwhelming odds.

The series is structured around the journey of these scientists, portrayed not merely as explorers, but as the bearers of hope in a desolate world. Each piece, from "Entrance - Where the Journey Begins" to "Drowning," chronicles a phase of their exploration, interweaving the harshness of their environment with visions of a lost aquatic world.

The narrative arc from the realistic to the surreal invites viewers to delve into the layered meanings of memory and hope, reality and illusion. This artistic exploration was driven by a desire to fuse the stark imagery of technological remnants and severe landscapes with the vibrant, albeit imagined, essence of life.

The series invites viewers to traverse the delicate balance between hope and despair, reality and illusion, challenging them to reflect on humanity's role in shaping and preserving our environmental future.

The metaphorical dimension of the series represented through the scientists' hallucinatory experiences of vast, oceanic mirages, serves as a poignant reminder of what is at stake.

7What was your main source of inspiration for this design?

My primary source of inspiration for "Mirage" was rooted in a deliberate blend of environmental science and the architectural principles of biomimicry, alongside a more spontaneous infusion of speculative fiction themes.

The project began with a focused study on how modern architectural forms can reinterpret space and function within potentially harsh future environments. This exploration delved into both celebrated and lesser-known architectural innovations, revealing how often these structures mimic natural forms.

8Congratulations! As the winner of the London Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Thank you! Winning the London Design Awards as a professional artist is a tremendous honour that validates my artistic journey. This recognition serves as a powerful affirmation of my artistic journey and the unique approach I bring to design.

It not only validates the dedication invested in my projects but also inspires continued innovation and the pursuit of excellence. Winning this award is a reminder of the impact that genuine creativity can have on a global scale, and it motivates me to explore new concepts and further refine my artistic expression.

9Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the London Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

"Mirage" is a deeply personal project that embodies my ongoing exploration of human perception and the powerful role of metaphors in art. This series uses the concept of a mirage as a multifaceted symbol to delve into themes of memory, loss, and the elusive nature of human desires.

By crafting a speculative future where reality and illusion are indistinguishable, the artwork invites viewers to reflect on their own journeys through the landscapes of their emotions and the mirages that often shape our actions and aspirations.

I chose to enter "Mirage" into the London Design Awards to bring this introspective exploration to a broader audience, challenging viewers to question not only what they see but what they feel and believe. It was important for me to showcase this work on an international platform to demonstrate how art can transcend aesthetic boundaries and act as a catalyst for personal reflection and emotional resonance.

10How do you think winning this award will impact your future as a designer?

Winning this award reaffirms the unique approach I bring to my work but also encourages me to continue pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation. This recognition will likely open new doors, offering opportunities to collaborate with a broader network of peers and industry leaders.

Overall, this award serves as a catalyst for growth, inspiring me to explore new dimensions in designing and refine my skills further.

11What sets your design apart from others in the same category?
My work distinguishes itself through a deep connection with nature and its myriad forms, which I explore and reinterpret in my designs. I am constantly driven by a fascination with the often-overlooked nuances of the natural world.
12Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

The design industry is at a significant crossroads, shaped by rapid advancements in AI and other technologies. These developments are not only introducing new tools and expanding possibilities but are also posing challenges that require us to continually adapt and evolve.

As AI becomes increasingly prevalent in our field, the imperative is clear: adapt or risk being replaced. The shift is toward roles that AI cannot easily replicate.

13What advice do you have for aspiring designers who want to create award-winning designs?

To aspiring designers aiming for award-winning success, the keys I've found most valuable are perseverance, determination, curiosity, and setting clear goals. These attributes often prove more crucial than talent alone.

It's essential to find joy and fulfillment in your art, as this passion can transform routine tasks into powerful motivators that drive your creativity and sharpen your skills toward achieving your ultimate objectives.

Additionally, building a robust visual library is critical. Dedicate time to observing, learning, and absorbing a diverse range of art and design. I spend a significant portion of my time expanding my understanding in areas beyond traditional design boundaries, such as biology, mechanical manufacturing, and cinematography.

This broad knowledge base not only fuels my creativity but also allows me to bring unique and innovative perspectives to my projects. Embracing these principles will help guide your journey as a designer. Stay curious, remain determined, and keep exploring new horizons to truly excel in the field of design.

14Who has inspired you in your life and why?
The most profound influence on my path to becoming a concept designer came from Hayao Miyazaki. His work, brimming with boundless imagination, meticulous attention to detail, and creative brilliance, captivated me as a child and illuminated the path I wanted to pursue in design.
15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

My key to success in design hinges on a combination of rigorous observation, continuous learning, and a perpetually curious mindset that propels my creative process. I make it a point to immerse myself deeply in both familiar and unfamiliar realms, which broadens my perspective and enhances my ability to see the world through a lens of diverse experiences.

Keep your curiosity alive and never stop learning. The design landscape is constantly shifting, and staying adaptable, continually seeking new inspirations, and being willing to experiment are critical for staying ahead. The most memorable designs often stem from genuine passion and a willingness to explore the unknown.

16Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

I appreciate this interview and the opportunity to discuss my work and aspirations. This year, I'm particularly excited about tackling several unique and "weird" ideas that I've been eager to bring to life, especially those that involve trying something I haven't done before.

Additionally, this year has been filled with creative revelations and challenges that have spurred my growth in unexpected ways. These experiences have opened my eyes to new perspectives and motivated me to explore even more.

Winning Entry

Mirage | 2024 London Design Awards

"Mirage" is an evocative art series that beckons viewers into a speculative future where Earth is a parched relic, and humanity's final guardians embark on a poignant quest for 'Mirage'—the spectral remnants of ancient oceans... (read more here.)

Lola Yiting Zhang

Lola Yiting Zhang is a concept artist in the entertainment industry, currently working at Sony Interactive Entertainment's Sucker Punch Productions. She has collaborated with major clients like Sony, Microsoft, and Netease on various AAA game projects, including the acclaimed Halo franchise and several other unannounced titles.

Read about the Interview with Atsushi Murakami about Chuji from Japan here.