YINGRI GUAN

Professional in Generative Design.

About YINGRI GUAN

Made in China, polished in Singapore and currently living in US, Yingri Guan is a multidisciplinary artist and designer based in San Francisco Bay Area. She is currently working as a designer at a tech start-up. When not designing, she brainstorms and makes art. She is also into traveling, reading, and cooking fusion dishes.

  • 2-Time Winner of Generative Design Award.
  • Specialized in Generative Design.
  • 3 Featured Original Designs.
  • Highly Creative, Diligent and Innovative.
  • All Designs
  • Generative
  • Art
Cava Light Installation

Cava Light Installation

Generative Design

Diatom Lights Illumination

Diatom Lights Illumination

Generative Design

Crystals Art Installation

Crystals Art Installation

Art Design


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Interview with YINGRI GUAN

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?
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.
Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
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.
What is "design" for you?
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.
What kinds of works do you like designing most?
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.
What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
There are a lot of favorite designs. I mostly appreciate a lot of Japanese designs.
What was the first thing you designed for a company?
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.
What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
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.
When do you feel the most creative?
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.
Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
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.
What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
When I design, I mostly feel calm. I let the ideas flow through me and expressed through the work I create.
What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
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.
What makes a design successful?
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.
When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
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.
From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
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.
How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
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.
When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
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.
Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
How do you work with companies?
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.
What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
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.
Can you talk a little about your design process?
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.
What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
At home, my favorite design items are rice cooker, teapot and tea set, smart switch, water bottle and robot vacuum cleaner.
Can you describe a day in your life?
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.
Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
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.
From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
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.
What is your "golden rule" in design?
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.
What skills are most important for a designer?
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.
Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
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.
Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
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.
How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
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.
What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
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.
What was your most important job experience?
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.
Who are some of your clients?
I have worked at Reader's Digest, Brava, Inc. JusTalk app and Tile, Inc.
What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
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
What are your future plans? What is next for you?
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.
Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
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.
Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
I am currently working on a video establishing relationship between Chinese calligraphy, generative design and also mathematics.
How can people contact you?
My website is www.yingriguan.com and my email is yingriguan@gmail.com
Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
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.

