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Rising Stars: Meet Ziyi Xu

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ziyi Xu.

Hi Ziyi, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am a graphic designer based in LA working out of Pasadena. I graduated from China Academy of Art in Shanghai majoring in digital art. I used to love checking out books about graphic design in the library which inspired my work in school towards graphic design more. A good friend of mine, Kevin Mao was in the graphic design program and her work really inspired me to become a graphic designer. This led me to ArtCenter in Pasadena for my Master’s degree in Fine Art. I wanted to work in graphic design and was excited to come to Pasadena where I completed my MFA in Graphic Design at ArtCenter College of Design. While I was a student at ArtCenter, I had some incredible experiences. One personal experience that I’m surprised about is meeting my now husband in graduate school! In one of my classes, taught by Stephen Serrato, we were asked to explore a neighborhood in LA as a starting point to a project. Not being too familiar with LA and English being my second language decided to choose Chinatown.

While I was spending time there, I found an amazing non-profit organization called Save Music in Chinatown. Save Music in Chinatown helps fundraise money for the music program at the Castelar Street Elementary School in Chinatown, Los Angeles. The Hong Kong Cafe in Chinatown was a focal point for LA’s Punk Rock music scene and Save Music in Chinatown’s founders Martin Wong and Wendy Lau are big fans. They coordinate punk shows to raise money for the organization. They wanted to leverage this time period in music to inspire and engage children to appreciate and love music. I was able to connect to them and work with them to design the identity system for Save Music in Chinatown, which also ended up becoming my print project for my class. The most rewarding part of this experience was being able to work directly with a community and a client, having them show up to my final critique was really special. This experience with Save Music in Chinatown experience led me to connecting with Kaya Press, an independent non-profit publisher of writers of the Asian and Pacific Islander diaspora. Since graduating, I’ve been working with Kaya Press as a graphic designer and doing some freelance work with for GoNoodle, a kid’s oriented brand that offers content for children ages.

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?
Language, especially when it comes to culture references, it’s hard to be involved in the conversation. Sometimes in a work environment, I will have to ask one more time just to be clear of what people are trying to communicate. My English has improved a lot, very quickly over time, I’ve been here in Pasadena now for almost five years. Another challenge besides language barriers at times has been for me at least, trying to gain some sustained momentum in my creative work while juggling immigration challenges. It’s taught me a lot about patience and I’m hopeful but there’s always a chance I may not be able to continue working in the US.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
My work is always full of energy, bright, fun visuals. My approach to the projects are finding what’s unique about the subject, make the idea approachable, creating visuals and illustrate the idea vividly, I always want to bring joy and fun to the graphic language. I am inspired by Tadanori Yokoo’s work a lot. I love the bright colors, there are always a sense of humor in his work and eye-catching illustrations. I also love the rawness, DIY and no rules in punk rock. Coming from a different country and English being my second language gives me some freedom in how I view graphics and typography in English, I see them less as words I’m intimately familiar with and more as shapes to play with.

What was your favorite childhood memory?
There was a news stand near my primary school. I went there every week to get the latest comic magazine and comic books. One of my favorites is called Oolong Courtyard. I also loved to collect stickers when I was little, I used to have boxes of them.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Save Music In Chinatown Instructor: Stephen Serrato GoNoodle 2021 Spring Theme Art director: Tim Cook

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