We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative YINGRI GUAN ("YG").
Made in China, polished in Singapore, and currently living in the US, Yingri Guan is a multidisciplinary artist and designer based in Seattle. While working full-time as a start-up designer, she brainstorms and makes art during free time. She is also into traveling, reading, snowboarding, and cooking fusion dishes.
YINGRI GUAN Designs
We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by YINGRI GUAN.
Designer Interview of YINGRI GUAN:
DI: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
YG : I started learning Chinese painting and calligraphy when I was six years old. Since then I've fallen in love with art and design. I painted freestyle paintings, wrote calligraphy, designed booklet, public boards. I've always wanted to be an artist creator, but it only became clear to me that I want to be a designer after high school graduation.
DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
YG : My design studio currently only has me as a member of this studio. I named it ARiceStudio after my nickname. The studio mostly explores ways to visualize reality through designs that combine art, mathematics, and technology.
DI: What is "design" for you?
YG : I see design as dancing with hands and legs cuffed. Meaning being creative with lots of limitations, solve problems from the fundamentals and at the same time bring delight to people.
DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
YG : I like all kinds of problems. Currently, I'm focusing on interaction and generative design. What excites me the most are projects that speculate, looking into the future, and give insights to reality.
DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
YG : There are a lot of favorite designs. I mostly appreciate a lot of Japanese designs.
DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
YG : The first thing I designed was a Barbie loves Lacey book. It's a board book for girls. And I still remember the excitement when I saw it published in the market.
DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
YG : My favorite material is acrylic glass. I use multiple platforms and software to design. Mainly processing, sketch, Adobe Creative Suite, and so on. The technology I use is digital design software and laser cut.
DI: When do you feel the most creative?
YG : I'm most creative after meditation or take a break in nature. Meditation clears my mind and nature does the same in terms of clearing my thoughts and make me feel recharged. After meditation, ideas just download instantly or I will get an idea all of a sudden that would solve the problem I was thinking about for a whilebefore the meditation.
DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
YG : I focus a lot on the emotional aspect when I design. I love people to be attracted to the aesthetic beauty of my designs, yet my designs would be functional. Most of all, I want people to feel happy and elated to see and own my design.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
YG : When I design, I mostly feel calm. I let the ideas flow through me and expressed through the work I create.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
YG : I feel accomplished and at the same time neutral. When the designs are realized, I feel I'm ready to move on to the next design project.
DI: What makes a design successful?
YG : A design is successful if it solves a problem elegantly. Good design is usually simple, simple to understand the usage and simple in the form. Elegance comes naturally when design is executed.
DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
YG : I would consider the problem-solving aspect of the design first. If this design solves a problem with the least amount of effort, it means that's good design.
DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
YG : Designers do assume some really big responsibilities when it come to societal and environmental responsibilities. For example, packaging designers come in direct contact with the materials they will would using for their products.
DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
YG : I think "design filed" is evolving to be more important and people are embracing the idea of "design thinking". More and more companies think the design is an essential part of brand and company development. The future of design is that design would be the innovative force for helping with product development from the very beginning. Companies can use design principles and integrate design thinkings in a lot of areas to facilitate creative processes and drive innovations.
DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
YG : My last exhibition was in early November. I want to hold my next exhibition once the pandemic eases. I am looking into ways of doing online exhibitions at the current moment.
DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
YG : Most of my design inspirations come from nature. I am always interested in exploring and taking note of the natural patterns and those are meditative and nurtures my soul. Nature is also a place for me to recover and recharge powers to replenish my creativity.
DI: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
YG : My design style is a combination of something technology and future thinking driven and yet offers organic feeling of the final output. It was a combination of factors that made me explore more of the style. I had a background in Chinese painting where a lot of deep seated hidden meanings are hidden in the strokes. Therefore, lots of human interpretations are required. Chinese painting is based on Yin and Yang, the human interactions and abstract philosophies, therefore giving its organic and highly sophisticated looks behind those paintings. Yet, I also integrate different new technology and data research into my work to give meaning to existing phenomenons. Therefore, there are a mixed combination of organic and future driven feelings to my work and yet they exist harmoniously together.
DI: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
YG : I am currently living in Seattle. Cultural heritage of China definitely affects my designs. For I find lots of traditional designs beautiful and seamless. For instance, the wood designs that requires no nails and yet ties together the structure of perfectly built buildings is just phenomenal. I often compare my designs to those concepts. Those are definitely my inspirations. I am currently living in the United States. While it is extremely inspiring and also fortunate to be in a design culture highly evolved to power technology development and lots of research has gone into the work of research to sell. I think those do influence how I design products and my views on design.
DI: How do you work with companies?
YG : I am currently an in-house designer working at a tech startup called Tile, Inc. Most of the time, I have internal clients and I would be designing for my own companies audience.
DI: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
YG : I think the best thing a company can do when working with a designer would have an open-minded view towards things. Think about how a lot of times, people could doubt the designs provided by designers.
DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?
