Sijia Zhang, Designer Extraordinaire, is Keeping a Close Eye on Where Technology is Headed
As the 21st-century marches on, entire communities, entire societies, are becoming increasingly conscious of design, in all its forms, and the ways in which it affects daily life and how we experience the world. One of the best examples of this tectonic shift is consumer reviews of just about anything.
In the early days of ecommerce and online retail, user reviews tended to focus on performance. Does the product do what it’s supposed to do? Is it a good value for the price? Will it last far into the future? These are important questions, and of course functionality remains a primary concern for any product. But especially when it comes to the technology we use, the devices we build our lives around, factors like presentation, speed, and purposeful limitations become more significant. This is because engaging with technology is an experience within itself; it creates its own world, its own virtual space. And we spend so much of our time in these digital spaces that we have become very attuned to how it feels, how a brand introduces itself to the user.
And while many of us remain blissfully unaware of the incredible thought and care that go into making a satisfying product engagement experience, award-winning, New York designer, Sijia Zhang has spent years honing her craft at highly regarded design studios and exploring the diverse ways in which technology and design affect human beings. In the process, she has created complex branding solutions that have elevated the reputations of clients though her modern and playful designs. Zhang worked on countless advertising campaigns for clients ranging from tech behemoths to legendary furniture makers, aiding in the promotion of their newest products. Additionally, Zhang’s understanding of the Asian market has made her instrumental in developing captivating campaigns for business all over China.
Zhang has been honored for her innovative works and pioneering design techniques time and again. Her project Ran received recognition in the artistic community, earning her a Graphics New Talent Award in Design Packaging, and an honorable mention at the 11th International Design Awards. Additionally, her projects Meet and Piano Piano were runner ups for Best Brand Awards in North America and Asia respectively. Her iconic typography has also been awarded by the Type Directors Club.
I recently had the privilege of speaking with Zhang regarding what it takes to be a successful designer in today’s world. Although I was already familiar with her remarkable accomplishments, I was impressed by Zhang’s genuine passion for design and how she utilizes her talents in order to shape people’s perceptions, transcending human experience and emotion into art.
“Everyone perceives the world differently. More and more people seem to have lost their links to the world and nature. To bring back those lost connections, I seek to observe and capture the essence of the world around me in my designs, reestablishing a relationship with nature and the earth through art. Emotions, insight, and the unknown form into unique shapes and objects that intrigue and attract viewers’ attention and capture their feelings. While I love the sense of form, I seek to create works with meaningful content that strike the perfect balance between aesthetics and allusions. Design is how I express my worldview; it’s my voice and my language.”
This philosophy was hard won. Zhang originally pursued a career in Public Relations and Advertising, but soon realized she needed a creative outlet. Her experience in media planning, event planning, and brand strategy, however, gave her a comprehensive understanding of corporate communication that is evident in the sophisticated designs she creates for an elite clientele.
In addition to her commercial projects, Zhang has also designed applications such as Shuffle and Thauma, which allow users to engage in high-concept digital experiences. Thauma in Greek means, ‘a wonder or marvel,’ and thaumaturgy is the magic of miracles. This sense of magic that Sijia channels through her designs is the key to open a new world for users. Thauma explores the confrontation between humans and new technologies: the digital realm which infers magic, wonder, and addiction; what happens when the traditional technologies meet new digital technologies; the allure of technology as a dangerous enthrallment; and as an enthrallment, the paradox the user experiences when the wonder also becomes a haze. Zhang explores these dynamics by addressing the paradoxes of these new technologies, their magic, evolution, and illusions.
Thauma’s phases convey the content progressively from concrete to abstract, starting with the initial appearance of simple digital words, the concrete cells then change to moving mechanical components, which finally evolve into abstract optical illusions which evokes the Internet illusion intellectually. The application will put old but valued technological applications and functions back into new technology, and will provoke thought about the blending of old and new technologies, the relationship between the development of industry and technology, and present clues to the technological puzzles in a ludic experience with these new technologies. Zhang playfully tackles the technological revolution in an accessible format that engages the users in a way never done before.
Likewise, her project Shuffle is a conceptual music application focusing on expressing the strength, power and mystery of music through original typography and design elements that capture the essence of each genre.
But even high-minded design concepts like Thauma and Shuffle ultimately rely on the nuts and bolts of what makes good graphic design work. Zhang shared her sophisticated views on typography, and how it is essential to her complex artistic creations.
“Typography is an indispensable part of a design. Typography not only refers to fonts and typeface. It is about the composition of typefaces and images. I design original fonts to create the comprehensive image for a brand. Typeface is powerful and reveals the brand’s essence. Fonts don’t fit a specific brand, fonts establish and differentiate the brand.” With so many different factors to consider when starting a new project, I was curious to hear how Zhang is able to get in a mindset in which she is able to effectively make so many crucial decisions.
“I set aside time to think about new concepts and projects, both for corporate clients or for my own creative explorations, focusing on the feelings I want to evoke and messages I wish to convey. Once the direction is set, I research the topic deeply and focus on development of themes. Finally, I determine the visual direction by experimenting with different effects that are unique and fit the desired style. Lastly, I design!”
Whether she is exploring the technological revolution or techno music, Sijia Zhang’s designs are exciting, original and engaging. Her innovative creations and exceptional accomplishments as a designer are precisely why she has gained such high praise and recognition in the art world. We look forward to her upcoming artistic endeavors as she continues to leave her mark in the design industry.
by Giorgio Chang