Storyboard: Clement Mok

Junkie for change

I have a confession to make.

I’m a junkie for change. In the forty years of my professional career, I’ve changed career paths like a model changes outfits in a fashion show. Some people call this A.D.D. I like to think of it as making the most of my creative journey.

How does a high school math and science flunky end up as a designer on the launch of Apple’s Macintosh and Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair, founder of a software startup, publisher of a digital stock photo business, officer of a public company, and partner of a high-end restaurant?

ArtCenter would end up teaching me many things, but the most important thing it ever taught me was how to design something from the ground up. It’s a skill I’ve carried with me for my entire adult life, and I am so thankful.

After ArtCenter, I worked in New York City for almost three years before I decamped to Silicon Valley.

My graphic design training provided me the confidence I needed to take on any creative challenge. And what a challenge it was when I arrived at Apple in 1982. I’ve always believed that it’s not enough to simply have talent and be in the right place at the right time. One must also be able to recognize an opportunity and willing to act on it.

I tell a lot of people that working at Apple in the 80s was my version of grad school. It was the first time in my life I truly understood the larger societal value of design. I got to see and participate firsthand how Apple was shaping the culture – how computers can change the way we learn, work and play.

Sometimes I still can’t believe I was ever a part of it.

One of Steve Jobs’ favorite quotes that he often used to rally the team during those heady days at Apple was, “The journey is the reward.” As designers, you have this amazing opportunity to translate ideas into meanings. In the world of new technology, standards don’t exist. If you are lucky, you get a chance to set the standards for others to follow. Which means: be great, and do insanely great work.

Apple allowing me to make the most out of my journey was what propelled me toward other creative ventures, including: Studio Archetype, a design startup with a singular focus on deploying new technology; CMCD, the first royalty-free online stock image business; and NetObjects, a cross-platform website authoring software.

After twenty-plus years centered around designing, creating and investing in technological products, I was exhausted. I ended up taking a year off. I wanted to find myself and recharge my batteries. As many people do, I got into cooking, and went on to teach myself the ins and outs of the gourmet culinary arts. That detour took me down a path where I am now one of six managing partners for Sugarfish and KazuNori, a chain of sushi restaurants that have become LA/NYC favorites.

How did I go from being at Apple to working with stock photos and sophisticated software to being in the sushi game? It’s simple – in all mediums, artistry blends with functionality, and culture is channeled through storytelling.

What ArtCenter did was polish me and prepare me for the world. Before I enrolled, I was a rough draft, an unpolished stone. I’m still a work in progress, and that’s okay. In that regard, it doesn’t matter where you go to school – only that you make the most of your creative journey.

Clement Mok
BA 80 Graphic Design
Former Creative Director of Apple Creative Services
CCO of Sapient/National President of AIGA

It’s simple: in all mediums, artistry blends with functionality, and culture is channeled through storytelling.

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