#WhatDrivesHer: Deborah Lau-Yu, Founder of Palettera and Ferris Wheel Press
Follow Deborah’s journey in the XT5 on Instagram @deborahlauyu and @palettera_official
Deborah Lau-Yu, founder of graphic design firm Palettera and stationery lifestyle brand Ferris Wheel Press, has a story to tell. What that story is changes week to week, day to day, minute to minute; that’s because every project she designs is about much more than just making something look beautiful—it’s about making something with meaning.
“Design, for me, is all about storytelling,” says Lau-Yu. “Beyond being beautiful or decorative—it has the power to help people celebrate legacy. Design has depth, purpose and gravity.” After launching Palettera, she quickly discovered how many people were unaware that their unique personal stories could inform everything from a piece of stationery to a business card. “When meeting with me for their event invitations, people would say, ‘You’re actually going to integrate my story into your design?’ And I would say, ‘Yes, this is your milestone and it needs to say something about you.’” Lau-Yu believes storytelling helps people better connect with their own thought process, whether they’re planning an event or planning to launch their own company.
“Design, for me, is all about storytelling.”
Her intimate approach to her work stems from learning to use an artistic lens while maintaining close-knit family relationships from a very young age. “My mother and my grandmother used to write letters to their family all over the world,” she says. Artful penmanship was an important family tradition, both in printing and cursive writing. “My grandmother used to write really interesting calligraphy with her aged hands. It was that fascination with pen and paper that stuck with me at a young age. It really empowered me to make things for people that had character.”
This passion for creating intricate designs continued throughout high school and university, where she often illustrated birthday cards or logos for friends and family. But how do you make the leap from designing small pieces to starting your own design business? For Lau-Yu, it was losing the family members closest to her that helped her realize she had to take a chance. “Not only did I realize how precious time was, but I also realized that a lot of their story wasn’t told. So I wanted to help my clients celebrate their stories through my work. It triggered me to say, ‘The dream of art and design serving a greater purpose is something real. It’s something special given to me by my grandmother and mother. The time to dare to do something great is now, because time is the greatest currency,’” she explains.
“The time to dare to do something great is now, because time is the greatest currency.”
As evidenced by Palettera’s growing list of loyal clients, Lau-Yu’s emphasis on personalized work has allowed her to write her own success story. Her family’s love of penmanship also inspired her and her partner to launch Ferris Wheel Press, a brand that makes beautifully designed writing materials meant to encourage people to fall in love with writing again. That’s because, for Lau-Yu, sharing stories is how we are all connected. “Storytelling allows us to get to know each other,” she says. “Especially today in a digital world, writing with pen and paper allows us to connect with ourselves and with others in the most intimate way.”