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Van Li

Marvel Entertainment
Apex Legends
Van Li
Country Flag US
Crafting Imaginative Realms for Games

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a concept designer?

As a concept artist working in the gaming industry, my experience with video games during my childhood was somewhat limited. Growing up under the care of my grandparents, who lacked a computer or gaming console, I sought solace in their extensive collection of books. Sneaking into their library, I would eagerly sketch characters from those captivating stories in my notebook, igniting a deep passion for art within me.

During my time in middle school, I joined a local acting troupe where, despite our constrained budget, I eagerly took on the task of designing costumes for a diverse range of characters. It was during this period that I indeed discovered my love for artistic creation.

To explore my artistic horizons, I enrolled in an art college, I got immersed in a plethora of video games, I became enthralled by their immersive narratives, and gradually stumbled upon the role of a concept artist. This revelation inspired me to pursue further education and refinement of my skills at the renowned Art Center College of Design.

Khitan Princess character design

What elements do you look for in a compelling story? How do consistent character motivations and logical coherence contribute to your enjoyment of a narrative?

One of my greatest pleasures in reading or watching stories is immersing myself in narratives that showcase exceptional logical coherence and incorporate believable and well-crafted details. I find that when the motivations of the characters remain consistent throughout, it enhances my overall enjoyment and appreciation of the story.

Even in the presence of significant plot twists or unexpected developments, I believe the characters must maintain a sense of internal consistency. Their actions and decisions should be grounded in a solid foundation, rooted in their established traits, experiences, and goals. This consistency in character motivation allows me to establish a deeper connection with them and helps me understand their choices, even in the face of surprising events.

In summary, stories that excel in logical consistency and feature characters with unwavering motivations, even in the face of unexpected plot developments, hold a special place in my heart. Such narratives not only engage me intellectually but also evoke a strong emotional response, making them truly memorable and rewarding experiences.

Sniper character design

We'd love to hear about your professional journey. Could you share more about your education and the projects you've worked on?

Upon graduating, I fulfilled my dream of becoming a concept artist. Working on AAA games like Apex Legends and contributing to Marvel Studios' animated series, I had the privilege to showcase my skills and captivate audiences worldwide.

Azir character design for Riot Games

What kind of style do you prefer and how do you choose your work accordingly?

When it comes to the style of artworks, I don't have a specific preference for 2D or 3D, realistic or stylish, but I find myself captivated by art pieces that contain intricate details. These details may not necessarily be patterns or decorations, but they provide additional information about the background stories. It is the richness of these details that brings me immense pleasure.

Apex Legends hunter predator character design

Please highlight some of your work related to setting world backgrounds.

I have undertaken a personal character project called Balhae, which is set in the historical period of 926 CE. Balhae, being a lost country, this project presents a unique challenge as visual references are scarce such as antiquities or paintings of its culture.

To ensure the fantasy project also has authenticity to this culture, I embarked on extensive research into the major countries that coexisted with Balhae during that time. This involved delving into historical records and visiting various online museums. By learning artifacts, historical texts, and cultural accounts, I pieced together a more comprehensive understanding of the region's customs, traditions, and visual aesthetics.

Apprentice Junghyae character design

Can you share more about your notable character design projects, like the Predator Lifeline skin for Apex Legends? How did you blend contrasting elements to create a visually striking character design?

Upon graduating from the esteemed Art Center College of Design, I was bestowed with a remarkable opportunity to design character skins for the immensely popular game Apex Legends. One of my contributions was in crafting the design for the coveted Predator Lifeline skin for thrilling Season 14. Undertaking this project presented me with a unique and exciting challenge, as the client's mandate was to seamlessly merge the vibrant colors of the jungle with the menacing aura of the predator, a concept that was relatively unexplored in my previous endeavors.

To embark on this design journey, we initiated a series of brainstorming sessions, where my team and I delved into extensive research and immersed ourselves in the world of both lush jungles and Predators. We sought to understand the visual language and characteristics associated with these distinct realms, ensuring that we could seamlessly blend them into a cohesive and visually striking character skin.

Finally, after countless hours of dedication and collaboration, we achieved a result that surpassed our expectations. The Predator Lifeline skin emerged as a stunning testament to our hard work and creative prowess. Its harmonious fusion of the jungle's lush hues and the predatory elements showcased a distinct and captivating visual identity.


How do you adapt to the variety of work you do and their demands?

I adapt to the diversity of work by cultivating a genuine appreciation for the differences between various projects. Taking the time to understand the underlying reasons behind each project's unique characteristics enables me to step out of my comfort zone. It allows me to challenge myself to approach problem-solving in thoughtful, deliberate ways that go beyond relying on my most familiar methods.

Neeko character design for Riot Games

Any particular kind of work you're looking forward to?

I find it immensely gratifying to be involved in a project from its inception.

Being part of a startup project from the very beginning allows me to witness the entire journey unfold. It offers a unique opportunity to contribute to the shaping of the project's vision, strategy, and creative direction. This level of involvement grants me a sense of ownership and fulfillment as I see my ideas and efforts translate into tangible outcomes.


What's your process to understand client expectations and be on the same page with them?

When I receive requirements from my clients, I approach them with caution and meticulously review them again and again. I firmly believe that these specifications were not provided without purpose.

Additionally, I make it a point to regularly update my clients on the progress of the project, ensuring that I remain aligned with their expectations and avoid veering off in an unexpected direction.

I consider it crucial to request visual references from clients at the beginning of the project to establish a shared understanding and maintain effective communication throughout the design process. By doing so, we can stay on the same page and ensure a successful collaboration.

Being part of a startup project from the beginning allows me to witness the entire journey unfold. It offers a unique opportunity to contribute to the shaping of the project's vision, strategy, and creative direction.

What's your best advice to artists just starting?

I believe that maintaining a consistent practice is vital. While it may not yield immediate improvement, dedicating enough time and effort will eventually lead to noticeable progress. Additionally, I think the importance of discovering an effective approach and a clear direction for your work.

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