With so much happening around the world, treat yourself to a few minutes of peace as an antithesis to madness. Our interview with Lily Nobunaga will remind you to slow down and appreciate life’s beauty. With a positive outlook on the future and a passion for her work, she reminds us all that opportunities are meant to be seized and sometimes ours to create.

Hiveclass (HC): Welcome, Lily! As a person intimately connected with the Hiveclass brand, I’m excited to get your take on everything design.

Lily Nobunaga (LN): Thank you – I’m super excited to be here!

HC: First off, what brought you to Hiveclass and what is your current role?

LN: My friend from both high school and college worked closely with Joe Titus, CEO of Hiveclass, during early startup stages. She asked me to fill her role as Engagement Coordinator way back when the Hiveclass product was still an application-based platform. Now, I am the Design Manager and Brand Coordinator for the company. My role then versus my role now can’t be more different.

HC: How did you find your niche in startup culture? 

LN: The great thing about startup culture is that you can create your value in a company. Sure, the struggles people express about startups are true: you “wear a lot of hats”, you bounce around between different roles, and you need to be able to adapt to an ever-changing environment. But it’s these very aspects that allow you to really make it your own. Hiveclass’ startup culture gave me the opportunity, moreso the bravery, to push my labor and to create; It has given me a confidence that would likely have taken years to gain in a corporate setting. At Hiveclass, I feel a sense of pride that I have a stake in the success of the company, and that the core values of our company reflect the ethos of all of us who’ve worked hard to build it. 

HC: You are largely credited for the branding of Hiveclass. How did it come to be?

LN: It took both a long time and a short time. All this time that I’ve spent getting involved with the company, the business, and the people has made creating the visual brand feel effortless. There was definitely some trial and error, but overall the coming together of the visual brand felt extremely natural. I will say that the most important aspect of developing the brand was working with other creatives in the company. It is so valuable to have people to bounce ideas off of. And though I’m honored to have been credited for the company’s branding, our brand was built off of everyone in the company. Our branding tells the story of Hiveclass, and I’m glad to be the bearer of that story. 

HC: Do you believe in a future in which youth willingly seek out mental and physical wellness? How can society support this?

LN: ABSOLUTELY. I think one of the great things we see today is a paradigm shift in how people regard overall well-being. As a Gen-Z individual, it’s really empowering to be a part of positive cultural change, in which we feel empowered to address problems (such as physical & mental health) in our country. Social media plays a huge part in spreading awareness, so in a way, I believe youth is already seeking out wellness; It’s not far in the future but rather happening now. However, there are major hurdles preventing society from achieving this broadly – social inequity, lack of resources and access, as well as stigma surrounding mental health. Perhaps language could be a first step in addressing these problems; giving youth the ideas, terms, and resources to understand they have healthy options and are not alone in their feelings; demystifying mental health and providing a more holistic approach to health, from mind to body.

HC: What is one important generational shift that you feel you are personally a part of and how does it impact you? (ie – first generation American, college educated, working woman, etc)

LN: Being a first generation American, I’ve developed a passion for communication that I attribute to my upbringing. Growing up, English was not my first language. I used to speak Japanese to my classmates in elementary school, confused as to why they couldn’t understand me. So I went from being an ESL student struggling to communicate with my peers to pursuing an academic career in English literature. My scholarship in English literature has allowed me to express my thoughts, navigate the nuances of different cultures, and truly connect with people. I think that plays a huge part in my work in branding and design. 

HC: Who is your favorite artist and why?

LN:  This is a tough question since there are so many amazing artists to look up to. I think as a young adult, I feel very much inspired by creatives who refuse to be pigeon-holed into one thing. One that comes to mind is Jordan Peele. He broke into the industry as a comedian and stands today as a renowned filmmaker. His artistry in communicating raw and nuanced truths about racism through horror is groundbreaking. Seeing how Black creatives like him, Donald Glover, Tyler the Creator, and so many others have broken not only the mold of society but a mold of themselves is incredible. Their accomplishments inform me that as humans, we aren’t meant to just do one thing. And we don’t have to. We have the potential for greatness in more than one domain. 

HC: Can you share any fun new design projects in your pipeline?

LN: We have tons of new design projects coming up this year! My team is developing an official brand guide to communicate our new visual brand & voice. It will also be used to celebrate how far Hiveclass has come as a company. In addition to branding, the design team is passionate about user experience, which largely informs our creative process. We will be undertaking a redesign of the Better PE and Digital Encyclopedia platforms for a more enjoyable interface. Once complete, I believe this project will be one I’m most proud of, as it aligns with our company mission of increasing accessibility of youth sports and wellness to all. 

HC:  And there you go – you’ve summed it all up with that last sentence. How your hard work at Hiveclass can have a direct impact! I can’t wait to see more of your creativity at work – you truly are a raw talent.

LN: That’s really nice to hear. I really do believe in our mission and feel lucky to both enjoy my work and feel that I’m making a difference in the world.

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