A Conversation with Vi.
A Rose on the Street is a design studio founded by Tuong Vi Pham. A reflection of the creator's name meaning, it is something that grows in a common space and may be overlooked but commands a passerby to closely observe its true beauty. A bloom that pushes through the hard concrete, a growth that overcomes adversity, and an allure that awaits patiently for a beholder.
Follow Vi on Instagram to see more of their creativity come to life.
Photo Credit: Sandra Blank
Session: Were you always creative? How did you end up working in Graphics?
Vi: Oh, it started already very early in my childhood. The most obvious thing is you watch anime cartoons and start drawing them. So for me, it was really anime that brought me into drawing. And then my mom saw that I had so much fun doing it. So she signed me up for painting classes with an artist.
I didn't realize then that it was such a particular thing, but she's like, oh, I found this lady with an art studio (I was 10 at that time). Then I got there, and she said, oh, let's just look and see if you like it. So, my first interaction with real art was when I was 10, and I went to go have painting classes with this lady, and that's when I started painting and oil painting as well.
It took on a life of its own and grew from there. I got into art, but then I also got into fashion at some point. I wanted to study fashion design, but even then, I knew fashion design was very hard to succeed financially. So I said, okay, I could do something more practical, which you can apply to everything.
I had to look into some things and thought, okay, anime is a bit like graphic design. So I started to look into graphic design and decided, okay, this, this is what I wanna do. Graphic design involves photography, it involves illustration and painting. You can really work with every medium. That's why I was so drawn to graphic design.
Session: Do you feel that your background with painting has informed the style that you do?
Vi: 100%. My paintings, at first, looked like anime. My art teacher would say, 'Oh, this looks like anime. I don't really like it.' She tried to steer me in a different direction, so eventually, I picked up a different style that was more free.
Session: Have you developed any tools or rituals that help you tap into your creativity?
Vi: That's a difficult one because I feel like if we have a day-to-day design routine, I would say it's hard to take a break. But I like to and want to, so I'm a freelancer now. I have the freedom to travel and to go to places where I get a way different stimulation, a completely different stimulation than just visually. I like going to a museum in different countries and touching different things. I love looking at clothes that are not what I would normally like. I like to look at new and different things. That's one big reason I like to travel.
Traveling is very important, too, to get these new inspirations. Listening to music and making music is really inspiring for me. That's why I need a balance between making music and doing design. I can't be this design machine. Nothing has a soul or meaning once you feel yourself becoming this operational being. It's just like, oh, this is cool. This is what people like; okay, I'll do it.
Session: You have no to-do list on your day off. What is your perfect day for relaxation?
Vi: I'm surfing. That's my real obsession, my husband and I really, really love it. That's why we moved to Southern California. So we can have that work-life balance and have the opportunity to go to the beach and surf whenever. When the waves are good, we try to go out there if we have the time, but usually, for me, it's easier to do because, again, I'm a freelancer, and I can go chase waves anytime.
Staring at the ocean is the ultimate relaxation. It feels very wide and very open. For example, if I have anxiety, I go to the ocean and look at something wide. It calms me down. It humbles me because I know all the possibilities are out there for me. So I'm not stuck in this one lane or this one thing that is in my mind.
Session: Are you working on anything new you want to share or plugin?
Vi: I'm working on new music, but it's been an interesting experience. I don't feel comfortable sharing new music. It's so weird. It's like sharing something really personal. It's like reading out of your diary. I don't know. It's, so, yeah, I'm working on new music. Design-wise, I'm working, I have different clients, but there's nothing personal, no personal projects.
Session: When you're making music, are you composing?
Vi: Mm-hmm. It can be just with the instruments that I'm playing, or it can just be resembling music that is already existing and then playing the instruments on top of the track. Sometimes just altering it makes it new. It's a little bit like graphic design, the way it works in layers.
Session: Are you making music as a hobby, or are you interested in pursuing it in a larger capacity?
Vi: It started as an escape. It started when I was still working in the corporate world. I came home, and I needed relaxation. That was my way to escape, and it was so nice that I couldn't stop. That feeling of really just expressing something that you are feeling. I think music is, for me, about feeling something and expressing it rather than making something. What started as making music every single day to escape became eventually like a new profession. It's like a little career pivot, but I still need both music and graphic design in my life.
Photo Credit: Sandra Blank