Young Guns: Four Voices

By Brett McKenzie Posted on Jun 08, 2018

Ahead of the Young Guns 16 deadline, four of last year's winners reflect on their fortunes

With the final deadline for Young Guns 16 at the end of the month, we know that there are hundreds of designers, art directors, illustrators, animators and other creative professionals who are sweating the details of their submissions. After all, winning Young Guns and joining the ranks of its exclusive community can be career-changing, so it pays to be meticulous.

But if getting ready for one of the world's most presigious accolades for creative professionals 30 years of age and under makes you nervous, remember that many others have been in your shoes. Exactly one year ago, illustrators Jing Wei and Amber Vittoria, graphic designer Noemie Le Coz and filmmaker Daniel Soares were in your position, preparing to enter an award that had been elusive to them in the past. A few months later, they were among the 31 phenomenally talented winners of Young Guns 15.

We had a chance to reach out to this quartet of recent Young Guns winners to get their insight on what the honor means, and advice for those trying to make it in this year.


(L-R) Jing Wei, Noemie Le Coz, Daniel Soares, Amber Vittoria.

In one sentence, what does being a Young Guns winner mean to you?

Jing: Being a Young Guns winner affirms that I have found momentum, and I will try my best to keep it going.

Noemie: Winning Young Guns means that I can trust my intuition a lot more now than I probably once could!

Daniel: It's an honor to be part of such a talented group of people who do really inspiring work.

Amber: Winning Young Guns last year was an incredible feeling, knowing the industry is beginning to accept portrayals of women that break down the societal stereotype is such an important step in the right direction.

Why did you want to be a Young Guns winner in the first place, and how did finally winning it make you feel?

Jing: I’ve applied in the past, but I always knew that my work wasn’t quite ready. YG15 was my lfinal qualifying year, so I decided to give it one last shot, and I’m so glad I did. It was a nice boost of confidence, because it allowed me to take a moment to recognize the efforts I’ve made to push my work over the years.

Noemie: Winning Young Guns helps validate both your own hard work and that you’re heading on a solid path, creatively. For me, entering was part seeking that validation, part knowing that it would be a missed opportunity not to. It also forced me to keep my folio in check. I had entered the year before but left it until the night before, which I wouldn’t recommend!

Daniel: I used to look up to all of the Young Guns winners when I was younger, and thought that maybe one day I could win it too. I entered once a few years back and didn't make it, so last year I only submitted work that I thought reflected who I am. I didn't have any expectations to win!

Amber: I've wanted to be a Young Gun since college! It took me two tries to break through and receive a Cube! Knowing that other people resonate with my work in this capacity was so important to me, especially having looked up to all previous Young Guns winners for so long. 

"I used to look up to all of the Young Guns winners when I was younger, and thought that maybe one day I could win it too."

— Daniel Soares

Why is it so important to recognize the creative excellence of young professionals?

Jing: I think a lot of people like to say negative things about creative competitions (and some of it is definitely valid), but there is another side to it, which is that it’s important to showcase the accomplishments of people who are thinking differently. And aside from creative excellence, juries should also be seeing it as their responsibility to highlight underrepresented voices. It can only benefit our community if we continue to challenge and surprise each other in a positive way.

Noemie: Creativity is (thankfully!) one thing that machine learning can’t replicate — which means that the creative future of the world does really rest on us. We need to make sure that it’s recognized for the unique and profound contribution that it will continue to have, with a strong importance placed on encouraging and empowering young people within the profession. When you're starting out, a lot of your confidence and motivation can be so dependent on recognition and encouragement from others — something I think we can all relate to!

Daniel: For me, Young Guns is special because it recognizes creatives for their personal voice, people who try new paths. Going that way is hard and brings with it a lot self doubt, so celebrating young creatives who do is definitely a nice pat on the back, and encourages them to keep going.

Amber: Breaking into a creative industry is incredibly difficult, and honoring young creatives who are doing just that legitimizes the craft of said young professionals.

Young Guns is more than just a collection of winning classes; it comprises a community network of rebels and prodigies, unsung heroes and rising stars. In your experience, how has being a part of this vibrant, creative community helped you?

Jing: I’ve met some amazingly talented and inspiring people through Young Guns. That alone is awesome. And being a part of any supportive community is invaluable. I don’t think I would be where I am now without other creatives to help me, hire me, and give me perspective in general.

Noemie: I’m a big believer in following and building your own path, regardless of what’s expected or the status quo. Doing your own thing with confidence can be so powerful. Being part of this like-minded community of people has reinforced that all for me. It’s given me a platform to keep pushing my work, and some strengthened direction moving forward, knowing that I have such an amazing group to call on, bounce off and look up to, at any time.

Daniel: It's still pretty recent, but I definitely have had the chance to meet other Young Guns winners throughout the past year and it's great. You feed off each other.

Amber: Since becoming a Young Guns winner, I've received several illustration projects from other Young Guns winners, which have lead me to win more awards for said work!

"...being a part of any supportive community is invaluable. I don’t think I would be where I am now without other creatives to help me, hire me, and give me perspective in general."

— Jing Wei

What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on since becoming a Young Guns winner?

Noemie: It's not a project, but I just got asked to give my first big talk at a design conference in Scotland this October. Super excited for it (but possibly just as nervous)!

Amber: My illustration for The New York Times Magazine on women in the workplace. Young Guns 10 winner Caleb Bennett was my Art Director, and it has become on of my favorite pieces to date!


What would you say to encourage pyoung professionals to participate in Young Guns 16?

Jing: This is very much a “why not” sort of situation. Nothing great ever comes out of not trying. And if you don’t win, buy yourself some ice cream and get on with your week!

Noemie: Young Guns is the best way for your hard work to get seen by a unique group of people who may very well have the power to help shape your career. It’s also the one exercise that whips your folio into shape better and quicker than any I’ve tried. Young Guns entry time equals folio boot camp!

Amber: It is a great opportunity to curate and reflect on your work and process thus far, and you have an incredible opportunity to present your work to judges from all over the world.

"Young Guns is the best way for your hard work to get seen by a unique group of people who may very well have the power to help shape your career."

— Noemie Le Coz

What advice would you give to potential entrants with regard to how to craft their entries? What does it take to win that Cube?

Jing: Put in the work that you feel passionately about, not what you think will go over well with the judges. It’s such a varied jury, and the only commonality is that people will respond to the work if they can feel the life behind it.

Noemie: Try to make your entry a breeze to take in and understand for the judges. And only enter your best work that you’re really proud of!

Amber: A curated focus is important; showcasing your voice and how you use your craft to project that voice is what will win you a Cube.

Daniel: Pick the work that truly reflects you. Don't submit work just because you think that the judges are gonna like it, or because it was done for a big brand. It's always refreshing when you see a consistent and refreshing voice shine through somebody's body of work. Be bold and go for it.

If you don't win Young Guns this year, that's fine. But keep doing the work that defines who you are.

The final deadline forYoung Guns 16 is Saturday, June 30. Entries submitted after the June 15 first deadline will be subject to a $50.00 late fee.



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