In conversation with Yan Yan on merging emotion with technique in human-centered design

In conversation with Yan Yan on intersecting Art and Design

Yan Yan is bridging art and design through emotion and innovation

Yan Yan, a visionary artist and designer, finds her earliest connection to art in childhood, where painting served as a medium for emotional expression. Evolving through design education, she blends technical skills with art’s emotive power, shaping a perspective that harmonizes form and function. Transitioning from industrial to experience design, she emphasizes human-centered principles across physical and digital realms.

Challenging conventional beauty norms, her projects prioritize narrative and realism, notably seen in Anonymousociety. Identity plays a pivotal role, with her multicultural upbringing informing works like the SheSaying podcast, which celebrates women’s voices. Embracing originality, Yan Yan infuses fresh insights into her work, navigating creative blocks with openness. Recent endeavors, such as SheSaying, exemplify her commitment to social impact through innovative design, empowering diverse voices to shape new realities.

First off, we would love to ask you what your earliest perception of art was? What was the thing that initially piqued your interest into art?

During my childhood, I used painting to express my emotions and converse with myself, using colors to manifest feelings I couldn’t always put into words. This personal connection to art deepened as I entered design school, where I learned the principles of human-centered design. This education did not just refine my technical skills; it reminded me of the power of pure art to express deep-seated emotions and complex ideas.

    With a background in design, my perspective evolved to incorporate both subjective and objective viewpoints, enabling me to navigate and explore the intersection of design and fine arts more deliberately. Design became not just a profession but a lens through which I could explore and challenge the boundaries between functionality and expression, ultimately enriching my creative expression and approach to both fields. This blend of art and design in my early experiences laid the foundation for my ongoing journey to use design as a powerful tool for exploration and narrative creation.

    If you had to describe the aesthetic of your work to an alien, how you would do so?

      I would describe the aesthetic of my design work as a symphony of visuals, functionality, and narrative. As a designer, my projects are not only fields for personal expression but are also deeply influenced by the nature of the product itself. I strive to create a balanced and breathable visual style that is both aesthetically pleasing and easily understandable. For my personal projects, which lean more towards fine arts, the aesthetics are continuously evolving yet maintain a coherent thread that ties all my work together, reflecting a seamless blend of past influences and new explorations.

      How did working in industrial design inform the way you work with experience design?

        Working in industrial design has profoundly shaped my approach to experience design. Industrial design ingrained in me the importance of design thinking and practical functionality, emphasizing solutions that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also truly useful and intuitive for the user. Transitioning from industrial design to experience design meant moving from physical to digital, but the core essence remained the same: a focus on human-centered design.

        This transition has been fascinating. In experience design, understanding how people interact with digital products requires a deep dive into user behavior, preferences, and environments. It’s about making those digital experiences feel as tangible and natural as interacting with a physical product. This approach ensures that digital products are designed with the same care and precision as physical ones, prioritizing the user’s needs and experiences at every step of the design process.

        How do you conceptualize the concept of beauty in your art, particularly in relation to the unconventional or unconventional aspects of your chosen mediums and subjects?

          This question touches on a fascinating aspect of my work, as the value and definition of beauty distinctly vary between design and art. As a designer delving into fine arts expression, I apply design principles in my artistic work, which might be seen as unusual in the traditional art world. In projects like Anonymousociety, my approach to beauty is intertwined with the objective of crafting a compelling and immersive world.

          For this project, aesthetics serves a secondary role to realism. My primary goal is to enhance the believability of the world I am creating, which I believe is essential for effective storytelling and engagement. Aesthetics are still important, but they come second to creating a convincing environment that pulls the audience into that world. This approach shifts the traditional view of beauty to one that supports the story and the purpose of the project, making the experience more impactful for the viewer.

          Can you elaborate on the relationship between art and identity in your work? How does your background or experiences shape your artistic perspective?

            Growing up in a small town and moving to a metropolitan area at the age of 10 profoundly impacted my understanding of the relationship between cities and humans. This shift not only influenced my perception of urban environments but also shaped the foundational ideas behind my Anonymousociety project. Living in various cities and being immersed in different cultures equipped me with an outsider’s perspective on many aspects of life. This unique viewpoint is a driving force in my work, allowing me to explore and critique societal norms with a distinct clarity.

            As a woman, I am particularly drawn to amplifying the voices of other women, which inspired me to create the SheSaying podcast and its brand identity. This project focuses on the growth and personal stories of women, providing a platform where their experiences can be shared and celebrated. Through SheSaying, I aim to highlight the intricate and diverse narratives that shape female identity, using my art and design to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of women’s roles in society.

            My background and personal experiences not only influence the subjects I choose to explore but also color the way I approach each project, blending my identity with my artistic expression.

            How do you approach the concept of originality in your work, considering the long history of art and the inevitable influence of other artists and movements?

              Approaching originality in my work involves a dialogue between the past and the present. While it’s true that art has a long history, and influences are inevitable, I strive to contribute new perspectives by merging different disciplines and cultural influences in my work. As a designer navigating the intersection of design and fine arts, my perspective is inherently infused with elements that might be considered unconventional in either field on its own.

              This approach allows me to contribute something new and vibrant to the conversation—my thoughts and viewpoints offer a fresh input that can invigorate traditional practices and challenge existing paradigms. In doing so, I strive to keep my work original and relevant, ensuring that it not only responds to but also shapes contemporary artistic discourse.

              How do you handle creative blocks or periods of low inspiration, and what strategies do you use to overcome them?

                To overcome creative blocks, I embrace them as part of the creative process. Stepping away from the project, seeking new experiences, or simply engaging in other forms of creative expression helps rejuvenate my mind. Sometimes, discussing ideas with peers or returning to nature can provide fresh inspiration and a new viewpoint.

                Can you tell us about a couple of your recent projects and what aspects you want the audience the know about?

                  One of my recent projects is the SheSaying podcast, where I designed the visual and auditory experience to celebrate women’s diverse voices. 她说SheSaying is a project close to my heart, where design meets purpose, and as both the designer and founder, I’ve used the visual style to build a platform for voices that yearn to be heard. The design features three typefaces superimposed on one another, drawing from the Chinese belief that the number three holds the key to unleashing the universe’s potential.

                  This symbolism in my design stands for the power of women’s voices to initiate change and bring new realities to life. Each font and color represents a different woman, and their overlap is a metaphor for how each voice, no matter how distinct, contributes to a harmonious collective. This design choice shows that the project is more than a podcast; it’s a celebration of every female’s story. It’s a visual reminder that when women come together, their voices have the power to birth new worlds, and that’s the spirit “她说SheSaying” embodies.

                  In conversation with Yan Yan on intersecting Art and Design
                  In conversation with Yan Yan on intersecting Art and Design

                  All images courtesy of Yan Yan, shared with permission

                  Yan Yan website:

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