Designer Q&A: Ethan Tran on Finding Your Path

Discover Ethan Tran's unique design philosophy: a blend of simplified style, storytelling through typography, and drawing inspiration from Instagram.

Meet Ethan Tran, a visionary designer renowned for his storytelling through design. In this exclusive interview to Stills, Ethan shares his journey from a business major to a creative force. He talks about his evolving design process, sources of inspiration, and unique approaches to overcome creative burnout. Discover how Ethan uses vulnerability and writing to craft impactful stories, and his take on the benefits of Stills for designers. You can explore Ethan’s mood board here.

Question: What is your design process like? How has it changed as you’ve evolved in your career?
Ethan: I usually explore design through typography. Since my content focuses on storytelling, I use design to tell better stories through the use of type. I think my design style has become more simplistic over the years due to the fact that I mainly shoot video and like my designs to sit over simple landscape photos as an addition to the video rather than a main piece.

Ice Sheet Fractured With Deep, Snaking Crevasses
License the photo via Elliott Chau.

Q: Where do you look for inspiration?
E: I mostly scroll through Instagram. I find the best inspiration from what other artists or creatives I follow repost. If I like their visual style, I think it makes it easy for me to trust the things they curate themselves. I’m really interested in artists who experiment a lot in their work, so when I see an experiment that works really well it intrigues me. One thing I think is underrated about visual inspiration is diving deeper into their work/process by reading interviews. Oftentimes, studying their process is just as important as the work itself.

Q: How do you get your head back in the game when you’re feeling burnt out?
E: When I’m burnt out I tend to go on long walks, do some street photography, hang out with friends, or just watch a movie. Going on a walk helps me to decompress and pull me out of the constant need to be always on as a creative. Street photography also helps with this, but I find it relaxing because it allows me to listen to music and focus on different vignettes of the environment around me.

A Small Lake In The Middle Of A Field With Trees
License the photo via Roman Fox.

Q: If you can share, what do you think is your ‘secret weapon’ when creating? Please explain how you developed this skill.
E: My secret weapon is vulnerability and writing. Vulnerability because I feel like every movie, video, or photograph I’m inspired by, I create to make others feel something. My content isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. I think that having too big of an audience can be detrimental to the stories I’m trying to tell. Writing because I’ve learned to love it. It makes stories stronger. It makes me who I am and gives me a voice.

Q: Looking back, what are some hurdles you had to overcome personally that impacted you? They can be big or small.
E: One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome was when I was in college and felt really lost about what to do for a career. I was a business major and something about it just wasn’t right for me. I actively had to work on passion projects outside of school work, experiment with different creative mediums, and overall just make a bunch of random stuff to try and find something I like. All the things I made during college were a catalyst for everything I’m able to do now. Constant learning and making mistakes led me to where I am now as a creator/creative.

Abstract Light Blue Texture
License the photo via Dennis Aydogan.

Q: What do you like about Stills? How is it a good resource for designers?
E: I like how curated the selection is on Stills. It’s photo licensing that puts amazing photographers at the forefront. I love how you’re able to see the person behind the photos within the platform. I also appreciate how Stills acts as a platform for photographers to monetize their projects in a way that feels true to the medium. Stills is a great resource for designers to layer typographic elements or make posters for their designs using licensed work from other artists.

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As we conclude our conversation with Ethan Tran, his insights leave us inspired and thoughtful. His journey underscores the power of personal evolution and the importance of authenticity in design.