Profile: David Yee

By Olivia Lee

The College and the Department of Design congratulate Professor David Yee for becoming a full-time faculty member in the Animation/Illustration Program.

Despite his new position, Yee is no stranger to the department. In 2001, Yee received his undergraduate degree at SJSU in Graphic Design, specializing in animation/illustration. Since 2007, he has been a lecturer here, teaching classes ranging from basic drawing to beginning animation to storyboarding.

In addition to teaching, Yee held many positions in the art department at George Lucas’ visual effects company, Industrial Light Magic (ILM). Directly out of college, he became a production assistant, collaborating with various concept artists on the film Van Helsing (2004). Yee gained valuable insights as he helped design the movie’s creatures and the world they live in. Yee also worked on the licensing and marketing team of Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005) and became the marketing art director for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

Yee has also spent time as a freelance artist in the video game industry and as a digital artist for Apple Inc. As he worked professionally,, he simultaneously studied in the University of Hartford’s animation program, where he received his MFA in 2014.

Despite his wealth of professional experiences, Yee is continually drawn back to the classrooms at SJSU. Having been both a student and a teacher here, Yee is impressed with the quality of the design program.

“For a small, public university program, we crank out a lot of really good artists. And we compete with some of the big, private art schools in terms of getting our students jobs in the industry,” says Yee. “My goal is to contribute to the growth of this program.”

Yee’s decision to transition from working in the studio to teaching in the classroom is largely because of the students—and the simple fact that he loves being here.

“This is a skill-based major,” says Yee. “You can talk about art and drawing all you want, but unless you sit down and practice, you’re not going to get the results you want—so our students work really hard. They put tons of hours, practice, and passion into their work.”

David feels a deep sense of satisfaction when students apply the theories they learn to their art. He wants to help them achieve their professional goals just as his education propelled him towards his own career.