Interview with Ken Leung from Monocle Magazine
Ken Leung was born in Kuala Lumpur and raised in Perth, Western Australia. He started his career in newspapers before moving to Melbourne in 2003 where he established Ken Leung Design, a design consultancy which worked on start up magazines such as Poster and The Age Melbourne Magazine as well as book projects and corporate identity. Relocating to London in 2005 he worked for Icon magazine, Nick Bell Design and Winkreative before joining Creative Director Richard Spencer Powell to work on the launch of Monocle magazine in late 2006.
Hi Ken. Tell us a bit about what you have been up to lately.
I just got back from a week in Miami and am still trying to reaclimatise back to London. Back at work we are beginning our second year of Monocle and looking at how we can develop the design and art direction further for the second volume.
How did you come to find yourself working on Monocle Magazine?
After moving to London I targeted a handful of dream design agencies that I wanted to work for. One of them was Winkreative which was owned by Tyler Brûlé, the founder of Wallpaper*. The agency had an amazing body work and a design sensibility that I really admired.
Initially, I wanted a break from editorial and to get more corporate identity into my portfolio. I worked on some great international clients for Winkreative and got to do some really fun jobs but when Monocle began to take shape I got caught up in the excitement and fell in love with editorial again.
What were some of the challenges you faced when designing the magazine?
As a start up magazine it wasn’t just about the design of the magazine but also the creation of a brand. We had to ensure that all the design for the accompanying elements like the website, stationery, press kits, marketing remained true to the brand.
Also, while Monocle is a quite compact format, we also wanted to make the pages feel dense and full of content. One of the trickiest parts for me was working out how to get negative space into page layouts to allow for visual relief.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
Lately, whilst trudging around London under an umbrella, I have been inspired by all the different manhole covers along the footpaths. Most of them date back to the 19th century and beautifully ornate in their industrial functionality. There are websites completely devoted to them.
What do you love about Australia?
I absolutely love the quality of life. The food and lifestyle are developing a great reputation worldwide and whenever I say that I am Australian, I get greeted with an enthusiastic response.
What would you change?
While Australia has a growing reputation for quality of life, its international creative reputation needs to be developed further than Pro Hart and Ken Done t-shirts. We are more sophisticated than that. If the money spent on developing world class athletes was anywhere close to the
investment in educating and developing creative talent there would be more of a reason for young creatives to stay and develop there.