Rachel Lee

Stephen Lim

Visual Communication
Interaction Design

6 weeks
(Spring 2019)



Visualising the life and work of CMU School of Design alumni, Stephen Lim.

I created a zine and a mobile experience documenting the living history of CMU School of Design school alum, Stephen Lim. As part of a series dedicated to SoD alumni, I was also challenged to consider how Stephen’s narrative fit within the scope of his peers from university, other practitioners, and my own journey in the field of design. 

Initial Research

In the initial stages of research, I primarily focused on exploring Stephen's work and collecting information about his life through email correspondence and survey answers that he provided. After learning about Stephen's unique journey from transferring from engineering to design school in college, to picking up tattooing as a hobby, I wanted to reflect his variegated and eclectic personality through my storytelling. 

Since the deliverables of this project lived within a greater system of design narratives, I also looked into the career of Stefan Sagmeister, one of Stephen’s biggest inspirations, as well as the lives of other SoD alumni. Visualising connections between the three groups using post-it clusters and writing a narrative allowed me to gain more clarity about how the designers were connected.

Designing the Visual System

When considering the visual vocabulary of my print and digital systems, I created mood boards, color palettes and type specifications that felt reminiscent of the personality and work of Stephen and Stefan. Such methods of visual brainstorming allowed me to better understand the aesthetic and thematic similarities between the two designers body of work, and consider what kind of visual treatment could best encapsulate their essence.


After establishing my visual voice and collecting the necessary content for my print and digital piece, I moved onto thumbnailing to determine which compositions and visual style I resonated with the most.


For my mid-fi and high-fi print and digital prototypes, I wanted to create compositions that were flexible and dynamic through hand drawn elements, bright colors and shifting grid systems, since Stephen’s work is very playful and whimsical.

My biggest challenge throughout the prototyping stage was determining how to keep the information across the two platforms consistent, but allow the affordances of the mediums to determine how the content might be presented differently.  

Key Takeaways

Throughout this project, I learned how to be versatile as a designer by gaining a deep understanding of my subject. While Stephen and I have different visual voices, investing time into learning about his background, current practice and aspirations made it easier for me to adapt and create a visual vocabulary that felt true to him.

Further, I learned how to create consistency across multi-platform systems, but allow for medium specific adaptations that best showcase the content.