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Mentoring Spotlight: Wendy Xiuwen Chen x June Mineyama-Smithson

A photograph of someone holding a small, bound book filled with green images.
A photograph of someone holding a small, bound book filled with green images.
Image credit: Wendy Xiuwen Chen, MA Graphic Media Design.
Written by
Chloe Murphy
Published date
26 November 2021

Graduates of London College of Communication (LCC) are makers, thinkers and innovators. Bringing inspiring ideas and ways of working to their chosen industries, they change the world around us in ways that make a positive difference to society.

Our alumni remain an important part of our community, and retain close ties to the College throughout their journeys as practitioners. As a result, many continue to make a profound impact on emerging creatives - not only through the influence of their work, but by taking part in opportunities to share vital industry insight, useful contacts and business knowledge. This might be through activities such as panel discussions, speed networking sessions and live briefs, all of which help to grow both the confidence and employability skills of the next generation.

The LCC Industry Mentoring Programme connects professionals with current students who are ready to take the next step in their career development. Many of our mentors are themselves graduates of the College and wider UAL community, bringing with them profound understanding and insight as they support students to feel more confident, informed and engaged in the wider context of their disciplines.

Together, mentors and mentees catch up regularly to explore a variety of ideas and aspirations that are tailored to specific goals. This helps students to feel more confident, informed and engaged in the professional landscape, while also enabling mentors to further develop their own skill sets while forming new connections across LCC's vibrant network.

We caught up with MA Graphic Media Design student Wendy Xiuwen Chen and her mentor, artist and graphic designer June Mineyama-Smithson, to discuss the importance of empathy and being open to professional development.

A close photograph of book binding.
Image credit: Wendy Xiuwen Chen, MA Graphic Media Design.

Wendy, tell us a little bit about your creative practice.

I’m currently studying MA Graphic Media Design at LCC, but this is actually my second MA from the College – I also hold an MA in User Experience Design. Having the opportunity to undertake another Master’s course has provided even clearer motivation around what I want to achieve as a creative practitioner, like improving my visual design skills and exploring the intersection between both disciplines.

My research practice focuses on human emotions and experimental empathy design. I also explore how Confucianism influences the Chinese community's introverted behaviours of emotional expression.

This was the foundation for my Final Major Project, where I used editorial design and traditional binding techniques combined with digital website design to connect my research with broader audiences.

June, tell us a little bit about your creative journey so far.

Originally from Tokyo, I landed in London in 1999 to study Graphic and Media Design at LCC before going on to work in some of the leading branding agencies such as Wolff Olins and Eight in London and Hong Kong.

Being frustrated that my creativity didn’t always match client’s business needs (!), I started my art practice: MAMIMU. I’m on a mission to spread optimism though bold and joyful colours and shapes, and my work has been featured internationally on ITV (UK), Cow Parade Niseko (Japan) and SCMP (Hong Kong).

A photograph of a woman at a podium.
Image credit: June Mineyama-Smithson. Photo by Jordan Mary.

Why did you decide to take part in LCC’s Industry Mentoring Programme?

Wendy: Because I’ve previously had some experience of job-searching in the UK, I know how difficult it is. By joining this programme and speaking to a mentor, I felt I could better understand my strengths and weaknesses, which might help me to build confidence and gain more precise direction for improving my applications through areas like portfolio or interview suggestions.

Before I started studying for my second MA, I also had some short-term industry experience of working in an agency. I was curious to find out more about the differences in design agencies between the UK and China, and also wanted to develop my professional skills in communication before I started the next stage of my career search.

June: I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without all the people who helped me along the way. As humans, we’ve always been building on the wisdom of those who have gone before us, and I think it would be such a waste to start everything from scratch. It only makes sense to pass everything on to the next generation.

When I was younger, I suffered from lack of confidence. No one needs to feel like I did, and I want to help eliminate that feeling from the world.

A photograph of someone holding a small, bound book filled with green images.
Image credit: Wendy Xiuwen Chen, MA Graphic Media Design.

Wendy, how has taking part in the Industry Mentoring Programme helped you to develop your career and your practice?

It was a real pleasure to meet June during the whole Industry Mentoring Programme.

In between different activities, we had a few calls where she offered me lots of professional advice regarding my portfolio website and CV, along with some career advice while I doing my internship. I really appreciated it. I have a strong career focus, and June answered many questions regarding my concerns and helped me find out my 'shining points', as well as sharing some freelance opportunities with me.

Before I finish my final term of study, I’ve already received 3 full-time job offers for next year, including an offer from the BBC! Therefore, I believe taking part in the programme has definitely helped me to stay on track with my career progression.

June, as a mentor, how have you been able to support Wendy in her career aspirations so far?

Having work experience in both the UK and Asia, I think I was in a unique position to understand Wendy’s aspirations and her potential.

I kept reminding her that she was in a strong position to be a very talented Chinese creative in the UK market; she was already a brilliant designer doing her second MA, so all I had to do was give her a little nudge.

A photograph of brightly coloured geometric doors.
Image credit: Barbican Geometrics - June Mineyama-Smithson. Photo by Elaine Potter.

Wendy, what kind of opportunities have you taken part in as a result of the support and guidance you received through our Industry Mentoring Programme?

Throughout the year, I’ve learned the importance of putting myself into different working environments to get used to different working patterns and ways of communication before I graduate.

I worked as an ArtTemp for 3 months where I used my UI and UX skills to improve the UAL Graduate Showcase. It was an amazing experience working with the UAL Design Team and developers, which helped me gradually build my confidence in finding my next career step. I want to thank UAL’s Design Lead Stephanie Feather who gave me this opportunity.

During my summer break, I was also inspired to work as a design intern in a public sector consulting company, PUBLIC. I had a very busy but great summer, and participated in different government projects as a research assistant and designer.

June, what have been the highlights of your time as an LCC industry mentor, and why would you encourage other creative practitioners to sign up to the programme?

Wendy has been joy to work with throughout, but the best moment was when she told me that she’d received 3 job offers and accepted a position at BBC. I'm so proud of her!

It's just such a rewarding experience to be able to help someone. You soon realise that you know more than you thought you did, and it's empowering both ways. I absolutely recommend taking part in the Industry Mentoring Programme - it’s good for your soul.

A wooden box surrounded by pages from a book.
Image credit: Wendy Xiuwen Chen, MA Graphic Media Design.

Wendy, what’s your advice for other LCC students who may be starting to consider the next step in their career?

The first and most important thing is that you need to have determination and a strong attitude to searching for opportunities.

Secondly, you need to start preparing your CV and portfolio as early as possible, and applying for opportunities while you’re still studying.

Don’t be afraid of showing your work to others, and ask for suggestions for improvement.

Last but not least, knowing your capacity and being able to demonstrate good time management are both also significantly important. As we’re all still students, we need to prioritise our course study while also balancing our studies and work.

LCC's Industry Mentoring Programme is currently offered as part of our Upgrade Your Future Path initiative, which supports postgraduate students to explore potential career paths in the creative industries.

Applications are now open for both mentors and mentees - register your interest before 13 December 2021.

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