20 Questions with Pann Lim, Creative Director & Co-founder of Kinetic – Media Agency Interviews

Josiah Neo Media Agency Interviews

Name: Pann Lim
Role: Creative Director & Co-founder of Kinetic
Age: 49

Few people hustle as hard as Pann Lim. The Creative Director and co-founder of the creative agency Kinetic also juggles publishing a zine, being a father and husband to his family, and wolfing down the kaya toast with a cuppa Kopi O Gu You on top of leading his team. Over the weekend, Pann shared the movies that influenced him, his favourite thing about being a dad, and one fun fact even his colleagues might not know.

1. What are some of your hobbies?

I have too many hobbies to mention. Designing is a hobby for me as well. I love designing in all forms from interiors to simple furniture designs. I love collecting antiques, furniture, toys, odd objects, vintage guitars, effects boxes, vinyls and I enjoy writing music. I love gardening and simple landscaping. I also love collaborating with my wife and my two kids on our publishing project Rubbish Famzine.

pann lim rubbish famzine
Image credit: @pannlim

2. What is your favourite quote?

“When you educate a man, you educate an individual. When you educate a woman, you educate a whole family.” Robert M. Maciver

3. What is your favourite movie / Netflix show and why?

There are also truly too many movies to mention as different films bring different emotions to me at different stages of my life. Apologies that I am just listing it down here, hahaha. Growing up, movies from the 80s were an integral part of the world of creativity for me. Films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Goonies, Back To The Future, Aliens, Predator, and Die Hard meant the world to me. 

In the 90s when I was in my teens, movies like The Silence Of The Lambs, Schindler’s List, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption shaped how I perceive ideas, concepts, art direction and more serious subject matters.

In the late 90s when I was fresh to the creative industry, movies were not only for entertainment but also a research platform for music, art direction, direction, editing techniques, colour grading, cinematography, story-telling, visual effects etc. Films like The Matrix, In the Mood for Love, Spirited Away, Amelie, The Dark Knight, Interstellar, Mad Max: Fury Road, A Quiet Place, Parasite, and Don’t Look Up.

And for Netflix, I am a Stranger Things fan uncle.

4. Who are some people (in the industry or outside) that inspire you?

There are too many people who inspire me daily. But I am mostly inspired by conversations with industry peers, Kinfolks (colleagues), friends, family and even strangers. The inspiration comes when there’s an authentic exchange of views and emotions. The nice part is that even when we don’t agree with one another, the communication is genuine and that in itself is a huge platform for learning. And I will feel uninspired if I am not learning daily. Without learning, there’s no inspiration. And without inspiration, life is dull.

5. What is your daily routine before and after work?

Usually, I start my day by saying goodbye to my kids as they leave for school. Then I will head out for my morning walk. I call it my self-reflection routine. It is during these walks that I reflect on things that I could have done better and how I can improve myself constantly. I also get most of my day’s work planned out in my mind during this morning session. 

After that, I spend at least one hour with Claire, my wife, before heading to the office. We can be gardening or just having a cup of coffee or having a brainstorming session for our family project. Doing anything/something with my wife is essential to how I start my day. She is the source of my happiness. After work, I will be spending quality time catching up with my teenage kids and anything family related. As I don’t regard what I do in the office as work, it’s a hobby that pays the bills, I continue my hobbies at home if needed.

6. Where is your favourite bread shop in Singapore? And recommended type of bread to get?

Heap Seng Leong kaya toast
The kaya toast and breakfast items from Heap Seng Leong.
Image credit: @janet_foodgram

I love bread so much! So this is a great question for me. For traditional Kaya Toast with butter Kopi O, I will head to Heap Seng Leong. If convenience is a factor, any Ya Kun Kaya Toast outlet is quite consistent with its quality. If you want something unexpected, I will recommend Kamome Bakery’s Butter Red bean bun! And if you want to visit a website with the theme of Bread and Butter, go to kinetic.com.sg.

7. What’s your favourite thing about being a dad?

To me, the idea of having kids happens because of the love and bond of the couple. And the best part of being a dad is forming this team called ‘parents’ with Claire. Raising and guiding our kids together gives me an indescribable satisfaction which is also filled with joy, agony, laughter, pain, and all things wonderful. So there’s no favourite thing honestly but a sense of accomplishment and unconditional family love.

pann lim family
Image credit: @pannlim

8. How do you juggle your familial responsibilities (like publishing your family’s zine) and managing your team at Kinetic?

