Talanoa: Lainee Fagafa

Hawaii based Lainee Fagafa is a freelance graphic designer who is influenced by her Samoan heritage. I first came across Lainee on Twitter and once her I saw her Tumblr portfolio, I immediately contacted her and asked for an interview. I envy those who know their way around graphic software’s.

Lainee clients include Lava Tracks Recording, Johnny Kai Productions, Brown Bags to Stardom, Hawaii Legacy, Tasty Kalua and Saiz. She has worked on some seriously brilliant projects such as the Hawaii Music Awards.

I talanoa with Lainee about her work.

Photograph by Barra1man. Graphics by Lainee Fagafa

African Student Association Poster 

Hawaiian Scene Graphic


Angelo State University 5K Fun Run/Walk Logo

Tell us a little about your background – what path has led you to what you are doing now?
I’m Samoan, my dad’s from Alofau, Tutuila (American Samoa). My grandparents Maluelue Fagafa and Fa’asavali Pule To’oto’o Fagafa came to Hawaii with my dad and his 11 brothers & sisters. 12 in all, yes they roll madd deep.. lol.

With that, my Samoan heritage has really influenced my work & life, from Atua (God) all the way to the food. I love hearing stories about my Aiga & our roots, our foundation.

I was pretty much born and raised in Hawaii (Oahu) with some Texas influence here and there.Growing up I was always doing 2 things, listening to music and drawing/doodling. I actually intended on being a Judge until my senior year of high school when I took BCIS.

My teacher introduced us into Graphic Design and from that point on I was hooked. I wasn’t really that great at drawing, couldn’t draw straight lines, probably killed a medium sized rain forest somewhere in the Amazon from all the wasted paper.. lol.

But after high school I enrolled into Angelo State University, and here I was really molded by my professors. I never took an art class until college. So I learned everything from the basics, drawing, painting, art history, color, etc. all the way to print making, figure drawing, and of course graphics.

Where might we have seen your work? What have been some favourite clients in recent years?
If you don’t know me personally, then you’ve probably seen my work on Hawaii Music Awards, Lava Tracks Recording, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, my personal portfolio on Tumblr, and some various areas. If you do then you’ll see some of my art work on shirts all the way to posters around Oahu/Texas from different friends/connects that I’ve made in the music world or through Angelo State University.

Don’t have favorite client, but anything based around the Samoan/Poly culture or music is my favorite.

Lazy J graphic

Hawaii Music Awards Web Banners

Would you have any advice for young Pacific Island graphic artists starting out?
As for advice for our young Poly folks, definitely don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Network, protect your work, and be true to yourself & your work.

Mos def learn to brand your work and your name. Also don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing. That was a HUGE learning for me in college.

My work looked so different from everyone elses. Mind you, majority of the people in the art program were Palagi (white) and were from Texas. I on the other hand am from Hawaii, Samoan background (a first generation), who listened to a lot of Hip-Hop/R&B/Island/etc kind of music.

Basically, break the mold, make your own style.. Don’t let anyone knock your hustle!

Can you give us a little insight into your creative – how do you first approach a new project?
Depends on the project. If it’s for personal, then it’s something I’ve had in my mind for a while and I’ve just been marinating on how I want to execute the project. But if it’s for business, I usually start by getting to know the client. Find out what suits them/what doesn’t.

I definitely try to get a grasp on what they like and what they don’t. Also trying to be as straight forward with the project as possible. In graphics you don’t always need all the ‘fluff’ just be straight forward in the work so that it communicates whatever that client wants. From there I do some sketching, find out what I think best fits and create about 3-5 different samples for the to choose from.


John Legend magazine cover

The Internet has seemingly made the world a more democratic space in which artists, writers and musicians can more easily share their work with the world. How do you think the Internet has created possibilities for Pacific artists?
I think the internet has really opened up the flood gates for our Pacific Artists. Whether its learning of our roots or learning/seeing work that is currently done, the internet has opened up networking for everyone.

For me personally, I didn’t know any other Samoan graphic designer or even Poly, but through the internet, I’ve came across heaps in New Zealand, Australia, and a few here in Hawaii.

Not only learning about other artists, but also displaying your own work, networking, collaborations, etc, internet has really been a positive aspect to this.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on some ‘top secret’ clothing poly designs for a local Poly Clothing company. Can’t really say too much as of right now, but I am excited to see how things pan out.

Also been working on a lot of Samoan designed shirts, graphics in general, tattoos. And of course working on a lot of music marketing/graphics for Hawaii Hip-Hop/R&B artists.


Samoan & Hawaiian shirt designs

What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
For graphics, I research traditional designs for poly designs. I try to stay as true to each culture (Samoan, Hawaiian, Maori, Tahitian, Tongan are the main ones I work on).

So on a painting side note as a dream creative project, I’d like to take all that knowledge and do some sort of a painting mural. I have tons of sketches in notepads with these different poly designs in them.

What are you looking forward to?
I look forward to life and the mysteries it withholds…

Vinaka for your time and all the beautiful images Lainee! If you’re after some mean Poly graphics contact Lainee via email below. 


Lainee Fagafa on the kokonut wireless

Portfolio on Tumblr: http://laineefagafaportfolio.tumblr.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/laineefagafa

Email: lainee.fagafa@gmail.com

Interview conducted via email 11 – 13 July , 2011. Images courtesy of  Lainee Fagafa.

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