YG : My design process is the same as current user experience design practices. Usually would be understand the problem, what problem would I be solving for. Then validate the problem is the problem I am solving for by doing user research and get clarification about the current processes. Once confirmed the problem I am solving for, then I would start with brainstorming to come up with as many ideas as possible. Iterations follow by validating with user research. When the initial design goal is achieved, we can call the initial phase of design to be accomplished at this point. If further follow up is needed, usually more iterations of design and research would be carried out. Of course, design is iterative and I'd love to always iterate on my designs.
DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
YG : At home, my favorite design items are rice cooker, teapot and tea set, smart switch, water bottle and robot vacuum cleaner.
DI: Can you describe a day in your life?
YG : My day in life usually starts with meditation by clearing my mind and set good intentions for the day. Once I get this process down. I would carry out some routines and then go to work. Usually, at work, there are dedicated meetings and also work time, it's pretty explanatory. But my work time is mostly defined by project needs.
DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
YG : I think the most important thing is to be patient. It touches many aspects. We need to be patient with ourselves, where we are and where we'd like to go. Sweating over the things we have not achieved demoralizes and also could also reduce momentum. Patience with clients are also important. Most of the time, it comes down to communications and designers also find ourselves in the position to understand clients' needs and also educate them on how design works. That takes a lot of patience. Last but not least, patience with our work. Sometimes it just takes a little bit more pushing to get to the finish line. And patience is needed to keep us hang in there and be able to see the project through. Therefore, pearls of wisdom for young designers is patience and that could carry you a long way down the road.
DI: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
YG : Positives in being a designer is that I get to solve problems all the time. It changed my perspective about how I live my life. I am much more observant than before and I am always noticing the different design intentions in everyday life. The negatives of being a designer is work is highly integrated into life. When we are not working, we are constantly observing and thinking about the problems, taking inspiration from our experiences. So there's no clear boundaries between work and play. But if you are ok with that, it could serve you really well.
DI: What is your "golden rule" in design?
YG : My golden rule in design is always to check what I can take out in the later process to accomplish the same problem solving goals.
DI: What skills are most important for a designer?
YG : Humility is the most important quality and also skills for designers. A humble designer is willing to learn all skills. Software and technical skills change all the time, the only things don't change are the overarching main theories for design and the main principles. A humble designer is willing to put their customer needs at the forefront and design for the problem. Therefore, the designer's design would solve for the actually problem, not just based on designer's own preferences or other factors.
DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
YG : I meditate a lot to be able to come back to a creative state. Meditation really helps to clear the mind and set good intentions to innovate. A lot of my ideas come to me after meditation. This is because meditation empties the chaos in my mind and get it ready to receive new ideas.
DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
YG : The best way to time manage for me to set clear goals and be realistic. And set a timeframe of working hours for the day. Once you have accomplished the goals, you can go out and play. Set time to play and do nothing everyday. And design hours could be a set timeframe. Overtime, those timeframes become habit. Every time sit in front of the tables during those time frames, I'm automatically in the mindset to create and design. This really helps to drive up efficiency and hence saves time. However, understand that design is essentially a habit and to be enforced everyday.
DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
YG : There is not really an end to a design and it's always iterative. However, the design end is defined by the time that we think we are at a stage we are somewhat satisfied with the state of design. Normally this process ideally stretches to about 3 months to enable sufficient time for design and iteration.
DI: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
YG : Most of the time, people would ask me what are my perspective and goal for the projects I am working on. People would love to have a vision for the end product they would be seeing eventually.
DI: What was your most important job experience?
YG : I value every job experience and I can always learn from even the simplest design task. However the most memorable one was the working Reader's Digest and designing different books. I remember the excitement when I saw the book I designed was finally published. I was working with a lot of clients that I see in cartoons and also other channels.
DI: Who are some of your clients?
YG : I have worked at Reader's Digest, Brava, Inc. JusTalk app and Tile, Inc.
DI: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
YG : I enjoy design works that requires complex logic and I have to solve the difficult puzzles to give the best solution. The other type of design work is my own creative projects. I usually also have side projects that I would assign myself to work on. Those projects are self-directed and
DI: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
YG : I'd love to continue building more works and exploring the combination of art, design, technology and science to make experiences that greatly help people's lives. What's next is I think I'd like to continue push myself in that direction but I am also open to what comes to me. I find that my path has been a combination of planning and surprises. Often times those surprises would lead me to something really exciting. So I don't have a solid plan for what exactly I'd be doing next. But I have a general direction of where I want to go and see from there.
DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
YG : I usually work on projects on my own, but I work in a team environment. My coworkers take different features on the same product. However, we each own the different features we own and therefore a collaborative and also autonomy environment for my usual works.
DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
YG : I am currently working on a video establishing relationship between Chinese calligraphy, generative design and also mathematics.
DI: How can people contact you?
YG : My website is www.yingriguan.com and my email is email@example.com
DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
YG : I am also into cooking and I see that as another meditative and relaxing form of creation. If you have any recipes to share with me, please don't hesitate. I am always into discussions about how rice could be cooked differently and how people approach cooking. Or just anything you want to reach out and share. Love to connect.