Welcome to another edition of “What’s Neue from 9 to 5”.

We here at Neue believe that every person out there has a story to tell.

This week, we find out What’s Neue with Liyana Hanif (@vanilliyy), an art director, graphic designer and a creative chameleon.

Through her passion project – “Just Bruneians” – she remains committed to the building of a vibrant community of local creatives here in Brunei Darussalam.

One of her proudest moments in her career was when she was invited to speak at a TEDx Talk at TEDxGadong in 2016.

According to her, she spends 97% of her time on Adobe softwares, creating posters, making animations and editing films.

“The other 2% is for catching up on Netflix,” she quipped.

Without further ado, let’s she how she responds to this week’s #Neue9to5 questions.

The First 9 Questions:

1. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?

Growing up I have had something extra special: An English father.

My dad’s half French and English, while my mother is a local Bruneian.

I grew up in Brunei, and have been blessed to be able to travel and experience both of my parent’s cultures growing up.

I am the person that I am today because I was fortunate enough to have seen the world through different people’s eyes. It has certainly been a great way of enhancing my own openness and creativity.

I’ll be honest … I wasn’t the best at mathematics or science. I kept seeing low marks in red ink in my report card 🙁 But I’ve always had an interest in art. I was good at it and wanted to become a fine artist.

Following the advice of my father, I decided to further my studies in graphic design at Southampton University in the UK.

If I’m being perfectly honest, throughout my uni days, I felt lost, as I did not have much interest in design as much as I did for visual arts.

Fortunately, I worked hard enough to graduate (phew!) and managed to get my first job as a junior graphic designer in Brunei. It was my first job experience. After working in a team of passionate graphic designers, I was inspired me to become a better designer myself. And so, I kept pushing myself to learn new software and skills. Over time, I became far more interested in typography and layout design. I also grew increasingly passionate for creative design. 

In 2015, I applied to become a graphic designer for Progresif. Fast forward 4 years, I have overseen the design of 8 magazines, numerous freelance projects and countless social media posts. I have grown to manage a small team and am about to start an exciting new position as an art director at Hoco Agency. (See you soon team!)

2. What’s something that people may find surprising about you?

I am not a huge fan of fruits!

The only exception would be my one and only fruit – watermelon!

3. What’s your drive in life?

To one day win a design award – a yellow D&AD pencil. I think that’ll look great on my shelf!

The D&AD Awards are one of the most recognised awards for creatives in the UK, and winning a D&AD Pencil is definitely a career highlight for many. (Photo: DigitalArtsOnline)

4. What are your thoughts about the creative scene in Brunei?

I’ve always thought that the creative scene in Brunei is undervalued.

Perhaps it’s because many people consider art as just a hobby or leisure activity. People rarely see the creative process of an artist – the studies, practice, experiments in order to hone their craft.

I have had my fair share of clients who have asked for a “lower price” for my services.

Some would even go as far as saying that I should “do it for free” because I’ll be “getting exposure”.

Honestly speaking, I feel disheartened this happens, especially since I’m doing this to make a living.

The sad part of it all is that I’m NOT THE ONLY ONE dealing with this.

I dare say there are many local designers, illustrators and performing artists out there who are going through the same thing.

There is indeed a lack of appreciation towards our craft and talent.

But I remain optimistic that there will be better days ahead. After all, so many of us are skilled and fuelled with passion! In the recent few months, I have seen more creative events, friends and startups being more involved. There is definitely a sense of community and support. And it warms my heart to see more emerging artists and designers!

5. What have you learnt about yourself in the past few years? What were the high and low points?

I have learnt to grow out of my comfort zone and have become more confident around people.

The high point would have to be the time when I was able to overcome my fear of speaking in public or in front of a crowd.

As for the lows, it would have to be the times when I had a lot of self-doubt. I felt as though I was always saying the wrong things, missing out on opportunities and disappointing people. To snap out of this, I just had to keep reminding myself that I am the creator of my days.

6. Can you tell us more about “They’re Just Bruneians”?

(Source: LiyanaHanifDesign.com)

The idea sparked in my head during a panel discussion about the creative scene in Brunei, where one of them had encountered a customer asking, “Why should I pay for that? They’re just Bruneians!”

This made me realise how our local talent and creative industry are being perceived in Brunei.

To kickoff my exploration, I created this poster based on the saying.

I thought more about the meaning of intent.

It soon led me to want to poke a little fun and make a joke out of it.

Why, you ask? Well, it’s because I have seen what Bruneians are capable of and how so many have so much talent and potential! Honestly, I think it’s time for a change!

There are so many Bruneians out there who deserve to be noticed for their passion, skill and creativity.

Possessing creative talents is something to be respected and admired. ⁣Possessing creative talent is also something you should be proud of! 

⁣This began the journey of my passion project that received so much attention, positive feedback and brought the community closer – it felt like everyone wanted the change too.

Nothing can stop groups of passionate, enthusiastic people on a shared mission they believe in. 

Click here to find out more about my passion project.

7. If you had to work, but didn’t need the money. What would you do?

I would’ve become a veterinarian and open up a 24/7 vet in Brunei.

Why? Because I have personally dealt with some cat emergencies late in the night and have always wished I was able to take care of them.

8. What 2 stories featured on this website that you enjoyed reading?

(i) Cat-Calling: When is it a Meow or a Me-No?

Why? Because first of all that headline! Furthermore, it’s a topic that needs to be addressed and something I’ve personally experienced. 

(ii) Plastic, Be Gone! Here Are 5 Eco-Friendly Alternatives

Why? Because I’ve always enjoyed reading tips and advice on how we can do our little part to save the environment.

9. What would you like to say to all our Neue readers? Do you have any words or inspiration or a life story you’d like to share?

Stop what you’re doing and listen to music that boosts your mood!

My go-to track is New Radical’s uplifting hit, “You Get What You Give”. 

The message of the song is secretly influential and a sense of desire and potential for life to be okay so long as you put into it what you want to get out, therefore there’s a reason to live and not give up!

The Last 5 Questions:

1. If you could dis-invent one thing. What would it be?

Plastic straws! Because of how wasteful they are! 

2 .If you could ask ONE question. (Any question in the entire universe!) And you would get a guaranteed answer… what would that question be?

 If I could live in another dimension, what would it look like?

3. Would you rather: Have thought bubbles appear above your head for everyone to see or everyone you know have access to your Internet browsing history?

I’ll have the bubbles appear above my head, so then everyone can read my thoughts and know I am saying, “OK! Enough socialising for today!” (For the benefit of the introvert in me!)

 4. Which one’s for you? Work a high-paying job that you hate or work your dream job with only enough money for basic necessities? 

Dream job! I’ve always looked up to Confucius’ quote – “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I truly believe that! 

Furthermore, I am not attracted to the high class, luxury lifestyle. I’d rather have a job that fulfils my purpose and dreams.

5. If you could send yourself from 10 years ago a message no longer than 20 seconds, what would you say?

Ten years ago, I was 16 years old.

I would tell myself to get more comfortable at standing up for myself. There will be people who will try to step on you and some will try to hold you back. But I say let them be a part of the process – just keep on bettering and believing in yourself. Everyone you meet will have something to teach you. So don’t be afraid to let people down. You are doing your best and I’ve seen how much drive is in you. Also, try to pay more attention in school 🙂

See You In The Next #Neue9to5

Would you like to be featured next? Or would you like to nominate someone you admire to be interviewed?

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