Today we’d like to introduce you to Rio Chen.
Rio, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Before embarking on the journey for my current career, I had a relatively rigid understanding of design in regards to thinking of it more in terms of mass-production and industrialized standards. Little did I know that my knowledge and vision would change in such a way since that time. As far as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a designer.
When I was ten, I used to tell my parents that I wanted to become an automotive designer and my dad would patiently tell me that in order to be an automotive designer, I would need to study mechanical engineering too. Int the start of the 2010s, when the era of smartphones was taking over, I started fantasizing about designing mobile phones and tablets.
I used to make cellphone models out of cardboard and paper, similar to how we make prototypes in business now. I am fortunate to be on the same path that I imagined myself to be on when I was ten years old. Design for me is a way of living, it is the process of making and thinking.
From my practice in conceptual social-commentary design to graphic and product design, it is the designer’s responsibility to bring the public closer to knowledge.
After my collaborations with MIZEL Jewelry in Chicago and craftsman Su in Taiwan, I started focusing on how to bring the same amount of justice and social awareness into my branding and graphic design practice in the community of LA with my practice, Studio 55.
My vision with Studio 55 is to expand my professional practice in the diverse world of design to the expertise of brand identity with my collaborator architect, Peter Ho.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
2020 has been a year of healing and growth. After losing the opportunity to show my year-long project at the NYC Design Week, I realized a whole new definition of design through my project that I titled Ultimate Happiness.
Instead of spending all our life pursuing the Ultimate Happiness, we should focus on the smaller achievements, that would allow us to be satisfied by the ordinary things we achieve every day. We are surrounded by all kinds of Ultimate Happiness, sometimes we just need to take a moment to appreciate them.
One year later, I finally picked up the theme of Pop Culture references with my next project: The Last Tomorrowland(2021), which shows a continuous focus on popular culture references used in the influences of business exploitation and socio-economic structure that exists in the remote trash island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The Last Tomorrowland was later exhibited at the Terrain Biennial in the city of Chicago in 2021. Currently, I’m taking the opportunity to keep UH (Ultimate Happiness) in my mind and will bring it to the stage sometime in the future.
Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
In 2021, I started randr, an Instagram page, and Satellite Project to promote the use of political language in design as well as provide educational resources and a platform for like-minded designers to exchange ideas.
This February, we successfully launched our first online workshop on Satellite Project with participants from the US, Pakistan, China, Taiwan, and Italy. In this workshop, we aimed to bring the discussion of regional and local politics and their influences on global political environments to the center of the spotlight.
My personal creative career focuses on social-political content that addresses ethical concerns and SpicyPop culture in contemporary practice.
My works tend to exist in the gray area that hovers between imagination and reality, as I have the ability to see perspectives from both sides which allows me to believe that not all things are completely black or white.
SpicyPop is an approach to criticizing popular culture in a way that is as easy and accessible as pop culture itself.
Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Satellite Project is presenting its online exhibition in June this year!
Rio Chen and Johnathan Allen