Interview with Xuan Cui from United States

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Xuan Cui

Xuan Cui, raised within a multicultural environment as part of a Chinese minority group, evolved into an individual with an open-minded outlook and an ability to embrace diverse ideas and styles. Over time, Cui has refined a distinct personal style geared towards producing a light-hearted and relaxed visual experience.

Interview With The 2023 NY Product Design Awards Winner – Xuan Cui

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your background.

I am a fashion design BFA who graduated from Parsons School of Design in 2023. I grew up with a multicultural background (being a member of a Chinese minority group) and have been fortunate to study both arts and science in different cities and abroad (Beijing, Yanji (China), Seoul, London, New York).

I became more open-minded and learned to appreciate different ideas and styles through my varied experiences. Eventually, I honed my own style to create a fun and relaxed visual experience.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a product designer?

Curiously, my interest in pursuing a creative career only sparked after I completed a semester of economics in 2017. Prior to that, I was on a conventional path in my hometown, focusing on working diligently and acing exams to secure a major in fields like science or the humanities (often encompassing literature, history, geography) at university.

Art was something that had never crossed my mind. The only avenue to study art involved taking dedicated sketching and painting lessons and undergoing exams to assess one's drawing abilities. Given my focus on science majors and my strong academic performance, dedicating time to art studies seemed impractical, not to mention pursuing an artistic career.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.
I aim to create a whimsical and lively world through my designs. I look forward to continue developing designs that embodies a soft and approachable essence with the aim of uplifting the moods of those who encounters my design. The creation and presence of my designs revolve around this idea.
4What does “design” mean to you?
It means embracing freedom and exploring infinite possibilities!
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
My answer is quite simple: colorful designs. I love colors and how it evokes different emotions. For example, the colors in my collection, turquoise, violet, coral, mint, and light pink. It conveys a sense of freshness and serenity, tinged with a hint of excitement stemming from the unknown. I enjoy seeing the interactions of various colors. I think that color, form, texture, and details together make up a look, and I would say that color is the most essential element for me when looking at designs.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?
I think a good design is an impactful design that leads the viewers to think.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

My greatest passion in design is using colors which is evident through a consistent showcase of a curated palette brimming with vibrant energy. Along with that, I place great emphasis on creating interesting forms, considering the contrast of positive/negative shapes, resulting in designs that give out an unforgettable sense of playfulness.

The key elements of this collection include various kinds of ruffles, voids, loose yarn, tiny bag-shaped crochet pieces (which also look like flowers), etc.

8Tell us about your design process.

I wanted my collection to look warm and welcoming so I decided to use soft materials. There are woven materials such as fur and tweeds, knit fabrics, felted yarn, etc. I thought that hand knitting or crochet would be the best method to express my creativity and I also love the freedom behind it.

In the material development process, I did many knit/sewing/crochet swatches that I joined in different ways; some are furry, some are plain and solid, and some are abstract and have a lot of loose yarn hanging down. After comparing the outcomes of the swatches, I chose crochet as the primary method of building forms and making the products.

The end products primarily take shape during the creative process. As I crafted the small creatures through crocheting (a part of my collection), I spontaneously developed a larger prototype. This in turn sparked the idea of introducing wearables into my collection. The larger pieces have a more profound influence in expressing the essence of the world, and the decision to diversify beyond crafting products solely in the likeness of the creatures contributed to a richer array of shapes and forms within my collection, ultimately rendering a more vibrant representation of the world.

One example of my intuitive design process is a body piece I initially tried to wear as a top or skirt. It ended up becoming a quirky, oversized handbag, a style I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. I revised many pieces multiple times to make sure the shapes and colors matched and created an overall look that's fun and soft to the touch, hoping viewers would enjoy these colorful, playful designs.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your design process?
I think that the most important thing that my identity and experience brought is the willingness to always take a chance and discover what it can lead me to. I had the opportunity to be immersed in very different cultures and standards which led me to gaining an understanding of a variety of (sometimes opposing) values and perspectives, which made me invested in discovering more about the world and how my future would be.
10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2023 NY Product Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
Thank you very much for the recognition! Winning this award will encourage me to create more fun and, hopefully, meaningful designs.
11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 NY Product Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

With a captivating blend of thoughtfully chosen colors, COLLECTION TZII7211 creates a distinctive style and offers a fun and relaxing visual experience. The collection establishes a whimsical and lively world through digital illustrations and crochet designs for individuals who enjoy cuddly, colorful objects.

