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Maylee Keo

Freelance Illustrator & Animator |  7 Years Experience

Maylee Keo creates lively, colourful and playful illustrations, just like her! She is based out of Montréal.

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CWID

At what point in your life did you learn about design, and what drew you to it? 

M.K.

I used to see little flyers everywhere that were so cool, and I would hoard a bunch of them. My high school teacher knew this, and they told me to study graphic design in college, which really helped me think of how to create things differently.

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CWID

Describe the first office where you worked as a designer?

M.K.

I worked as an intern at Ubisoft Montreal during the protests against rising student fees in 2012 (we won)! 

We had to extend our college program for a few months, but once that was over, I had the chance to work in a motion design company.

CWID

What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day?

M.K.

I really have a bad habit of scrolling through my phone or directly logging into my computer (since I don’t always eat breakfast). But, if I have something to work on, I put on something to listen to and check out a bunch of things on Reddit and Instagram.

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CWID

Who do you consider to be an inspiring woman?

M.K.

I think anyone can be inspiring as long as they’re true to their values and they fight for the things they believe in. To see anyone who identifies as a woman breaking barriers in a male-led field is super inspiring. 

Also my mom.

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CWID

Describe your design process.

M.K.

I enjoy watching a bunch of things (I have a huge screen-time problem), and it helps me understand what things look like. This helps me draw things the way I remember them. I also try to inform myself of many things (politics, world news, etc.)—it is at times overwhelming, but it helps bring different perspectives to projects. 

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CWID

What inspires your work (professional or personal)?

M.K.

I really like sharing what I feel visually. I don’t always have the words to describe feelings, but visual metaphors really help. I’m also a sucker for nature and animals (and being surrounded by talented people helps, too)!

CWID

What project are you most proud of?

M.K.

It’s so difficult to choose (and to admit), but I’m really proud of this video I made for La Place des Arts in Montreal (https://mayleekeo.com/Interlude). It’s 30+ screens where you can showcase a whole animation project, and being able to create something by myself was a really proud moment for me.

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CWID

What is your personal or professional motto/philosophy?

M.K.

Be authentic, be kind, and don’t forget to take a break from time to time.

CWID

What’s the boldest thing you’ve ever done in your professional life?

M.K.

In one year, I’ve asked more than 120 people to contribute to three different creative collaborations. I just wanted to keep my community close during the pandemic.

CWID

What does success mean to you?

M.K.

Success is to attain your goals however big or small it is.

CWID

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a woman designer? 

M.K.

Dealing with casual sexism, racism, and the advice to “just brush it off,” as if everything is okay.

CWID

What was your educational experience like?

M.K.

In high school, I spent a lot of time in art programs and was invested in social causes. With time, I saw the potential of just learning directly while working in the industry.

CWID

If you weren’t a designer, what career would you pursue?

M.K.

Something sustainable, like being a beekeeper or working in a farm… but I have really bad allergies.

CWID

Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night.

M.K.

I’m scared that what I do isn’t good enough and that I’ve already peaked, so it’s all over.

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CWID

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when starting?

M.K.

Constructive criticism really does help. So put your ego down.

CWID

As a woman, what sacrifices have you had to make in your professional life?

M.K.

Cutting ties with people who don’t have the same values as me.

CWID

What advice would you give to a young woman designer?

M.K.

Representation matters. Your voice matters. 

CWID

What’s your favourite thing to do when you come home?

M.K.

Since 2016 I’ve been working from home, so probably the best thing at home is my bed or the couch. 

CWID

Which of your traits are you most proud of?

M.K.

I’m pretty honest, so if I really love your work, it’s because I really do.

CWID

Who was/is your greatest mentor and why?

M.K.

My friends Julien Castanié, Aurélie Grand, Samuel Jacques and Amélie Tourangeau have been helping me a lot for a long time. 

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CWID

Is it possible to be unique or original in the Internet age?

M.K.

The most important thing that can help define you in the Internet age is how you project your own personality onto all these screens. There’s no one else like you, so why be like everyone else?

CWID

What are your plans for the future?

M.K.

Taking a day at a time.

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