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Daily Inspiration: Meet Lily Yeh

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lily Yeh.

Hi Lily, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My background is from Taiwan. I went to CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) for an MFA degree studying Graphic Design, and I just graduated! (Woo-Hoo!)

My professional training before CalArts was in New Media Communications Design – learning to work with VR and interactive installations. I founded a studio called Mountain Black with three alumni and served as Art Director on projects for Samsung and the Taipei City Government, etc. We created interactive installations for exhibitions and events, as well as working live performances with artists and musicians.

I then met my current boyfriend, Jon. The things I did for love. We dated long distances for about half a year. Then I decided to quit my job at Mountain Black to live with him in Beijing and work as a freelancer. I mostly did motion design projects but also branding, 3D modeling, and illustration too. My personal projects have led to collaborations with National Geographic, The Jane Goodall Institute, Universal Studios, Office of the President of the ROC (Taiwan), Ministry of Education Taiwan and more.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I am very grateful for all the support I received from the people around me. Certainly, the process was not easy. Coming from a new media background to the graphic design profession, I think my biggest challenge in the beginning was to construct my design into a vertical poster. Visually, everything was framed in a 16:9 canvas, and I used very little typography. As a multidisciplinary designer, I can now swim in two worlds at once, and I think that’s an extremely useful skill for my career.

Another challenge when I first came to the US for CalArts was that I had to read all kinds of manifestos in the design theory class. I have to admit that it was extremely challenging for a fresh off the boat, non-native speaker to do well in that class; and in the typography class, we had to make books using the traditional style and the modern style according to the whole book of guidelines for formatting, and I didn’t know what a tabloid or a letter paper size was at that time! (Yes, there was sobbing and crying after class in my room, but I learned a lot and did well and worked as a TA for two classes in my last year.)

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am investing my own emotional and intuitive interpretation of Taiwanese identity through a set of design projects. My research project focuses on finding my identity as a Taiwanese designer and exploring the visual aesthetic of Taiwan, by studying historical, technological, cultural & religious traditions, augmented by my family member’s oral storytelling and mundane pieces of life.

I connect a set of values that I experienced first through my family – intimacy, timeliness, vulnerability, and indivisibility – to the island where I grew up. I want to use design to consciously forage for my cultural roots…forming what I will call the Taiwan Gospel project – a series of projects practices that examine factors of geography, ideology, social behavior, and historical context that influence a Taiwan’s specific place visual development through in color palettes, patterns, and visual aesthetics. While some of my responses are based on direct experience, like the memory of oral stories I’ve listened to my father tell, others are based on my questions around a language I haven’t fully learned or the complex funeral or wedding ceremonies that still confuse me, or the way that Taiwanese still practice fascinating, mysterious pilgrimage events.

Using multimedia to investigate Taiwanese vernacular design, I created immersive experiences to explore narratives from mundane family life to large cultural memories. The notion is to capture the beauty of the mundane in surreal visual language. Most importantly, to respond to the culture of the moment, giving my voice to the contemporary vernacular Taiwanese design.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Sleeping in my cozy bed with my dog Moka snuggling up to me. My next life goal is to bring her to America too!

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