From Art Student to Art Director

Samples of Diana Lau’s work can be found on her website, (Photo courtesy of Diana Lau).

Madisen Snyder, Layout Editor

From videos, to photo shoots, to web design, and more, alumna Diana Lau (2007) can handle all of a company’s advertising needs.

Lau graduated from Pratt Institute in 2011 with a degree in Communications Design and a concentration in Advertising. Now, she’s working as a freelance Art Director and Graphic Designer for agencies like Howard Houghes Corporation, Stag & Hare, Plus1, and Annex88.

“I decided to become a freelancer to diversify my portfolio, expand my network by working with more people, and make time for personal projects,” she said.

Lau is currently working with jewelry companies and revamping their websites. 

“I got the first jewelry project at Harry Winston,” she said. “Now I’m working at Maria Tash, and I’m talking with another jewelry company about a potential project.”

She said that being an Art Director is similar to being a graphic designer, but she is also in charge of other types of projects, such as videos, photo shoots, and the overall big picture for the brand.

“My favorite type of work as an art director is doing photoshoots,” said Lau. “One summer, we literally had a truck full of gelato and were trying to style it and take photos of it before it melted. A lot of ‘mess ups’ and half-melted gelato was eaten.”

Since high school, Lau has been interested in creating art in a variety of media.

“My favorite class was art class,” she said. “I liked experimenting with new materials I didn’t have at home, like charcoal and pastels. Also, my favorite club was photo club. Mr. Hodge taught us how to develop black and white film. I spent a lot of time in there experimenting.”

In college, she discovered that she liked creative problem solving as well.

“I liked my advertising classes the best because we had to come up with a lot of ideas,” said Lau. “They forced me to think in addition to just design, and make something that looks nice.”

Lau said that being an Art Director offers a lot of possibilities to do new things.

“I like that I can combine design with any other interest that I have,” she said. “For example, if I like design and fashion, I can find work with a fashion brand, or if I like design and food, I can work with a food blogger.”

When starting new projects, Lau said she always makes sure to do research first.

“In the beginning, I see what competitors are doing, then decide if we should do the same or something different,” she said. “I also make a lot of mood boards and Pinterest boards to collect references for color, shape, typefaces, photography styles, etcetera.”

As part of her field, Lau has been able to meet and work with some really “interesting, smart, inspiring people.”

“Advertising tends to attract people who have cool side projects,” she said. “Some write books, or are social media influencers, or make short films, or do stand-up comedy.”

She said that being naturally shy can be a challenge, but since participating in band in high school, she has learned to be more comfortable in the spotlight.

“I really don’t like public speaking, but for a lot of projects, I have to explain my work to a whole room full of people,” said Lau. “I get over it by knowing a lot about the topic or project. When I am well-informed about something and have a strong opinion about it, I find it easier to talk a lot about it.”

For students interested in a similar path, Lau encourages them to utilize everything that college has to offer.

“If you’re going to college, take as many different classes as you can and take advantage of all the amazing resources available. Once graduated, you will miss them,” she said. “Always surround yourself with people you find inspiring and make you want to be better.”