Kimberly Cho (she/her) is one of bombilla's Creative Project Managers + Designers and specializes in illustration and graphic design. Bombilla projects she has helped launch worked on include Racy Conversations and URGE.
Tell us about your creative career path.
My life has always been very art and creativity driven and it was probably not a matter of if it would be a part of my career but how. Growing up, I loved to paint, draw, and do arts and crafts. I even fell in love with filmmaking and even explored the possibility of being an art therapist. I eventually decided I wanted to be a concept artist for video games, being inspired by League of Legend’s in game cover art and by the fact that I just love video games. Their work really showed me that illustration was still relevant and showed me that illustrators can see their work in the final product.
At least being a concept artist was what I intended at first. Going to art school isn’t mandatory for being a successful creative, but it really helped me grow as an artist. There, I fell in love with editorial illustration and graphic design, two industries that I had never known existed or didn’t feel like I’d be interested in until I tried them out. I loved that balance that commercial illustration and graphic design had, where it’s a collaborative effort between you and your client versus it being all about your work.
With this bright eyed notion, I got my first graphic design job at a supplement company here in the Bay Area. As much as it was comfortable (health insurance, 401k, a steady paycheck, friendly coworkers) and all, I felt creatively suffocated there. The work was routine and baseline and I just really wanted more say in the creative direction and to begin with the “why” of the project. That’s when I started being a freelancer on the side, promoting my work to art directors and through word of mouth, determined to build my creative career on my own terms. In that process I met Ivi through fellow designer Megan Totah, who is also a contractor with bombilla. I started working on projects for bombilla and I really loved how all the projects I was working on in bombilla were very mission driven projects.
In April of 2020, when the effects of the pandemic were really starting to show here in the US, I left my corporate graphic design job as they reached the tail end of moving their operations to Utah and really began focusing my efforts on freelancing. In October 2020, I officially joined the bombilla staff and as they say, the rest is history!
What do you think makes you or someone a good designer?
I think there are two essential things that make someone a good designer. The first is to stay curious and to strive to continuously learn more about the craft. Get inspired by other people’s work, to ask your peers and mentors for feedback. The second is, as a designer, you’re helping other people connect to your client and creating a human, emotional connection from the client to their audience. This means that you need to connect with your client on a human level. It’s so important to empathize and understand what they believe in and what they stand for to best be able to translate it through design in a relatable and approachable way.
It’s so important to empathize and understand what [the clients] believe in and what they stand for to best be able to translate it through design in a relatable and approachable way.
What makes bombilla stand out from other creative workplaces?
I resonate with this question a lot because my last job was as an in-house designer at a corporate company! The design was very structured and routine and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to flex your creative muscles to their full extent. Working at bombilla, I’ve felt like my creative voice is seen and I have a direct say in the creative direction of projects I work on. The projects are also incredibly fun to work on and are helping noble causes. Can it really get any better than that?! I love that you can always try to get your hand at different types of projects, so you’re always learning and growing. Another thing I’m always reminded of and thankful for is how everybody on the team is very supportive, empathetic, and fun to work with. Everybody is willing to give each other chances to explore different projects that they may not have had the initial experience of working on before. If you have the interest and passion, everybody is willing to give you the opportunity to shine and happy to share their experience and knowledge to help you succeed. I believe bombilla’s collaborativeness, warmth, and support help it stand out from other creative workplaces.
I love that you can always try to get your hand at different types of projects, so you’re always learning and growing.
Can you tell me a memorable experience with any of the different clients bombilla has worked for? Any client/experience in particular worth mentioning?
One of my most memorable experiences is while working with our retainer clients. Working with PL+US and Caring Across Generations, it really feels like we’re building a relationship and partnership in aiding their causes. It’s not just about creating the work that we’ve been tasked to do but being able to see ways we can better amplify their message through communications strategy and design. For example with PL+US, we had extra hours in a specific month of our retainer, and we helped them gather information on how to up their social media and Giving Tuesday game. Even though we weren’t specifically tasked to do this, being able to find ways to go above and beyond to help our clients’ causes makes it feel like a partnership towards success versus just being a design vendor for our client.
It’s not just about creating the work that we’ve been tasked to do but being able to see ways we can better amplify their message through communications strategy and design.
What show do you recommend we binge this weekend?
I definitely recommend The Queen’s Gambit! It‘s about a young woman who discovers her love for chess and goes on to compete in a male-dominated world of chess. I love how the protagonist, Beth, is portrayed as both flawed yet worthy of empathy and respect. As always, Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance knocks it out of the park!
What has the global pandemic taught you?
So many things! The pandemic really taught me to relax more and be more explorative in hobbies and be unafraid to be creative. I didn’t realize how much precedence work and career had in my life until now. It opened up a lot of time for me to explore different things and have fun with it and learn from those experiences. For instance, when I wasn’t working on design projects, I was working on side creative projects like knitting, making candles, and cooking. It also taught me about taking a break, stepping back, being well-rested, and moving back in with renewed focus. It also really showed how unpredictable life can be and to really be thankful for everything I already have.
What advice would you give to someone that’s starting a career in the creative field?
I think it’s to always learn and grow. Look at work that inspires you. Learn that new skill you’ve been curious about. Most importantly, be unafraid to reach out to people for creative opportunities to collaborate. I was promoting my illustration work to the Wall Street Journal for about a year before I ever heard back from them! I’m currently working on my third illustration project with them and sometimes I still have to mentally pinch myself!
Most importantly, be unafraid to reach out to people for creative opportunities to collaborate.
Shoutout to our 2020 fall intern Yandia Miñana Pérez for conducting this interview!