Featured Designer

Rebecca Jiayi Zhou

August 2018

When you look at Rebecca Jiayi Zhou's list of electives from college (Abnormal Psychology, Acting Shakespeare, Postcolonial Fiction, The Language of Food) you'd be understandably confused and curious, but Rebecca believes they've played a huge role in both her personal and professional development. We, of course, chat study, reviving endangered crafts, her internship with the BBC and her thesis project Re-envision Theater.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I recently graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in May with a BFA in communication design and a minor in literature studies with a concentration in post-colonialism. In my junior year, I exchanged to London’s Central Saint Martins for two semesters. I studied design & interaction as my pathway during the time in CSM. Some of my first jobs were freelance designer and writer for high school newspaper, student union and drama club. My passion for art and design, and literature led me to pursue a fine-art degree at the New School.

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

I am a multidisciplinary graphic communication designer based in New York City and Shanghai. My work has ranged from web projects, motion graphic designs, installation and fine art pieces. I find myself often focused on reviving the endangered crafts through history like Chinese Calligraphy, giving voices to those social minorities who are often unheard in the society. In my diverse approaches to art projects, I try to provide an experimental chance to challenge one’s assumptions to certain objects and culture.

What's your take on internships?

In my senior year, I was very fortunate to complete a design internship with BBC at their New York office. I interned for two departments: Communication and Events Department, and BBC.COM team. One of the most exciting projects includes designing screening poster for the “Blue Planet II” and it was printed out and got hung in local cinemas. For the dot com team, I worked closely with Miriam Weiner, the deputy editor for BBC Travel, Bryan Lufkin, the feature writer for BBC Future, and Samantha Chong, the social media producer. It was such a gift to work with the dot com team which the majority came from journalism and zoology background. We share brains on design and they helped me to visualize articles into motion graphics or infographics. I got to read first-hand interviews about '''Russia Tsars Lost Gold, Thailands ancient colour tradition, and Denmarks secret food place while learning about design strategy in newsroom. This internship experience teaches me the art of communication, the importance of timeline, the beauty of nature and human culture. And the most importantly, you got so used to spell everything in the British way. It takes time to change it back. Laughing.

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I used (my elective classes) as a window to recharge myself, to learn more about myself, my weaknesses and even my guilty pleasures.

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Any passion projects you would like to share?

My senior thesis project Re-envision Theater is to provide small and young theaters a design system that guides their branding structure for both online and physical platforms. These theaters often have limited budgets, and more alarmingly, do not have solid brand systems. The project helps these theaters to customize and align their brands with their experimental and innovative performances using graphic design. The experience starts with a package mailed to theaters showing what their theater could look like using this design system, including a system guide, ticket designs (physical and digital), a ticket-buying experience demo, seat numbers and coat check tag designs, an intermission guide, and an after-the-show pamphlet. Then, theater companies can visit the website, which shows how to use the design system and customize each graphic piece in the theater. The emphasis in this project is about accessibility and affordability, since not every theater has the budget to hire design studios to rebrand their identity and atmosphere. By using the design system, small and young theaters can start to understand the important role graphic design plays in a space to enhance the experience for customers, from the ticket-buying experience to the after-performance experience.

What advice would you give students starting out?

I took many elective classes that have nothing to do with design at first glance, such as Abnormal Psychology, Acting Shakespeare, Postcolonial Fiction, The Language of Food and etc. Most of these elective classes involve a large volume of research paper to write which I used as a window to recharge myself, to learn more about myself, my weakness and even my guilty pleasure. I still believe it was through these elective classes, I learned to establish my world view as a designer. If I have a second chance going back to college, I would take more risks on exploring things I have no idea about, maybe a DJ remixing class?

2018 for you in a sentence.

I probably watched too many operas under the name of thesis.

Website: rebeccajiayizhou.com

Instagram: @rebeccajiayizhou

Twitter: @becca_jpeg

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