Daniel Lee had aspirations to be many things. Today he is in the creative industry as an animator. He started Semicolon, creating refreshing brand experiences for clients.
What’s your story?
Being an artist wasn’t actually my initial choice of a career. I enjoyed doing illustrations as a kid but sports and the military fascinated me more. This influence can be attributed to my dad who served in the special forces.
By 13, I had aspirations to be many things, a pilot, a member of the special forces or a professional basketball player. However, a severe sports injury at the age of 16 effectively ended these dreams. I was devastated to say the least. At my lowest point, I sought to create illustrations in a bid to distract myself. It was also during this period when I started doing research on other artists and their creative styles. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked and before I knew it, I decided to pursue a diploma in design and signed up with the animation course at Nanyang Polytechnic.
The animation industry was very young then but there was an active push by the government to promote the creative scene in Singapore. We were fortunate enough to be under the tutelage of experienced animation lecturers who hailed from Disney. It was a robust course and we enjoyed every minute of it. But it was an internship that opened up my eyes to a professional creative pipeline. Inexperienced but hungry, I wanted to try everything from concept art to being a 3D artist. I was completely clueless.
I landed my first freelance job at the age of 18 and thankfully, one job led to another. This string of jobs allowed me to hone my skills and in the process, discover my love for motion graphics. I haven’t stopped since. Looking back, this journey’s been laden with uncertainties and I’m sure it will continue to spring more surprises but I’m looking forward to it because with each step, I surpass myself.
What excites you most about your industry?
The first would definitely have to be the creative process. Every brand has a different story to tell and these briefs are often accompanied by creative and budgetary restrictions. It’s up to us to craft a compelling narrative that resonates with ourselves, the client and the audience.
That said, despite the challenges we face from the point of conceptualization to production, it’s enthralling to watch all the pieces come together.
Next, the audience response when they watch our work for the first time. Weeks and months of hard work are often defined by their reactions in that span of minutes. Hence, it’s highly rewarding when they acknowledge what they see.
What’s your connection to Asia?
This is my identity, I was born here and I am proud to be a part of it.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I am based primarily in Singapore but I’m fortunate enough to have worked in Beijing, Causeway Bay and Taipei.
It’s probably premature to identify a favourite city at this juncture since I would relish a chance to work in Seoul or Tokyo in the near future. My attraction to these two cities can be attributed to their distinct art styles and my admiration for the level of work ethic that they display. These ingredients have propelled them to produce amazing work and I hope to be part of that movement one day.
At this present moment, I’m content here in Singapore. Despite the limited market size, building a business infrastructure here is relatively fuss-free. Moreover, it’s safe here and we stay well-connected to our network of peers and clients both locally and from overseas.
Clients here are also gradually becoming more open to accepting the use of experimental films to promote their brands so it seems like the whole conservative Asian mentality is shifting away. These are promising signs that further compel us to stay on.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
5 years prior to setting up Semicolon, I was talking to a partner of an architectural firm after wrapping up a freelance job for him.
He shook my hand and said, “In business, there is no such thing as being lucky. Luck is when hard work and preparation meets opportunity.”
That has been my mantra ever since. It keeps me grounded and pushes me to continue working hard for what I want.
Who inspires you?
Too many. But if I really had to name people, it would have to be my parents.
They taught me to appreciate the people around me because success aside, a man is ultimately defined by his character and values. They are exemplary beings for the simple fact that they can talk the talk and walk the walk. And trust me, that is no mean feat.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That sometimes, forever can merely be a second.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I took better care of my body, would I have become a pilot?
Too many what ifs leave a sour taste in your mouth. I had to overcome some rough patches early on in my life but I’m perfectly happy where I am today. None of this would have been possible if not for that.
So no, I wouldn’t change a thing.
How do you unwind?
Off the top of my head, I sing and draw most of the time. I don’t sing well but sometimes you just get in the zone you know, especially when you are sketching while sipping on a nice cuppa. I still work out whenever I get time off from work but I try to take it easy these days. I don’t want to relive the old times, if you get what I mean.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Growing up in Singapore has taught me to embrace multiple cultures. Whether it’s exploring a street market, scaling a mountain or interacting with the locals in a bar, I derive the most pleasure from cultural exchanges.
To date, Taiwan is perhaps my go to destination simply because there’s a nice blend of food, scenery and culture. The locals are incredibly friendly and it is pleasant to know that there is no communication barrier. it is especially heartwarming when we communicate with the locals in their dialect. There is a sense of intimacy that just simply can’t be put into words.
Each visit to Taiwan leaves me craving for more, speaking of which, I am probably visiting this beautiful country again in December.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger.
There’s a continual focus on the power of psychological biases which explains how this can aid you in both business and in life. It’s a great read for those who are keen to learn.
Shameless plug for your business:
Semicolon was started with the intention of creating refreshing brand experiences through the assemblage of creatives who hail from different design backgrounds. We are constantly trying to push the envelope in a bid to deliver splendid work for our clients.
We’ve served a myriad of clients and we constantly endeavor to better ourselves. Feel free to peruse our work at www.semicolon.asia.
How can people connect with you?
Through my linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/danielleesihorng
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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