We head to Penang, Malaysia to speak to the incredibly talented Illustrator, Designer and Art Director, Nicholas Chuan in the latest instalment of Industry Insider!

This is one to read for aspiring creatives and freelancers alike…


Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?

Hi! I am Nicholas Chuan, a professional illustrator, designer and art director working mainly within the sport industry. I have work with various global sport brands including UEFA, FIFA, Liverpool FC, Red Bull Racing, Kansas City Chiefs, just to name a few.

I have been around in the sports creative industry since 2016 as a hobbyist. After gaining more experiences and insights of how things work, I kickstarted my freelancing career in 2021.


What do you do in your current role?

I am a digital artist who illustrates, designs and pitches interesting art ideas to clients, with the focus on visual details and storytelling.


“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?

Well it’s hard to say. The sport industry is always active, so I am fortunate enough that there are always something fresh for me to explore every week. Usually, I would spend my week looking up at Pinterest and other sources for inspiration on my current or next project.

Once it’s done, I would pick up my pen and start sketching out some early concepts, then proceed to paint and finish up the project. If there’s any off day, I would take on personal project that challenges me to push out new ideas for my artwork.


How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?

To be fair, I never thought of working in sport during my early years, as sport industry in Malaysia is not quite as established as overseas. However, I enjoy watching football since I was a kid and I love to express my joy and passion for it by creating artworks.

I was lucky that I got to build a strong connection since I started publishing my artwork on my socials, and with the combination of some happy accidents along the way, it helps me achieve where I end up right now.


What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?

As an artist, it’s always important to understand and visualise clients’ needs based on the brief given. Generally, as art is often hard to convey into words, providing an art direction for clients are essential in every project, that includes handing in the initial sketch and concept art for clients review before proceeding further.

By discussing the general idea or the art style with clients, it would also solidly help set the ground work of the project.

Self-discipline on deadline management is also my main focus when it comes to my work. Sport is a fast paced industry, so it’s important to ensure the project is always delivered on time.

It’s also important to be nice to people and ensure a long lasting relationship with clients while working together. It’s a small world we are living in, and being nice to people will eventually leads us to success.


Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?

Never afraid to say no. It’s easy to say yes to every tight deadlines and schedule, but mental health is the one thing that drives us forward.

It’s not worth it to burnt myself out and it’s important to have a work-life balance at the end of the day.


What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?

The diversity of job opportunities in the sports creative industry. It’s incredible to see every person can dream of working in sport now because of the rapid growing digital world.

I have seen a lot of talented people bursting onto the scene from every corner of the world, it’s definitely an exciting time for me to witness these!


If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?

I would say it’s the unequal salary for the creatives working in sport.

Creativity thrives when the morale is high, thus it’s a necessity for every individual to get a fair amount of salary every year.


Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?

I switch off by watching documentaries, there are a lot of great journalism and video essays on YouTube to kill my time.

As I spend most of my time using my right brain for creativity, I often like to even out my day using the left brain.

During weekend nights, I will spend more time with my family and friends, and just relax.


What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?

A healthy portfolio is key, curating a good examples of work and info is a great starting point to ensure you stand out.

This also includes your online presence, where it’s important to always be aware of what you said on social media as it’s a place where the first impression lies.


How to connect with Nicholas Chuan…

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter.


Thanks for reading our chat with Nicholas Chuan! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.