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Flash Goddess
September, 2006

Stella Lai

Stella Lai

Stella Lai

Stella Lai was born in Hong Kong and grew up on Cheung Chau Island . In 1993 she relocated to San Francisco to pursue a BFA in Graphic Design at CCA (née CCAC).
A co-founder of Tree-Axis as well as an accomplished artist, Stella has taught a number of courses in design at CCA and San Francisco Art Institute.
Stella's work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and reviewed in publications including Art in America, Artforum.com, and Artweek.

What is your design background? Do you work for a larger company or freelance on your own?

I received my BA in Graphic Design from California College of Arts and Crafts (now, California College of the Arts) in San Francisco, graduating in the late 90s, right before the .com boom. In 1998 I started my own company “Tree-Axis” with my friend Krister Olsson. Krister has a computer science background and we wanted to work together to produce interactive projects both on and off-line. This was before Flash.

What are the details of your education? Do you have any formal design/programming education?

I was trained as a Graphic Designer. While I was in school I learned Director and fell in love with it. Throughout the years I learned some basic HTML and Actionscript, but I don't consider myself a programmer. That's why I work with Krister.

A lot of women find it difficult to balance family life and their career. It's a challenge to find time to study and practice a program like Flash. How have you managed to get to the level that you're at? How involved with Actionscript are you and how do you manage to study and continue to learn it?

I think it's hard for women to balance work and family in general, not just in the design field. I admire women who can do it all. I don't really have a family life, except taking care of my cat Pupi. However, she is very independent so I don't have to spend too much time with her.

I learn best when I am under a deadline. When I am on a project I tend to want to try new things so I can learn during the process. It's impossible to learn everything; I prefer bringing in people with different areas of expertise to collaborate.

Please tell us about some of your favorite Flash sites.


Do you find it challenging to be a woman in a male dominated industry?

I can't imagine any woman saying it isn't challenging to be in a male dominated industry. It is important for us to recognized and support one another. There are a lot of talented women in the design world and it always makes me happy when I get the chance to work with or get to know one of them.

Most women that I've interviewed feel it's hard to connect with other female Flash designers for support and community. Is this your experience?

I think design has become a very lonely profession. We sit in front of the computer all day. We communicate via email and iChat. It takes a lot of work to connect. At the same time, I think we are very fortunate that through the Web we can meet people in different cities, different continents, and see what they are doing.

Do you feel there is a difference between male and female Flash creations?

I think people's creations are influenced by their upbringing and culture. Gender is of course a part of that.

You have some incredible illustrations in your portfolio. Do you use Flash primarily for illustration work? Do you have any tips or techniques you can share with us?

I normally use Illustrator, but I do use Flash for animation. Tips… Well, I think it's important to work outside the computer. Most of the illustrations I've done recently are drawn by hand, scanned and then traced or recreated in Illustrator.

What was your favorite Flash project that you've produced?

I haven't really done a complete flash site in the past year. One of my favorite recent projects was to design last year's Coca-Cola holiday packaging for the Paris market.

Thank you Stella!


Interviewed by Camille Pietralunga

Camille Pietralunga (www.camillepietralunga.com) has over eight years experience as an Interactive Designer and writer. Camille is fascinated with Flash and its amazing capabilities. She is excited and honored to be able to speak with so many talented female Flash designers and developers.

To contact Camille, email Camille@camillepietralunga.com.