As people grow up and immerse themselves in the demands of society, it becomes increasingly challenging for them to unwind and find moments of ease, especially when they live alone. Understanding this struggle, I aspire to design pieces that could bring joy to tired grown-ups and evoke happy memories of their childhood or serve as simple emotional and physical compensation for less-than-perfect pasts.

My hope is to momentarily ease the seriousness of viewers and allow them to experience a sense of relaxation. The designs primarily consist of hand-crocheted pieces fashioned from yarn, with each stitch executed with great care and attention.

I believe this collection is like a capsule of my passions and abilities; therefore, I chose to enter this collection for the 2023 NY Product Design Awards.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?
Thankfully, everything went smoothly. Small struggles include learning new techniques, including watercolors and hand crochet. Sometimes, it was hard to continuously crochet for hours and redoing some of the pieces was also somewhat painful, but still, it was a meaningful and inevitable process. I am grateful for all the "mistakes" that I have made along the way and what I have learned from them.
13How has winning an award developed your practice/career?
Winning an award pushes me to continue learning and improve my designs.
14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

Passionate people.

Freedom in creating.

Everchanging and exciting environment.

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the design industry?
My home country, China, has massive resources, including raw materials and manufacturing facilities.
16Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?
I believe that inclusivity, high technology, and sustainability are key to the future of design evolution.
17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring NY Product Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

1. Have the courage to begin and to continue.

2. Have a clear goal. Know what you want and what can help you through difficult times.

3. Have a clear budget.

4. Manage time wisely and make a timetable. Keep track of time spent.

5. Maintain a healthy work-life balance. Don't harm your health while working. It is very important to take care of yourself.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
YouTube tutorials and all kinds of websites offers great various teaching techniques!
19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Some days, I hit a creative roadblock, doubt my talents, or lose my passion. There have been times when I thought about quitting design altogether and do something else for the rest of my life. But my unwavering belief always pulls me back, urging me to keep creating, learning, and spreading positivity through my work. I genuinely love what I do, and I feel incredibly lucky for it.
20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

I would say my family, especially my grandmother. I would like to credit my family members for their unconditional support towards my education and career. It was not an easy decision to let me change my major and immerse myself in a different environment, especially when none of my family members had a creative degree or career.

I appreciate their support for me to pursue my passion and their consistent concern for my well-being and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Don't worry too much, just start and continue! This advice is for those, like me, who tend to procrastinate due to the fear of creating designs they might not like. I hope they can conquer that fear and simply start or continue their work, even if it's just for a few minutes or seconds.

Not everything we create has to be flawless, and we shouldn't get overly anxious about doing things "perfectly." I believe that creativity often emerges when we feel free to experiment and take various approaches to our ideas.

Cherish every (good) opportunity. And don't always wait for them; regularly look for them!

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

How I plan to evolve my future designs:

I would like to use yarn of different thicknesses and add boning to specific designs when the structure is needed in future collections, and certainly, I would play around more with colors, which is my biggest passion in designing. Changing these aspects would bring infinite possibilities. I can't wait to explore different combinations of colors, yarn thicknesses, and varying forms.

Winning Entry

TZII7211 | 2023

TZII7211 | Xuan Cui
With a captivating blend of thoughtfully chosen colors, COLLECTION TZII7211 creates a distinctive style …
(Read more at NY Product Design Awards)

Xuan Cui

Xuan Cui, raised within a multicultural environment as part of a Chinese minority group, evolved into an individual with an open-minded outlook and an ability to embrace diverse ideas and styles. Over time, Cui has refined a distinct personal style geared towards producing a light-hearted and relaxed visual experience.

Read more about this interview with Ray Sun from China, the Silver Winner of the 2023 NY Product Design Awards.