To me, juggling is not struggling. In fact, I find juggling to be one of life’s essentials. Some may run away from it but I prefer to manage it. It’s a matter of planning and prioritising time and using small spaces of ‘unused’ time in between schedules as effectively as possible.

The other thing about ‘growing’ time is about practice. The reason people call it a design practice, means we need to be hands-on and keep on practising. The more you practice the better you get, the better you are, the faster you make decisions, and you can do more in a shorter span of time hence we can ‘make’ more time.

9. Tell us a fun fact your team doesn’t know about you:

Not many know that I was in an extreme metal band formed in 1990 called Silent Sorrow when I was 17.

pann lim silent sorrow
Image credit: Pann Lim

10. Tell us more about the office culture at Kinetic:

I believe we are only a logo on the wall without our people. So naturally, our culture is centred around our people. Every decision I make with my senior team is based on what benefits the team and the project/client. We treat each other here like brothers and sisters and that special bond will always be there to guide us. 

Kinetic will not be a sweat shop but we will always work super hard to bring the best possible work for our clients.

11. What top three qualities do you look for when hiring? Any interview tips? 

What we need at Kinetic are kinfolks who can complement one another. I will treat this question as a recruitment ad for Kinetic. We are looking for a humble creative with a strong ability to conceptualise. They must have great taste in design and art direction. Passion must be their driving force and they must be a team player.

12. What do you think is the difference between a boss and a leader?

To me, a boss commands the staff and a leader serves their people.

13. What was the most memorable moment in your career?

The most memorable moment for me is when my team picks up the Best New Young Designer or Best New Art Director Awards. The satisfaction of seeing their hard work pay off is priceless. And not forgetting the accolades when we win as a team, for example, Design Agency of the Year, Independent Agency of the Year or Agency of the Year at The Gong Awards.

kinetic singapore creative agency
Image credit: @_kineticsg

14. What do you think is the best way to retain employees? 

The best way is not to think about retaining employees. The right way is to create an environment where it’s conducive to creating, thriving creatively and growing creatively with depth. It should be a safe space where everyone at every level can be themselves and has a voice to share their views. And when it’s time to play, we will stop working and indulge and when it’s time to work, we should have fun working! 

Most important we don’t just celebrate our successes, we should all huddle together when we fail and not point fingers at what went wrong. Instead, find out how we could have done better to improve as a team. To conclude, there isn’t a way to retain employees, they are not for us business owners to keep, they should have their free will to leave if they find a better environment.

15. Is creativity inherent or nurtured? If the latter, how do you cultivate it? 

I believe creativity is largely inherent but it can also be nurtured to a certain degree. I will always use singing to explain my point of view. I think anyone with a vocal chord can sing but it might not be on pitch all the time. The singer with inherent talent will hit the right note every single time, in fact, it’s hard for them to be out of tune. I am sure we have heard of singing lessons for people who are not the best singers out there, and through years of training, they can improve but they will not hit the right note all the time.

16. Which campaign done by Kinetic are you most proud of?

I am proud of every campaign we have done because every project out of the Kinetic office is all about teamwork and team building. And The Not-So Convenience Store project is one good example of a project that was all-around difficult but we made it happen as a team alongside our clients from Temasek Shophouse.

the not so convenience store
Image credit: Kinetic

17. Which campaign was done by others most inspired you? (please include hyperlinks and images if relevant)

There are just too many campaigns done out there by others that inspire us. If I were to only share an example, it will be the Donation Dollar by Saatchi & Saatchi Australia for The Royal Australian Mint. It has a fantastic creative idea and execution that meets every single KPI I can think of. Wish I have done that!

18. What advice do you have for students starting a career in an agency?

For a fresh grad or anyone who is in this line, always remember why did we choose to go into this industry in the first place. So stay hungry, stay passionate and keep on learning at every stage of your career.

19. Any exciting agency developments (projects, new hires, expansion plans) you’d like to draw our attention to? 

What we are planning to do is necessary. The first thing is to keep getting better at what we do; the better we are, the more value we can bring to the table. And we always make sure we are there for our clients because, without them, we will not have any meaningful briefs to crack.

20. What do you hope to achieve at Kinetic in the next year?

I have the same hope every year. For every kinfolk to stay healthy in spirit, in mind, and in body.

Related links:
Kinetic’s website
Pann Lim’s LinkedIn
Pann Lim’s Instagram

This post is part of our Media Industry Leaders series. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at [email protected].


Cover image adapted from: Pann Lim

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