“It was about going from a photography company to a full visual company, to a content production company. It was a no brainer”, explains Jonathan Tay of the decision in 2013 to partner his print photography production company Cliq with Amana, a vast, multi-faceted and publicly listed Japanese visual production group. The strength of that partnership, backed up by dedication to quality, large reserves of cash and diversified range of services including video production, illustration, animation and innovation services, has enabled amanacliq to survive and prosper in Shanghai’s hazardous production industry.
One of the company’s key offerings is a print postproduction department, Ark Imaging, a team of 150 artists in Tokyo and, since 2014, seven artists and three producers in amanacliq’s Shanghai studio, Studio Ark. Over the years, Ark Imaging Shanghai has played an increasingly important role in the company's overall operations, executing jobs for clients like Nike, Adidas, Coke, Pepsi, P&G and Unilever, with plans to add a CGI team to its ranks.
Leading the Ark Imaging team in Shanghai is Kui Kui, former Group Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi Taiwan and McCann Shanghai turned celebrity photo retouching artist. SHP+ joined the Taiwanese to learn more about his unusual career trajectory and plans for building his team.
Tell us about the Ark Imaging team here in Shanghai. What are your strengths? When do you like to get involved in projects?
We aim to be involved before the shooting stage so we can advise on everything that will be needed to finish up the job. Sometimes it doesn't work out like that, but we will always find the right solution to make sure its executed to the highest standard. We have a very diverse group of artists; some are stronger on effects and composition, some are more sensitive to beauty and fashion. I think it's fair to say we’re all very detail-oriented, even on what might seem the most simple subject.
I started in Taipei with the then largest advertising agency, Unite Advertising, as an illustrator. This was during the “stone age” era, when computers did not exist in agencies and most execution was either shot or hand-drawn. After that, I moved to McCann in Taipei as a creative director and that was when I first experimented with Photoshop. It became my essential tool to create visuals with which I can really communicate with clients. In 2005, I got transferred to McCann Shanghai as Group Creative Director, and was in-charge of L’Oreal, Maybelline and Yue Sai. I was also heavily involved with pitches.
What prompted you to make the move from GCD to become a retouching artist?
It was really challenging when I started in China as a Group Creative Director. One of my major challenges was finding execution talent to match my expectations. I think it was also my passion for visual art and a desire to go back to my illustration roots that pushed me to move out of my comfort zone. After two years with McCann Shanghai, I decided that rather than remain as a creative, I would master Photoshop and switch to become a retouching artist.
How did your previous experience help you in transitioning to production?
I think having experience in understanding client’s insight and also being part of a creative team before helped me to understand creative objectives, understand creative challenges and ultimately provide solutions.
What were the challenges you faced in making this transition?
For someone who started as a creative, the transition was hugely challenging - to transform from the one having the idea to the one able to elevate other’s ideas. It’s also a transition from “upstream” to “downstream”. It required me to adjust my identity, to change my way of seeing ideas. It is important for me not to be disturbed by the concept of creativity, but to focus on the execution.
Is moving to implementation from agency like taking a step down? Are you happy that you made that move?
I’ve learned a lot since making the change. I think that in life taking chances is important, and pursuing individual passion is crucial. I am happy that I am able to fully concentrate on one discipline that I am passionate about.
2016 运动：阿迪达斯、耐克与纽百伦 | 2016 Sports: Adidas, Nike and New Balance
At the end of 2014, I collaborated with amanacliq on a Maybelline campaign. I was immediately impressed - it was an international team with a really strong dedication to execution from its Japanese foundations. As a creative from Taiwan, I found the fusion of diverse types of art and unique Japanese aesthetics quite tempting. I felt that the rigorous attitude of the production team was exactly what the domestic advertising industry needed. I hit it off with Jonathan (Tay), and soon joined Ark Imaging.
We are constantly evolving and always looking at how to enahance our final output with technology. Recently we have been experimenting with animating our still images to increase communication with the rapidly evolving digital media. The next major step is establishing a CGI team here in Shanghai.
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