Interview with Youtian Duan of Another.World Studio

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Youtian Duan

Youtian Duan is an artist, designer, and co-founder of Another.World studio. Currently studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, she holds an MFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her art is a vibrant tapestry, intertwining narrative, memory, culture, and innovation.

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

I am Youtian Duan, an artist, designer, and co-founder of Another.World studio. Currently, I'm studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and hold an MFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design. My art is a vibrant tapestry that weaves together narrative, memory, culture, and innovation.

Through playful yet profound creations, I reflect life's authenticity and the emotional rollercoaster we all experience. With a keen interest in the dream world, I capture the essence of the subconscious, turning it into art that speaks to the soul. Each piece I create is an invitation to an adventure, encouraging viewers to explore the complexities of self and the ever-shifting landscape of reality.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a designer/artist?
Since childhood, I've had a talent for art and a keen sense of my own emotions as well as others' feelings. I enjoy telling stories that resonate with people, and art provides a wonderful medium to achieve that connection.
3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

Welcome to Another.World, where creativity knows no bounds, driven by the imaginative duo Youtian Duan and Yingxi Ji. We envision a place where people can face their inner demons with laughter, celebrate vulnerability, and strive for self-acceptance.

Through our innovative and humorous projects, we aim to create a safe and inclusive space for individuals to explore their inner worlds, encouraging them to embrace their shadows and emerge stronger, more resilient, and true to themselves. In this unique realm we call Another.World, we craft furniture, objects, graphics, and plenty of fun! Join us on this journey.

4What does “design” mean to you?
To me, design means crafting objects by hand with good intentions, aiming to bring joy to those who encounter them.
5What’s your favorite kind of design and why?
This question is a bit tricky, haha. I firmly believe that everything has its reason for existence. In a broad sense, I appreciate all types of design, even those deemed failures by conventional standards, because I find their existence fascinating. There's always something to learn from failures. As for aesthetics, my taste is shaped by my unique experiences and continues to evolve over time.
6To you, what makes a “good” design?
For me, a "good" design is intuitive and user-friendly; the object should clearly convey its function, how to use it, and how to maintain it.
7Describe your design style and its main characteristics.
Whimsical! It possesses human-like qualities and a sense of narrative, inviting people to let their imagination take over when they see it. This piece of furniture encourages them to reflect on their own stories and experiences.
8Tell us about your design process.
I start by drawing inspiration from my dreams. I believe dreams are not mere nightly illusions but true reflections of my inner world, resonating with my past experiences.
9Congratulations! As the winner of the 2024 MUSE Design Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
I find this incredibly encouraging! I will continue to work hard and stay dedicated to my efforts.
10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2024 MUSE Design Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
The Flock of Sheep is my most "design-oriented" piece and holds the potential for mass production. Unlike my other artistic creations, I believe the Flock of Sheep is a better fit for design competitions.
11What was the biggest challenge with this project?
The biggest challenge of this project was hand-shaping the upholstery foam into a round shape. It was a fun yet difficult task, and I still remember being covered in foam dust that night.
12How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?
Winning this award undoubtedly validates my skills as a designer. It's a powerful way to demonstrate my credibility to the market.
13What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
It's endlessly exciting, constantly introducing new elements, and always brimming with energy!
14Where do you see the evolution of design industry going over the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5-10 years, I foresee significant evolution in the design industry due to advancements in artificial intelligence. However, designers who excel at storytelling, innovate new manufacturing techniques, or specialize in a specific craft will have immense potential.

Despite AI's growth, the fundamental human need for physical objects and environments will remain unchanged.

15If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Design Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?
I would say, just go for it and give it your all! If you feel uncertain, confused, lacking confidence, or anxious, simply dive in and take action. Your efforts will uncover the answers you seek.
16What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the design industry?
I recommend participating in an artist residency. These programs offer valuable opportunities to concentrate on your work, learn new techniques, and collaborate with fellow artists and designers.
17Tell us something you have never told anyone else.
Winning the MUSE Design Award is a milestone for me, as it's the first award I've received. I am incredibly excited and thrilled by this recognition!
18Who has inspired you in your life and why?
There are many significant people I could thank for helping me get to where I am today. Focusing on my journey into design and art, I would especially like to thank Monica Correia, my professor at the University of Iowa. She truly opened my eyes to the design world and made me believe in my infinite possibilities.
19What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
If you're feeling anxious or lost, just find a starting point and start working; your efforts will guide you to the answers. When everything feels difficult and painful, remember that these challenges are proof of your journey towards success.

Winning Entry

Flock of Sheep | 2024

flock of sheep | NY Product Design Awards

Youtian Duan

Youtian Duan is an artist, designer, and co-founder of Another.World studio. Currently studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, she holds an MFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her art is a vibrant tapestry, intertwining narrative, memory, culture, and innovation.

Read more about Youtian Duan's winner interview for Flock of Sheep in the 2024 NY Product Design Awards!