As a child, Sunny Lei’s favourite subject at school was art, and she always knew she wanted “to do something creative”. In high school, she wanted to be an architect – who was also interested in graphic design.
“After school, I chose UNSW Art & Design because it offered a degree where I could do more than one design discipline. Bachelor of Design (Hons) gave me the freedom and opportunity to study both graphic and spatial design.”
Sunny says that her Honours project and going on exchange have been her greatest learning experiences in informing both her personal development and professional practice as a graphic designer.
“My practice-based research Honours project has taught me the importance of self-motivation and continuous iterative experimentation. This Honours year has been the best part of my degree.
“It has been a stressful, but fulfilling and worthwhile experience. It taught me that innovation could only have emerged through continuous iteration, and thinking through making. I feel that all my years of learning and practice at UNSW have come to fruition in the final project.”
Sunny’s project – Assembling Offcuts: Contemporary Zine Culture in Sydney – is her submission for the ANNUAL Graduate Exhibition. It stemmed from her passion for zine-publishing.
“During my teenage years, I enjoyed going to zine fairs to browse and collect zines, speaking to the creators behind the tables. Zine fairs were a space of inspiration for me,” she says. “I was drawn to the tactility of these printed objects, how colourful yet ephemeral they were, how intimate and personal the subject matters could be, and how imperfections were embraced. “
The graduand says the year-long project had to be about something that mattered to her.
“I wanted to give back to the community that had constantly inspired me. Assembling Offcuts is the result of this — in the form of a poster and publication — a documentation and celebration of Sydney’s contemporary zine culture.”
During her time at UNSW, Sunny went on exchange to Utrecht School of the Arts in the Netherlands.
“My experience on exchange was very inspiring and eye-opening – it shaped my graphic design practice and clarified my interest in self-publishing and printed matter,” she says. “I had always admired Dutch graphic design, and this was an opportunity to be immersed in that environment, as well as the broader design world in Europe.”
Sunny has been working as a graphic designer for the UNSW student magazine, Tharunka, where she is in charge of designing the layout of each issue. After graduating, her short-term goal is to open her own risograph (printing) studio as an extension and continuation of her Honours project.
“The studio will be used for personal experimentations, as a space for collaboration with friends, as well as an opportunity for wider engagement with the self-publishing community in Sydney.
“In the long-term, I hope to establish myself as a more confident graphic designer working on a vast array of collaborative projects with other creatives. I also hope to someday return to Europe to undertake a Masters degree. Ultimately, I would like to become an experienced creative in the graphic design and arts industry, who is driven by the work I do and inspired by the people around me.”
Sunny’s advice for future Art & Design students is to “embrace all the opportunities and resources you are given at UNSW”.
“Collaborate, experiment and never stop creating!”
You can see Sunny’s Honours project, Assembling Offcuts: Contemporary Zine Culture in Sydney, at the A&D ANNUAL 19 Graduate Exhibition, and the Australian Design Centre (21 November – 22 January).