Zitong Zhao on recycling daily observations to create meaningful graphic design work

However, despite his impressive graphic design resume, Tong began by studying international business and commerce at university. Perhaps that’s the secret to his new perspective on the industry, with his approach going against the convention that graphic design is about solving problems.

“I see graphic design as an unsolved problem because you can never solve a problem,” she told Creative Boom. “The only thing you can do is find as many solutions as possible and push the boundaries of what design can achieve. It’s full of possibilities without necessarily having the right answer.”

It’s a prospect that paid off. Since graduating from the Pratt Institute with an MFA in Communication Design, Tong has combined her love for typography and photography to produce work that satisfies her – both as a designer and as a person. We caught up with her to learn more about her journey and find out how she puts her unique approach to design into practice.

What made you want to change for design and how did you start to get internships?

Growing up, I have always been fascinated by people who know what their passion is. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. But knowing what I didn’t like pushed me further.

Studying international business and commerce has never been my first choice for college. Every day I felt soulless so I would explore all the paths I could take and try to figure out what really excited me.

I love taking pictures and I used to do a lot of collages. The combination of images and texts really helped me to express my feelings freely and also allowed me to produce experimental works. My friend Pan once saw my collages and photographs during this “finding my passion” phase and told me that I had a real talent for visual communication. So she offered me this internship at VOGUE Magazine China, and my journey there allowed me to realize that I have a strong passion for graphic design. Then I followed my instincts and decided to move to New York to continue my education.

What has been your proudest job to date, and why?

Observations, or Daily Observations, is an ongoing personal design project that I work on in my spare time. In this project, I try to bring together my daily observations and my own aesthetic to design something that speaks to and for me.

In this project, I use a lot of snapshots that I take in my everyday life to create something more designer and refined. It’s like a recycling process because I’m trying to rediscover the potential of these photos from a design perspective, and the process is fascinating and fun.

The methodology I developed from this project is even useful when designing commercial work. For example, during a recent collaboration with Dickies, our studio was asked to reinterpret their classic 874 work pants. When I was looking for inspiration, I browsed my photo album and found photos that I was looking for. took textures and traces of posters that have been on walls for days, months, even years.

The visuals are unique and present a sense of resilience, especially in the way each poster remains original at its core as the surface has changed and been adjusted by time and environment. These photos ultimately led me to the story of resilience and the evolution of Dickies as a brand, which has worked on workwear and streetwear over the decades, while the brand’s design remains unchanged and genuine. So, in this project, I deconstructed and exhibited the textures of the numbers “874” to create forms of mutation and metamorphosis.

How would you describe your work and your creative approach?

I try to inject a little of myself into my works without losing objectivity. It’s not an easy process, and I’m still learning day by day because sometimes I can get lost in my own thoughts, so I’m constantly trying to find the balance between intuition and intention in my thoughts. works.

I also try to shorten the distance between my work and the audience. I want them to feel connected and inspired when they see it. So I try to find my inspiration from different angles of life, which pushes me to deepen the development of both the visuals and the concept.

Designers never stop learning and growing. How do you continue to surpass yourself as a designer and what advice would you give to creatives looking to learn new skills?

As I pushed myself further, I have taught myself to accept challenges and uncertainties because I know this is where I will learn and grow. Plus, I always ask myself these questions before I create anything: What are your reasons for designing? What is the impact of your work? Does it make the world better or worse or does it leave it as it is? And what are the legacies you want to leave in this visual culture?

Learning new things is fantastic, and I also like learning different skills to improve my design skills. But try to learn at your own pace and don’t rush to do anything if you don’t want to. This means: don’t let design trends and the industry fool you. You do you!

What are the principles that motivate you as a designer?

I know graphic design has so many cultural influences shaping the world around us, and I want to be a part of it.

Clifton L. Boyd

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