View the original speech by Kenny at KDU’s 2018 A.G.E (Architectural & Graphic Exhibition) Graduation here.

creative students, creatives of tomorrow

As an old school designer, I started way back in 1979. We didn’t even use the term Graphic Design back then. It was called Commercial Art. What has changed? A LOT!

Firstly, designers are now perceived differently.

Art was frowned upon in my time. Only failures go into arts stream. Everyone wants to be in the science stream. When I decided to go into Commercial Art, my relatives told my father I’m a ‘gone case’. Artists only make money after they die. But I chased my passion and here I am today. Things have certainly changed though.

It’s hip to be a designer today. You play with the latest technology. You look fashionable and trendy. And if you are good, you are highly sought after. So as we can see, the general perception of designers have changed.

Second, the tools have changed.

Before the digital era, cut and paste is not Command X and Command V. It’s NT Cutters and Cow Gum. We literally cut and paste! But I am glad I had the courage to jump into the digital age. In fact Ken Ray, our company was one of the first in Malaysia to invest into the Apple Macintosh desktop publishing system. We got our first single bit Mac, in 1987 that has 20MB Hard Disk and 4MB RAM. It cost us RM22,000. And I got the first Apple Laser Printer, 300 dpi for RM24,000. We had to take a loan as these two machines cost nearly 50K. That was 1987 money okay, where one Hokkien Mee was still RM1.80.

You are all fortunate that technology and software has advanced exponentially. Your tools are fantastic and it allows you to do more and do them faster. It is an age of undos and save as. In our time, it was into the dustbin and redos.

Third, the reach has changed.

The internet has made your work accessible to more people. Talents can be easily discovered and you can easily engage with others in real time anywhere in the world. You can be discovered on BeHance, Instagram, Facebook – there are so many channels for you to show your work. Exposure is cheaper and faster, while during my time, exposure is costly and limited.


Creativity. It still takes the human mind to see beyond the ordinary. The tools remain just a tool. Whether it’s the technical pens of my time or the wacom tablet of today, the tools mean little if your creativity don’t take off. A blank piece of paper is the same as a blank screen. Don’t just perfect your skill. Develop your creativity. It is the real value of a designer.

Attitude. This is what shapes your future. It is the same yesterday. It is the same today. Be curious. Be hungry. Be a learner. Never think you know everything. Life is a school you never graduate from. It does not mean you cannot learn from someone who knows less than you. 

Work Ethics. Nothing in life comes free. You want it, you need to work towards it, and work for it. I have three simple rules to good work ethics.

  • Work Hard. Enough said. Laziness gets you nowhere.
  • Work Smart. Design is basically problem solving. Know why you do what you do. Good design is 80% research and 20% execution. Not in its time frame but in its value.
  • Work Together. There is a saying “If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run together.” That is why there are such things called team projects and brainstorming. You cannot storm your own brain. You need others to brainstorm. And it’ll make your journey richer, and gives you a broader perspective.

I wish all of you great success. If at any time, you have questions or need advice, I am available. My team are young millennials because you guys are the future. Go for it!

Speech at Graduation Showcase
Creatives for creatives. Things that have changed and things that have stayed the same.

– Ken Ray Staff Post