Joy Li's design practice is inspired by race, gender and cultural studies

Date
21 February 2019
Reading Time
2 minute read

After studying visual communication at the University of Technology in Sydney, where she “developed a voice in design through visually representing the unrepresented”, Joy Li joined brand consultants Accompany in 2018, where she currently works.

But it’s in her personal projects that Joy’s brilliantly conceptual and effortlessly engaging vision shines through. After achieving “fleeting virality” with her poster series Living as an Asian Girl, a data-driven triptych confronting and conveying the challenges of living as an Asian woman in Western society, Joy has gone on to further her passion for the intersection where design and identity meet.

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Joy Li: Living as an Asian Girl

The following year, as the major project for her studies at university, Joy created Li General Store. Aiming to “remind us of the impact material culture has on our social perceptions of individuals,” the illusory establishment provided a context in which to explore “how a range of Chinese and immigrant identities can be constructed through the ownership, manipulation and display of a distorted Orient”. This subject matter was communicated in the form of various household and entertainment products whose designs played on racial and cultural stereotypes. One highlight being the Immigrant Game of Life, which “reimagined the classic board game to be inclusive of the experiences of migrants and their transition into a foreign country.”

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Board Game

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Board Game

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Board Game

More recently, in creative partnership with Adobe, Joy created The ABC Chinese New Year Survival Guide, which does exactly what it says on the tin – and the tin is beautiful. Presented in the form of a small booklet, the guide functions both as a practical solution to dealing with snarky relatives during the holiday period, and conceptually by spotlighting the “inherent struggles ABCs (Australian Born Chinese) have in navigating a complex cultural ecosystem.”

Influenced by personal truths, Joy says her work is “an expression of my experiences as a Chinese Australian looking into the cultural and political traditions that are a part our history.” When it comes to the design itself, she explains that much of it is inspired by the richness of craft found in the past: “Material culture pre-dating our digital age has always been a point of reference where I feel unencumbered by the confines of a screen,” she tells It’s Nice That.

Looking forward, Joy hopes to further develop her practice by continuing to “confront the visualisation of culture through interaction and stereotypes, and the generation of discourse surrounding the underrepresentation of Asian Australians within the historical archives of design.” On a simpler note, the designer emphasises her desire to just “create relatable content and spark joy”.

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Soap

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Chopsticks

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Yellow Fever

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Joy Li: Li General Store – Foo Dogs

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Joy Li: Chinese New Year Survival Guide

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Joy Li: Chinese New Year Survival Guide

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Joy Li: Chinese New Year Survival Guide

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Joy Li: Chinese New Year Survival Guide

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About the Author

Daniel Milroy Maher

Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.

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