Yanwen Hang

Graphic design student Yanwen Hang recently had an honest chat with us about idealism vs. commercialism, plus she shares with us her passion project inspiring and encouraging Chinese artists to advocate for social justice in their work.

Did you have a plan for graduation and what actually happened?

My experience back in my undergraduate education was very inclusive, even though I was in department of Visual Communication design. I got my hands on Fiber and Material Study, Ceramic, and Print Making, immensely widening my horizon. I decided to become a graphic designer and study in-depth in an MFA program based in LA, where a fusion of culture is always happening. My idealism has led me nowhere this time — to my astonishment, the program is so commercial and corporate-oriented, leaving me little freedom to inject my own ideas and thoughts into my beloved projects.

I’m afraid I regret my choice already, if I’m honest enough. Pleasing a target audience is not something I’m looking forward to. I still struggle everyday with whether I should betray my creativity and surrender in order to be accepted by my prospective clients or not.

I should have strived for becoming a widely recognized designer, but I will have to forsake what I really hold tight.

What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate?

Should I become so-called successful, being able to detach my ferocious emotion from my projects will be my most critical challenge. This is probably something I have to swallow sometime between now and the graduation of my program.

However contradictory it might sound, in the meantime I would like to stay honest to my own faith, regardless of current trends and popularity.

It certainly is hard.

Design work by Yanwen Hang The Design Kids interviews Yanwen Hang work-2

What is the quality of design education like locally?

My program has no lack of corporate-oriented mentality. Our voices and aspirations are usually neglected and replaced purely by the liking of either the instructors or the preference of the designated brand. We are educated more as an outstanding craftsman in Graphic Design than an inspiring designer who entrusted with unleashing creativity.

Whats the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t be afraid, Wen.”

It’s great advice, but it's easier said than done.

That’s the best I can remember and cherish.

Even though I’m still afraid of facing all the insecurity and uncertainty in my misty future.

Design work by Yanwen Hang The Design Kids interviews Yanwen Hang work-4
Design work by Yanwen Hang The Design Kids interviews Yanwen Hang work-4

The most dangerous thing you could do is focus on keeping up with trends and abandon yourself as a creative person.

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

NO U TURN. It’s an editorial/exhibition design project, heavily inspired by Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World at Guggenheim Museum in 2018.

For Art and China, 1989 was both an end and a beginning. The June Fourth Tiananmen Square Protest marked the end of a decade of politically-openness. Intellectual and artistic exploration came to a halt by the time after the chaos. However, the 1989 also became the outset of the new era of development, international relationships, and individual possibility. Among all department of contemporary Chinese art, experimental art or conceptual art are the most sensitive to drastic reform of Art environment in China. Traditional landscapes and lifestyles was substituted with the rise of postmodern cities and latest urban cultures accompanied with enormous population immigration within China.

With all these changes, contemporary Chinese artists were intensely concerned with their identities, their own social image became a constant subject of their work, resulting in the exploding amount of work related to the self-representations in all forms of visual art including paintings, installations, videos, performances, and socially engaged projects.

In the spring of 1989, the exhibition 'China/Avant-garde' was hosted at the National Art Gallery in Beijing. It was the first exhibition with independent curators after 1949. The exhibition is considered as a retrospective of the latest endeavor in contemporary Chinese art within the 1980s.

30 years later in 2019, I curated a virtual exhibition at SFMOMA, featuring eight radical contemporary artists. Their work not only reflects the urgent needs for individuality in the transforming Chinese Society, but inspires and encourages young Chinese artists who would like to advocate for social justice in their works to carve their path in Chinese society from now on.

The reason behind my love for this project goes beyond its purpose. My work in this exhibition remains one of my own favorite designs. For people who lived in mainland China, 1989 is a "hidden" year. The Tiananmen Square Massacre was evaporated from the vast land of china. "The hidden year" inspired me and became one of my concepts: pre-perforated French-fold spreads were used in the main essay section, where all the artists' invitations, the letters of artists negotiating with the government, newspapers and other historical documents from the incidents were enclosed.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

Don’t be too obsessed with design skills; they will eventually be perfected with time and practice.

One should really have a thorough insight instead of being in a utopia of techniques upon graduation.

The most dangerous thing you could do is focus on keeping up with trends and abandon yourself as a creative person.

Design work by Yanwen Hang The Design Kids interviews Yanwen Hang work-6

2019 for you in a sentence.

Food, A, Illusion, Love.

Design work by Yanwen Hang The Design Kids interviews Yanwen Hang work-7
Design work by Yanwen Hang The Design Kids interviews Yanwen Hang work-7

Where to find Yanwen Hang online.

Website: wenyhang.com

Instagram: @wen_yhang

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