Extended Interview with YINGRI GUAN

Could you please tell us a bit about your design background and education?
I started learning Chinese painting and calligraphy when I was six years old. Since then I've fell in love with art and design. I painted free style paintings, wrote calligraphy, designed booklet, public boards. I've always wanted to be an artist creator, but only became clear to me that I want to be a designer after high school graduation.
What motivates you to design in general, why did you become a designer?
The most important factor that motivates me to become a designer is creativity involved in everyday life. Design offers me the opportunity to observe, see the world in a different light, dig to the bottom of problems that interest me, draft a concept and through iterations, seeing that idea come to life and be out in the world. Whether it can make a difference, the creative gesture and constant evolution is what inspires me to design. It is just satisfying for me.
Did you choose to become a designer, or you were forced to become one?
I chose to become a designer. I knew that I could not be an engineer, or an account who my mom wants to me to be. It was a conscious choice. When I was in Singapore, I remember very clearly that I felt that I wanted none of the choices that was in front of me. I could no longer be in a profession that I could not feel the drive to be in. I did not choose the art as my subject during my A-Level studies. Being conforming to what's the norm and what everyone chooses for their combination was my default mentality. In a way, the conscious choice to become a designer was my first step in saying yes to what I want internally and break free from other noises around me.
What do you design, what type of designs do you wish to design more of?
Currently, I am interested in designing products that simply delight people. The products have a very broad definition, whether it's a digital interface, tangible object, 2-D graphic layout or interior layout. Any creation that combines the knowledge of design, art, mathematics and science to express reality and provoke contemplations are my inspirations to work on.
What should young designers do to become a design legend like you?
I believe that I am not a design legend yet. There are a lot of improvements ahead of me. However, to become a better designer, it always comes down to practice. By doing everyday, it's practicing the design processes everyday. It's about always focus on the process and constantly iterate and refine personal design theories and form your own design opinions.
What distinguishes between a good designer and a great designer?
Good designers usually solves for the problems and provide solutions that address the problems. Great designers are willing to dig to the fundamentals and aim to redefine the problem if necessary. Great designers usually help to revolutionize a design problem. Great design is invisible. It almost feels like it wasn’t designed at all. This is what differentiate good from great designers. Good designers will rely on their technical skills and base their design on principles (a machine could learn that by the way), but great designers bring more to the equation. I think that this is what creativity really is.
What makes a good design a really good design, how do you evaluate good design?
First of all, I usually look at if the design solves the actual problem. If it does, then it passed the bar of being a good design. Next, look at if the design speaks to its audience and if it's sustainable. Having the above criteria would make it being a good design. The telling part of whether it's a really good design is if this design is seamless and went a step above and beyond to elevate the solution. It gives the design solution a different and much better meaning and presence.
What is the value of good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?
From business perspective, good design is more valued today because it sells, makes a good impression and hence more profits. From consumer perspective, good designs benefit our everyday life. Everything is designed and the good designs really improve our lives. From society's perspective, design drives innovation. The design process motivate people to analyze problems, concept solutions and great innovations come through that process and that's when society gets to be pushed forward at a faster speed and at the same time with
What is the dream project you haven’t yet had time to realize?
I am really looking forward to build a large public interaction installation. In that setting, people can enjoy the art together with their loved ones, family and friends. It's full of joy and delight.
What is your secret recipe of success in design, what is your secret ingredient?
I think the secret recipe of success in design is by doing, same as other professions. There are talents and also intuitions involved in design. But when it comes to what makes great designers, it's always through constant practice and experience.
Who are some other design masters and legends you get inspired from?
I am always inspired by Tokujin Yoshioka, Kenya Hara, Naoto Fukasawa and Yuri Suzuki.
What are your favorite designs by other designers, why do you like them?
My favorite design would be Zojirushi rice cooker. The automation of rice cooking on this machine makes life so convenient and also cooked to preferred taste.
What is your greatest design, which aspects of that design makes you think it is great?
My greatest design would be designs combining art, design, technology and mathematics to format physical visualizations that gives meaning to reality.
How could people improve themselves to be better designers, what did you do?
I think to be better designers, it's always by doing. When people have good ideas, sketch them, concept them, ask for feedback and iterate to improve them. Just like how Tim Notke said “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”Everyone get better not by whimsical luck by hard practice everyday.
If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
I would probably become an artist. I've said in a TV interview when I was 9 years old that I'd always want to be an artist. I might have chosen a different path in the beginning because of family and societal pressure, but I believe I'd end up being an artist eventually if I hadn't become a designer.
How do you define design, what is design for you?
Design is a form of creation, solving the problems, bring delights to the fundamental problem. It's becoming like air for breathing. When working on design, I feel energized, every nerve would be so charged.
Who helped you to reach these heights, who was your biggest supporter?
I've came across many supporters along the way, family, friends, professors, supervisors. All of them form my support team and they function different roles when I need support.
What helped you to become a great designer?
I think the humility. Humility is the biggest enabler. When approaching a problem, humbleness allows me to empty my mind and really start to empathize with the audience and hence draft design solutions that would best suit the design problem.
What were the obstacles you faced before becoming a design master?
I think the obstacles were mostly creative drain. There's always a need to come with an empty mind and approach a problem from the fundamentals. Sometimes when hitting a creative drain or block along the way.
How do you think designers should present their work?
I think the best way to present their work is first define the problem they are solving, propose the hypothesis of the reasons that's causing the current problems. And then explain why they made all the decisions that leads to the current solution.
What’s your next design project, what should we expect from you in future?
My next design project is exploring the concept of ambiguity. I want to approach the perspective of ambiguous concepts and how different cultures have all different perspectives.
What’s your ultimate goal as a designer?
My ultimate goal as a designer would be offering delights. To solve a problem would define a design solution whether it's good or not. But having the delights makes the design ultimately enjoyable and great designs.
What people expect from an esteemed designer such as yourself?
I think people expect greatness from esteemed designers. People understand and appreciate design have lots of their own opinions of design principles.
How does design help create a better society?
Design helps to create a better society as some designers work on big world problems like climate change, affordable housing, gender equality and hunger. Design comes in every aspect of our society not only to solve those big problems, but also makes our lives better by providing different perspectives on how things could be done differently, hence pursuing ways to make our lives better.
