Staff Reporters
Sep 16, 2021

Creative Minds: Kelly Ann Nguyen's many sources of inspiration

We get to know the art director and social team lead at UltraSuperNew Tokyo through her answers to 11 questions. Learn how fashion led her to adland, why she sang to children for money, who her creative influences are, and who did her tattoos.

Creative Minds: Kelly Ann Nguyen's many sources of inspiration

Name: Kelly Ann Nguyen

Origin: Toronto

Places lived/worked: Toronto, Amsterdam, Tokyo

Pronouns: She/her


UltraSuperNew, Tokyo, Japan:

  • Art Direction (creative/social media), social media co-team lead (January 2021 - Present)
  • Art director, social media team (March 2020 - January 2021) 
  • Content producer, social media team (January 2019 - March 2020)
  • Freelance Designer, Social Media team (July - Dec 2018)
  • Creative Intern (February - July 2018)

1. How did you end up being a creative?

I always wanted to find ways to be creative, and it started to come into fruition when I changed my life path from the sciences to go into fashion school. From there I was able to learn how to illustrate, do graphic design, photography and videography, and art direction. That program really gave me the hints of every experience to try multiple creative outlets, which led me to try advertising so that I could build my portfolio of different brands and industries.

2. What's your favourite piece of work in your portfolio?

Super proud of our UNHCR project for the refugee team at the Olympics.

Also, for Uber Eats Japan we did a 360-degree campaign where I felt our company was able to bridge the traditional ads with social media (the team I lead). And to be able to be a part of such a big shoot was really a great learning experience. Since it was a small team, I art directed and helped produce the entire social contents myself, which contained BTS contents such as interviews, games between talents and bloopers.

3. What's your favourite piece of work created by someone else?

Right now, I am really interested in Chloe’s 'Next Chapter' photo campaign/rebranding, where the new creative director Gabriela Hearst brings us back to our roots, introducing beauty from its purest form in nature. I get very inspired by campaigns like this one, that suggest the rawness of beauty (and I especially like the aesthetic between fashion/design and science/nature). 

Overall, I think it’s important that brands talk about diversity and inclusion, and approach social-political topics with authenticity. Nike is always leading these conversations, and their controversial “The Future Isn’t Waiting” ad in Japan is something I would have loved to be a part of because they approached the topic of discrimination and racism in Japan in a honest and human way.

4. What/who are your key creative influences?

Lydia Pang: She’s a powerful, young, and driven woman and beyond her work as a creative director for Nike, she continued to hustle and create her own self projects, and now has started her own creative company around socially conscious storytelling. 

Aesthetic wise, I am a big fan of Seed. I love finding the bridge between science and design. 

5. Who do you most admire?

Not to be super cheesy, but definitely my parents. They are both immigrants from Vietnam and have built a life for my siblings and I in Canada. I wouldn’t have the drive I have today if it wasn’t from the example they set.

6. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.

Not really the worst job, but the most interesting job I had was a job known as Telephone English, where I sang to children on the phone to help them learn English through music.

7. What's the last song/artist you listened to?

Currently listening to the latest album by Charlotte Day Wilson: Alpha.

8. Tell us about an artist (any medium) that we've never probably heard of.

Dahae Song (website, Instagram) is one of my favourite artists from Toronto. She paints her inner worlds, and finds inspiration between the spiritual and nature worlds. She has quite a few mediums, such as painting into installation, to digital, to photography, but I am most in love with her paintings on raw canvas.

9. Tell us about your tattoo(s).

I have quite a few tattoos with no desire to stop. My favourite tattoos are from NotCoolNeverWas and Jess Chen who are best friends with each other.  One of favourites is my red rooster (my zodiac sign) by NotCoolNeverWas on my left leg, the only colour tattoo that I have. I also have florals on my arm from Jess Chen that are mixed with NotCoolNeverWas’ tattoo text “flowery flowery”.

10. Do you have a catchphrase?

A phrase I usually say, especially in regards to empowerment, is “Do not harm, but take no shit.” It’s actually a phrase from Bae Tokyo (in which I am part of the management team and a designer), a creative platform that looks to overcome differences in culture, race, and gender identity.

11. Any regrets?

I think it is really easy to regret things, especially when you are an anxious person. But I think one thing to remember, or at least convince yourself, is that there is more time in life than we tell ourselves, and that if it's something you really want to do, then you will do it. It’s cliche, but most of the things that people regret are the things they don't do.

In Creative Minds, we get to know APAC creatives through their answers to 11 questions—three required and the rest from a long list ranging from serious to silly. Want to be featured? Contact us.


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