Natalie Tan, art director of Preludio, on how she overcame struggles to build a brand she can call her own

Natalie Tan, creative director of Preludio

It’s crazy, it’s colourful, and it’s every bit what you’d imagine the creative industry to be. In this edition of our International Women’s Day special, Natalie Tan of Preludio reflects on her journey in the creative industry by penning a letter to her younger self

Dear Natalie,

You will begin as a bright-eyed, enthusiastic designer with unbridled fervour and unbound ambition. Your idols were graphic design heroes; you imagined that one day, you’d see your work on the streets around the world, being talked about.

It won’t be long before reality kicks you hard in the face. You realise that you’re treated as a tool and not a collaborator. Work is work, there is little play. Your disheartened spirit would drive you to create on your own terms, so you start drawing. You leave your job and try to survive on pure artistry, but that too proves unsustainable. You will fall back into society as a contributing taxpayer by randomly joining an in-house design team in a food & beverage group.

You begin to feel at home amongst the creative kindred. The world of F&B will feel foreign, tumultuous but exhilarating. You’ll have fun designing cool things. Years later, you’ll find out your works have been remembered for their artistry. Your work will be admired. The group will collapse, but you will move from one company to another, growing your skills along the way from graphic design to photography and then social media.

You will meet an ambitious young chef, Fernando Arevalo, who wants to bring a mad restaurant concept into the world, and strangely enough, wants your help to visualise it. “A restaurant that changes with time? Black and white food? Of all people, are you sure I can help you build a restaurant? I’m just a designer!”

But you’re curious, and you love a challenge, so you start off just helping him, but as the project evolves, so does your involvement. You eventually find yourself sharing the same goal. Suddenly, you are opening a restaurant. “How did I even get here in the first place?” is a question you will ask yourself countless times.

Now, your idols are top restaurateurs. Your work is Preludio. A restaurant that this crazy chef believed you could help create from infancy. It is real and the logo that you designed is on the wall of the restaurant. You’ve branded it, given it a form, shaped it into something you’re now proud to also call your own.

You’ve achieved everything you’ve ever wanted and more. But it has never felt like you’ve completed your journey. You are gratified, but not contented. There are new things to learn every day. It’s not easy, but it’s fun. And even when everything has been done, there will be a new chapter to do it all over again.

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