Originally hailing from Tokyo, and now residing in Clinton Hill, Kei Meguro, 29, is living her own version of the American Dream. Starting in 2013 (she worked as a full-time graphic designer until then) she’s been a full-time illustrator, her own boss, and one of the preeminent follows on Instagram. If you’re one of the 235,000 of them, chances are you’ve seen her illustrations—commissioned or not—of Cara Delevingne, Conor McGregor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and many more in between.
Though she’s designed and illustrated for international clients (HBO, Chanel, Spotify, to name a few) she thinks her greatest personal feat was a collaboration with a large Japanese jewelry brand, which super-sized her drawings and featured them in stores, train stations, and magazine ads in her home country. For her family to be able to see what she’d been up to since moving to Brooklyn was priceless.
Where do you live and how old are you?
I live in Clinton Hill, 29.
What made you first interested in your profession, and how old were you when that happened? I’ve loved art since I could pick up a pencil or crayon, but being a full-time illustrator and my own boss is a completely new thing that started in 2013. I was a full-time graphic designer until then, but working for a large corporate company wasn’t something I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. I missed working with my hands and started drawing again to get away from the computer. I posted them on Instagram as a “visual diary” for myself. I originally had 200 something followers and that just kept growing, and with that I started getting commissions. I’m originally from Japan, so I guess this has been an “American Dream” for me—to make a living for doing what you love? Hell yes.
Do you feel Brooklyn is still a viable place for a young person to build a career? Definitely. Most of my friends who are in the creative field live in Brooklyn, whether they are designers, chefs, or stylists. Being surrounded by people with a great imagination and all around good vibes make me feel confident to get weird and creative.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Running a creative studio. It’s been a growing dream of mine to get a group of artists and to collaborate on commissioned projects for clients. Graphic design, illustration, music, web, motion graphics… Basically, a gang of insanely talented cats taking over the world.
Have you ever felt like leaving your career path? Leaving, never. Maybe I’ll drift away and take a break to explore, but drawing is something I’ve done my entire life.
What’s felt like your biggest professional accomplishment? I collaborated with a large Jewelry brand from Japan and having my drawings blown up in their stores, train stations, ads in magazines and the streets etc. was pretty amazing. Not only just for myself but for my family back home as well. It was a great way to show them what I’ve been doing here in Brooklyn.
Who would be your pick for a 30 Under 30? My best friend Kirstin Huber. Funny thing is, I just found out yesterday that she was already picked—not surprised at all. Being around her drives me to be more creative and explore what’s out there, but still remain humble at all times. The world could use more Kirstins out there.
To learn about more sub-30 standouts, visit this year’s list of 30 Under 30.