Jaedoo Lee’s digital creations are a refreshing take on the everyday

Adopting a graphic approach to animation and illustration, Jaedoo Lee’s take on editorial commissions are a breath of fresh air

Not satisfied with just one creative string to his bow, Jaedoo Lee is a designer, illustrator and animator currently working in New York. Born in Seoul, Lee initially came to America to work in advertising and “come up with unconventional ideas for ad campaigns”. However, while studying at the School of Visual Arts, his focus changed, and he became more drawn towards design and motion graphics.

“I think my style is pretty minimal. It’s very much influenced by Moebius, Studio Ghibli, and Katsuhiro Otomo,” explains Lee. “I draw digitally using one brush at a specific weight, and I usually draw a lot of chunky, simple geometric or tubular shapes with bold colours.” He often places these shapes and figures in imagined spaces, with subjects suspended against a backdrop of bold colours.

Fountain of Youth by Jaedoo Lee

These bright palettes “feel the most direct” for Lee, and he likes that these hues help give his work an illustrative yet graphic look. It’s an aesthetic the creative has been refining for the last couple of years, and it’s resulted in images with more depth and texture, captured from different perspectives but still contained within clean-cut line work.

With his images of overflowing pop bottles, tumbling pills and flowers exploding in marshmallow like twirls, Lee has a knack for making the everyday feel brand new and shiny.

On Seltzer for Medium by Jaedoo Lee

His portfolio is a mix of personal work and commissioned projects, with The New York Times and Medium being regular clients. This variety allows him to work across illustration, design and motion graphics, and he enjoys having the ability to look at a project and solve problems through these different lenses.

“Recently, a lot of my work has been illustration and animation, usually combined. I’m not sure where the boundaries between editorial illustration and motion graphics are, but I like that I am able to use my other backgrounds to further develop an idea or make an idea more effective through animation,” he says.

Cascade for Medium by Jaedoo Lee

His creative process is fairly intuitive. When starting every new project, Lee tries to get out whatever ideas flow through his head as soon as possible. “Then I try to combine what I have into more cohesive ideas. When coming up with ideas, I try to mix and match images or concepts based not on what they are, but what the physical contours looks like,” he explains. “Sometimes this can bring an unexpected combination of things. Then when a final direction is picked, I redraw the shape, fixing some lines and adding detail, and then colour to give the look of lighting and shading.”

Lee typically designs most of his works in Photoshop using a Wacom Cintiq 22HD. He also animates in the program as well as using After Effects. “I don’t use many plug-ins, and when I draw in Photoshop, I use my normal brush and a couple of action keys I saw on Alex Grigg’s Photoshop animation tutorial.” 

Everybody Blooms by Jaedoo Lee

The most challenging part of Lee’s process, apart from having a constant stream of good ideas, is animating frame by frame under a tight deadline. “It’s a long process, but even though it can be challenging, I do think it’s taught be to be a more efficient animator,” he says.

Being freelance has also given Lee some flexibility in how he uses his time. “I like that I am more or less in charge of my own schedule,” he says. “I’ve also enjoyed getting to know more people in the industry to work with and to learn from.”

Hello by Jaedoo Lee

Getting the balance between personal and commissioned work isn’t always easy and Lee’s spent the last couple of months focusing on the latter. Although he’s got lots of exciting projects in the pipeline, including an animated short about a beekeeper.

It’s this kind of work that Lee recommends budding creatives to sink their teeth into outside of the day-to-day grind, as it’s what helped him to go it alone. “Trying to make a habit of making even small things in your free time can be helpful,” he says. “It can be interesting to look back at a collection of things you’ve compiled.”

Blooming Boxes by Jaedoo Lee