What are you currently working on that you are especially excited about?
I am currently working on another data visualization design project that examines deep ocean creatures and their micro-organic relationship with the environment they live in.
Which design projects gave you the most satisfaction, why?
Ice core, crystal visualization and diatom lights are examples of design projects that gave me the most satisfaction. Because those projects were end products of combination of different specialties and they present reality in my own perspective to people and offers new insights into concepts, information and data that could not otherwise be paid attention to.
What would you like to see changed in design industry in the coming years?
I'd like to see design industry having more positions and also designers who work across different disciplines. I hope some designers eventually don't have or give specific area that they are specialized in, but rather designers are creators who solves problems with their thinking and ultimately bring some delight to the customers.
Where do you think the design field is headed next?
I think we are going to see more and more people working on projects that span multiple disciplines. The boundaries are continue going to dissolve. We will see more and more design positions would require knowledge in different areas such as technology, science, engineering and etc. More and more people are going to be working across the different disciplines and use multiple skillsets to solve design problems.
How long does it take you to finalize a design project?
I think it really varies based on projects. Some projects might have really clear problem definition early on and hence require less research to clarify problems. Most of the time, problems are more ambiguous, hence more research, more analysis are needed to clearly define the problem that the project is solving for. Hence , the duration is really hard to measure in terms of days. But in general, I'd measure by iterations, so mostly 3 iterations for it to come pretty close to the final forms to call a completion for the targeting phase of design.
When you have a new design project, where do you start?
I usually start a design project by understanding and form a big picture of the project I am working on. For instance, I would need to understand the contextual information around how this problem interacts with the other areas it's touching, the background of the problem, a clear picture if this problem is really a fundamental problem. The currently surfaced problem could be a surface phenomenon of something deeper.
What is your life motto as a designer?
I think my life motto is Woody Allen once said that '99percent of life isshowing up'. It's just doing project by project, day by day and focusing on each moment.
Do you think design sets the trends or trends set the designs?
I think they are mutual influencers of each other. Sometimes a design would set a trend, for instance, when apple came out, a lot of the products were mimicking the apple design. For trends to set the designs, sometimes people could be heavily influenced by some famous celebrities etc. Then a certain style of clothing or a certain way of living heavily influence the public. Those times, the trend influence the designs. But either way, people are always in tune to the story and the image different products and design can offer them.
What is the role of technology when you design?
Technology is the tool I use for designing. For instance, I rely on different technologies to help me concept design ideas. Then I need technology to formulate design solutions, finally the execution of my designs also utilizes technology.
What kind of design software and equipment do you use in your work?
I use visualization, adobe creative suite, laser cutter a lot for my work.
What is the role of the color, materials and ambient in design?
Color materials and ambient in design play very important role in terms of design. They are the expressions of design. Whatever choice of materials, ambient design and color are intentional and reflects the design decisions that's been made.
What do you wish people to ask about your design?
People can ask anything about my design. They are welcome to poke around my designs and I'm always to hear critical feedback from people.
When you see a new great design or product what comes into your mind?
I often think about why this new great design or product is good in the first place. Usually there's a reason why it's good, why it caught my attention and what I could learn from that situation.
Who is your ideal design partner? Do you believe in co-design?
I think an ideal design partner would be someone who would inspire and challenge each other at the same time. They never shut down any ideas but would push further the design ideas to achieve the best possible results. I do believe in co-design, but precedences need to put set forth to ensure successful collaboration.
Which people you interacted had the most influence on your design?
Joey Roth and Renee Ruffino. Joey was my previous supervisor and Renee was my undergraduate advisor as well as manager. I had a lot of conversations with Joey about his design philosophies and what he is interested in designing. Just interesting topics in general. I found that has broadened by view and changed perspectives on my design philosophy. Renee is such a kind and also
Which books you read had the most effect on your design?
Books have the most effect on me are Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind , Designing Design: Kenya Hara and Harry Potter.
How did you develop your skills as a master designer?
I developed skills through lots of thinking and trying out different things. At the same time, I believe my intuitions have heightened. I think intuition comes through a lot of listening to inner voice and tune into what's important to the fundamentals. A balance of intuition and user testings is really powerful for designers.
Irrelative of time and space, who you would want to meet, talk and discuss with?
I would love to meet Qi Baishi, a Chinese painter. His paintings are unique to his own style. They are simple, with only a few strokes, he can depict spirit of almost anything. His most famous subject is shrimp. I read that he would have aquarium of shrimps and study their behavior in oder to better portray them. I'd love to discuss about Chinese painting philosophy. How he perceives Chinese abstract painting and I think his style is shown through his life style, his philosophy towards life and art in general. It would be eye-opening to discuss about his philosophies in general.
How do you feel about all the awards and recognition you had, is it hard to be famous?
I feel everything is the same. The awards and recognition are acknowledgements to the work I have done in the past. Now I focus on the current projects and where I want to go next.
What is your favorite color, place, food, season, thing and brand?
My favorite color is purple, favorite place is the nature. Favorite food is spicy food. Favorite season is spring. Favorite thing is and brand is Aesop.
Please tell us a little memoir, a funny thing you had experienced as a designer?
The funny thing I have experienced as a designer is once I would so dislike it when people call me doing arts and crafts as designer. I think now I am fully embracing those terms or the boundaries blurred so much that I don't care about what I'm being told. I see myself more as a creator who is interested in combining domain knowledge of design, art, technology, science and mathematics to create things that would help with a problem.
What makes your day great as a designer, how do you motivate yourself?
What makes my day great as a designer is if I have made some progress towards certain projects, or I spent some time doing nothing and just reset myself. Or sometimes could be I explored somewhere in the nature, and that inspired me. A great day could have many possibilities.
When you were a little child, was it obvious that you would become a great designer?
It was obvious to me that I wanted to be in a profession that's creative and yet works with aesthetics.
What do you think about future; what do you see will happen in thousand years from now?
I think future beholds many possibilities. In thousand years, I am not sure humans would still be of the same form of existence. Maybe some of us moved to other planets. Everything is possible. However I do wish that people would still be in touch with themselves and not consumed with technology.
Please tell us anything you wish your fans to know about you, your design and anything else?
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.

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