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Meet Xiyu Deng

Today we’d like to introduce you to Xiyu Deng.

Xiyu, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
A graphic designer who just graduated from California Institute of the Arts with her MFA. I am originally from China and I came to the United States for undergraduate study.

Growing up in China, I was fortunate enough to be raised in a democratic family. My parents gave me room to explore my interests outside of my core study and they always encouraged me to make my own decisions. With their support, I started learning illustration and playing piano when I was three years old. At that point, possessing superb illustration skills was the premier criteria for anyone who aims to become an artist or designer. Unfortunately, I was not a natural illustrator and I felt intimidated about drawing in realistic style. So, the drawing education I had at that point did not spark my interest in design or art. Instead, it pushed me further away from the world of art. I never thought I would become a designer.

Coming to the United States without a clue what I wanted to study, I spent my whole undergraduate looking for my interests. I decided to go to Vanderbilt University for its liberal arts education, which I thought could give me more freedom to explore. During my time there, I kept changing my major and taking classes across disciplines. It felt like searching in the dark, which was tiring and time-consuming. Finally, after taking many studio art classes, I started to realize that being a great illustrator was not the prerequisite for one to become an artist. I began to admit that there had always been a special place in my heart held for visual art, and I refused to admit so because the fact that I could not draw well kept scaring me off.

Diving deeper into the artistic world, I began to work with different medians, which included oil painting, photography and installation. My process of making art made me realize that besides visual graphics, I also cared about the layer of communication and the rationale behind the art. So, with support from the faculty there, I finally made up my mind to become a visual designer.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The journey of me becoming a designer is full of obstacles. It first took me years to become brave enough to admit my interest in art and design. Then, since I never had any training in graphic design before CalArts, coming to graduate school for a completely different discipline was a big challenge for me. I was lucky to meet my design instructors at CalArts. In the preliminary year, they taught me with great patience. The assignments they designed trained my eyes to look into details and gave me a solid foundation in form making and typography. During my time at CalArts, as the education there kept challenging my way of thinking and pushing me outside of my comfort zone, there were moments of me feeling confused and frustrated.

However, I consider them as crucial moments when change could happen, and they are a very important component of my design journey. When the program was liberal enough to allow me to do whatever I wanted, it was another challenge for me because I had to make my own decision and take responsibility for it. The graphic design program at CalArts taught me not only how to make visual forms but also how to think, to challenge, and to overcome difficulties.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As a visual designer, I specialize in visual identity design, motion graphics, UI design. Most of my works are digital-based but I love making posters and zines as well. Besides design, I love taking photos and learning new languages. As a Chinese graphic designer who has stayed in the United States for almost ten years, I care a lot about visual communication in cross-cultural communications. I think visual design is a powerful method which can help break cultural barriers and challenge social stereotypes.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I consider myself a very lucky person. I grew up in a liberal environment which gave me freedom to explore and room to fail. I met amazing people along my design journey. Some taught me how to design, some taught me how to think. Surrounded by my family, my friends and mentors, I keep learning things from them and what they are doing always gives me courage to face obstacles in my own life.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Nadia Haile, Emma Berliner, Huicheng Wu, Alexander Chen, Sam Jones

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