String and Key
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String and Key

The String and Key Crew: Richan Li

As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet Richan Li.

Company Role: Animator

Most likely to: Get lost in Pinterest when looking for reference pictures

Secret talent: Binding my own sketchbooks

Yangyuchen, aka Richan, originally hails from Kunming, China, where she always had dreams of being an artist. At only 15, she made her way to Arlington, Massachusetts as a student, where she lived with a family she calls lovely. After this, she moved west to the Windy City, where she lived for five years, and earned her BFA at the Art Institute in Chicago. Finally, she excitedly made her way back to the East Coast, where she earned her MFA in animation at the Pratt Institute and created an animated short called Babble Bubble (check it out here). Now she’s settled in Jersey City, a much quieter metropolis not too far from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. After a few freelance gigs, she landed at String and Key in March 2021 where she’s been working on exciting projects using her knowledge of 2D animation and illustration.

Let’s get to know a little more about Richan.

What do you do, and what does your typical workday look like?
I work in the Art dept. (a subsection of our Creative team) where I create illustrations and animation. I start my day with stand-up meetings with the team, or with my supervisor Soong to check in and discuss my daily to-do’s. My team and I also regularly brainstorm creative ideas and visualize them into sketches. After some reviews and feedback, I digitalize the sketches and polish them to create a final illustration or animation.

What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
I love the freedom of creativity when collaborating among teams. People at String & Key have a great sense of humor, and ideas are encouraged to flow. When the Creative and Marketing teams work together, our copywriters and marketers articulate concepts into fun and poetic words, and we animators and designers join in with cool visuals. With the exchange of thoughts, voilà, something amazing turns out!

What excites you about your job?
I have plenty of time to draw and animate, AND I have more time to learn beyond drawing and animating. Before joining S&K, I was a freelancer who spent most of my time only talking to a client or collaborating with very few creatives. At S&K, there are cross-over tasks for different teams to work together. I have the opportunity to learn beyond my field by working with other teams regularly. It really excites me to participate in the growth of an idea and be hands-on crafting it with everybody.

What do you find most challenging about your role?
It’s a challenge for me to express my thoughts the way I want them to be perceived, because I am not familiar with the tools that I use. Previously, most of the animation and illustrations I had worked with were for viewing purposes only, but at S&K, animation and illustration are used for much more. It’s challenging to step out of my comfort zone when working with new tech and tools. Once I take tutorials, or have help and get tips from my team, all the challenges are worth it.

What are the values that drive you?
Curiosity and being open to new things. These are values that bring me inspiration often. Also, I’m always open to critique and feedback because it’s a good mirror to retrospect my work.

How do you stay on top of your game?
I watch and analyze a lot of art — from animation to illustration to general artwork. I also visit museums. Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of animated videos created by large studios — it’s been fun to break this content down frame by frame, and analyze the techniques that they use. From there, I apply my own interpretation and then I am able to create my own content and means of self-expression.

What drew you to tech and what excites you about the industry?
I got my first tablet when I was in high school, and ever since then, I’ve spent most of my time digital painting. For animation, I’ve always preferred working digitally rather than with piles of papers. I used to have boxes of printing paper with my animations on them shipped from the US to my home in China when I graduated from college. It was a pain. Now everything can be saved in the cloud and shared with one click. I can even arrange my work online, WHOA! Many new tools and software are user-friendly and have tons of tutorials online, and it excites me that tech makes imagination approachable.

What’s one thing — either industry-related or not — that you’ve learned in the last month?
I learned that each state has their own legal lingo, which just astounded me. This is something that I’ve never thought about before!

If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
I would love to swap with Ariane, our general counsel. Legal and Compliance is a totally new field to me and I find it fascinating knowing what phrases may or may not be used in different places. It’s also interesting knowing about the different laws!

What unexpected subject could you give a one-hour presentation on with no advance prep?
I can talk about the origin of Yaoguai and Yokai (which are both monsters, ghosts, spirits, mythological creatures, etc.) from Chinese and Japanese folklore, and some mythological creatures and monsters from Scandinavian culture.

What keeps you busy outside of work?
Before the pandemic, I used to go to museums and galleries a lot — NYC is full of them and I never get tired of visiting. I’m also always watching movies, mostly animations and anime, with my friends, and then we discuss their stories and scripts. Now that I’ve moved to Jersey city, I like to walk by the Hudson River and just sit on a bench and look at the Manhattan skyline, haha.

Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?
#Cheerful #Curious #Non-ConsistentArtStyle #2D #LoveShibaInu

Lighting Round:

Invisibility or super strength?
Super strength.

Tea or coffee?
Coffee.

Pet birds or pet fish?
Pet birds.

Polka dots or stripes?
Polka dots.

New clothes or new phone?
New clothes!

Interested in working at String and Key? Join us!

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