Jenifer Alicia Ooi, also known as Jennihsurf, has lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for 14 years now. She’s a Creative Director for a Digital Advertising Agency and balances the pressure of work with the serenity of yoga. Some of her work caught our eye and we became fans.
Jen is definitely a firecracker. She’s deeply into digital creatives as well as discovering as much as she can about herself and the
world universe around us. She’s passionate towards art, design and basically making things beautiful; and about finding the perfect center within life.
Here’s us chatting with her.
“I believe that the simpler moments in life are worth celebrating”
1. So come now, tell us about yourself.
I’m Jen, from small town Ipoh, Malaysia. I love making beautiful things or making things beautiful. Creative Director in the morning, Yoga Instructor by evening. I’m an animal lover, which also explains why I’m vegetarian.
Make A Difference (.my) is an animal charity organisation I founded where all proceeds goes to help shelter animals. So far we have raised funds to help shelter animals for WWF, SPCA, Paws Mission, MDDB, Kuala Lumpur Pooch Rescue as well as iSPCA.
2. You’re a Creative Director for a digital advertising agency. You must see a lot of pretty cool designs and concepts day in and day out. Tell us about it!
Yes, everyday comes with different challenges and sometimes I do come across not so interesting ideas and concepts. But the backbone of ideas is that every idea should be respected and no idea is ever really a bad one. The most difficult thing in advertising I believe is to make the most unattractive things attractive, which can be quite a challenge if you do not have a wild imagination.
I also believe in the concept of pixel perfection; which is why I’m slightly obsessed with symmetry, geometry and grids. As a minimalist, I like things organised and well balanced. The hardest thing to design is basically how to make things simple. I believe in good user experience in the design process and try my best to learn and adapt to new technologies and trends when it comes to design practices.
Personalized Business Cards
3. We know you graduated as an engineering graduate though. How did you get involved in digital advertising?
Hah! Good one. I grew up to be quite the high achiever. Hence anything that revolves around logic, maths and numbers are relatively easy for me. I aced all the mathematical, computing and engineering courses. However that one thing that can’t be proven right or wrong is arts. It’s very different to engineering where the answer is either a 1 or 0. In design, sometimes you get an in between and most of the time you can’t get everyone to agree or to like a certain design. Design is a very subjective matter and I find it to be much more challenging than engineering. I started off my career as a developer but once the job got too easy, I lost interest and begin dwelling into design. It was no bed of roses for me to be in digital advertising. The hard work paid off from burning a lot of midnight oils to complete digital projects which include websites, campaigns as well as digital launches. The beauty of digital is that it evolves everyday and I’m still very passionate into improving myself and learning how to bring creativity into the digital world.
4. You’re also a certified yoga instructor yes? Why dive into yoga?
Yes. Apart from all the health benefits yoga has, it’s what kept me sane (haha) when it comes to balancing my life in the advertising world. The advertising world is really competitive and stressful in nature due to tight deadlines, often unrealistic expectations as well as demanding working hours and projects. Yoga helped me tremendously to keep my head cool and remain calm in stressful situations as well as keeping myself motivated to not only do my best but remain humble when I have achieved my goals.
Yoga in general also helped to relax my busy mind which is always thinking about what big idea should I be executing next. Having certified to teach yoga was definitely one of my biggest achievements – to be spreading love, harmony and positive energy. Of course there is no stopping from here. Yoga is a lifelong journey and the more you practice, the better you become at it, which is what we do in life.
5. What and/or who are your influences?
Thanks to the digital world and media channels, I am able to follow my favourite yoga influencers right from the very start. People like kinoyoga, beachyogagirl, fitqueenirene as well as local yogis like Nini Ahmad are my inspiration to push myself to become an instructor and to spread the love of yoga.
6. So your passions are the digital arena, creative works as well as yoga. Sounds to us like you’re into nurturing a broader worldview and beautiful things. Care to share your thoughts?
I believe the world is a simple place if people are willing to take a step out from the busy to look into what matters the most – living in the moment. Being content with who we are and what we have as well as being really mindful of our daily actions. In the digital arena, things are moving really fast while in yoga, things are moving really slow. The whole idea is to find the balance where we can find inner peace when things are chaotic, and to be swift and fast when we are focused and slow in motion.
I take time off to travel every year just to bring my mind back to nature and enjoy the simplest things in life. I’m naturally a very simple person with no big goals and wants in life. The mere necessities to keep me happy is my dog, a roof to shelter under, food to keep my body going and being able to do the things I love, which are digital design and yoga.
Over the years I have started to love travelling to the mountains. It was really hard to be trekking countless hours and brave the crazy cold weather but the view, the view basically recharges my soul for a good couple of months.
“The more our heart and mind feels liberated,
the easier it is to process and to ideate”
7. Walk us through your creative process.
There is actually not one absolute process that i follow. I change my ways all the time to suit the right briefs and requirements, be it to tackle a project, a pitch or a yoga class. The most important thing I believe is to be flexible in our minds bending towards change. Change and the unknown is always seen as a bad thing but for me, I like to use the path that will lead to the best results, and if that means changing my ways, I will do it anytime. That said, my creative process is quite simple, know the goals and don’t stop till you reach them. You have one job, do it so good that people will remember you. That is my daily mantra when I wake up in the morning to remind myself of my purpose and intention of my day.
Being in the industry is very taxing to the mind and body. I find ways to rejuvenate creative energy by travelling and meeting new people from time to time. Travelling opens up the mind to new culture and relaxes the soul to embrace differences of place, food, language and any barriers at all. This is why we feel very relaxed after a holiday as it frees up all the negativity (toxins) within the body when we open up our hearts and mind. The more our heart and mind feels liberated, the easier it is to process and to ideate.
I made a series of mini Photobooks of all my travels and place them in the middle of my hallway at home. It’s easy to forget sometimes when you lead a hectic life that you have been blessed to visit all the wonderful places that shaped me into who I am today. Being able to flip through my travel Photobooks in the weekend sometimes just keeps me in ultimate gratitude that I have been to all these places.
(Editor’s note – Have a look at our Mini Square Photobooks right Here)
8. How would you say you have changed through the years since you first began your work professionally?
I have changed tremendously both in my personality as well as my portfolio of work.
First up, personality wise, I feel very different now compared to who I was when I first started in the industry. One thing’s for sure, I have always been true to my goals and my personal philosophy at work which is, whatever I do, I have to only deliver my best. I have learned a lot from different mentors from all walks of life, being blessed with quite a handful of people who not only believe in me but also assured me that I am doing the right thing. Support by anyone at all, be it from your own family, friends, coworkers or superiors is really important to keep us moving forward. That said, I used to always seek for approval and acknowledgement in my work in the past. In recent years, I no longer seek for acknowledgement from my peers. By reducing my expectations towards what I can do, I reduce the load of stress on myself in so many ways. One of the key learnings of yoga is also to let go of that ego controlling our actions.
My portfolio of work grew tremendously when I removed ego out of the equation and began looking at things in a bigger picture to solve user problems. In Yoga, being mindful of our thoughts, actions as well as words are important to sustain a healthy working relation with anyone.
9. Passion is a mile far from hobby, and an inch short of crazy. You found your passion, what advice would you give to someone in search of theirs?
Never be second best. If you want to succeed in anything, go all in. If you are not there yet, practice, practice and all is coming.
Find out more about Jen on her website jennihsurf.net
or check her out on Instagram – jennihsurf!