Jul 05, 2016

    Do passion projects and get noticed


    STANDING out from the crowd in today's digital economy is not easy but the key might be pursuing personal projects more than polishing resumes, said a senior member of Facebook's creative team.

    Diving into a passion and making it public can bring valuable exposure and teach more skills than any amount of corporate ladder-climbing, Ji Lee, creative strategist at Facebook and its Instagram unit, told a conference in Costa Rica last week.

    "Today, every individual, if you have a cellphone in your hand, you have a superpower," he said. "You have access to billions of people in the palm of your hand."

    Mr Lee, who was born in South Korea and is now a long-term United States resident, was able to break out of a dispiriting entry-level New York advertising job, thanks to a quirky project he did on his own time and money 15 years ago called The Bubble Project.

    That involved sticking blank cartoon speech balloons on advertising billboards that invited the public to write whatever they wanted.

    Mr Lee was fined several times for vandalism and given warnings from advertisers' lawyers. But the experience won him the attention of a boutique ad agency - and then years later landed him a creative director job at Google.

    He was poached by Facebook six years ago - where he ensured he kept up with personal projects as a priority.

    "My Facebook interest just supports what I do, because they understand what I do, that the whole stuff I learnt in my personal projects brought me to Facebook," he said.

    Indeed, he has turned his whimsy to the social networking giant, whose feeds that mix news, ads and user posts he admitted can be an "overwhelming experience sometimes".

    He started what he called a "white feed" which posts empty white space onto followers' Facebook feeds, injecting little oases of nothingness in the incessant flows of messaging.

    Mr Lee agreed there was "an act of rebellion" in a lot of what he does.

    But he believes humour and standing out - not trying to sell anything - are what makes initiatives like that successful.

    "I think there's plenty of reasons to be angry and to rebel against things," he added.

    "My approach is doing it through humour because when people smile, their barrier goes down and they're more susceptible to messages."