Illustration by Shannon Tang
As a Chinese-American designer, I’m always inspired by other Asian-American artists and designers. Popular media often disproportionately portrays Asian-Americans as doctors, lawyers and engineers. And while there is certainly nothing wrong with pursuing those careers, the underrepresentation of Asian-Americans as artists, dreamers and visionaries in the media can contribute to a stereotype that misses out on the inspiring work and passion of these artists.
Many of my Asian-American peers have felt pressured by their families to pursue more “practical” careers, but this wasn’t the case for me—and it’s not the case for all Asian-American families. From a young age, I knew math and science weren’t my thing. My parents knew that there was little hope of me going or getting into med school. I’m thankful that they’ve always supported me and my passion for art and design (even if they were also worried I would become a starving artist).
May happens to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a month that celebrates the achievements and contributions of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US. So in honor of APAHM, I want to spotlight a few #girlboss Asian-American artists and designers whose work has inspired me over the years.
“Work hard, snack often” is the motto of Lauren Hom, the designer, illustrator, and all-around cool gal behind the studio Hom Sweet Hom. I love Lauren’s humor, wit, and passion for her craft. She has a whimsical, bright and fun style, as well as a knack for illustrating food puns and other witticisms. She’s also a major advocate of pursuing passion projects, like her blog-turned-book Daily Dishonesty, and photo series Flour Crowns.
I first heard about her and her work when she started Will Letter for Lunch back in 2014. The idea was pure genius: Lauren asked restaurants in NYC if she could letter their menus in exchange for the food she was lettering.
I’m also a fan of her blog, where she writes on everything from Beyonce to passion projects. Here’s some food for thought:
A freelance designer and illustrator based in NY, Jennet’s designs and illustrations are dreamy, striking and impactful. I really admire her eye for typography and color, and her creativity. She’s just as comfortable wielding a pen and pencil as she is designing on screens and tablets.
Jennet also posts a lot of her process sketches and before/after pictures. Pencil and ink is a big part of my process too; I’m a huge sketcher.
She has designed for companies like Nike, Apple, Coca-Cola, painted some really cool murals, and recently partnered with Here/Now to customize sneakers at a pop-up event. (How cool is that?)
Images Courtesy @jennetliaw
One look at the elegant flourishes and typography of designer and letterer Dana Tanamachi is enough to make you have heart eyes for days. I love her calligraphic style and intricate floral illustrations. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but as a designer I will totally buy a book or product simply because it is well-designed. And Dana has designed beautiful packaging, illustrated book covers, and painted gorgeous murals at Instagram HQ, Emporium Pies, and more #designgoals.
Images Courtesy @dana_tanamachi
Patricia Shen and Donna Kim are the sister duo behind LA-based stationery and lifestyle brand Our Heiday. The name is a play on “heyday” and also a nod to their family’s Korean surname Hei. I’m inspired by their work ethic, attention to detail, and passion as small business owners. Patricia first started Our Heiday a few years out of law school, with no formal art training but a passion for creating lovely and delightful designs. If I could buy everything in their shop, I totally would. (In fact, my phone case is from there!)
Check out their online shop to see their products and buy a card for a loved one!
Images Courtesy @ourheiday
Annie Seo is a freelance illustrator based in LA, and the co-founder and art director of Good Luck Soda, an all-natural soda company. Her playful illustrations are reflective of her love for drawing and telling stories. She is honest, hilarious, and down-to-earth and her illustrations cover topics ranging from puberty to taxes. Check out an interview she did with Freelance Wisdom about her work ethic and inspiration, and follow her on instagram to see more fun illustrations, branding, pottery, and more.
Images Courtesy @fannieseo
It’s exciting to see more and more Asian-Americans being represented in all types of creative fields—from artists to fashion designers, singers to filmmakers, actors to writers, dancers to photographers, and more. The fight for representation is still ongoing, but we’re making our voices and stories heard, from the workplace to the big screen.
Here are some other cool Asians doing cool things:
- Kore Asian Media, a resource for Asian Americans in culture, arts, and media
- Crazy Rich Asians, book-turned-movie and the first Hollywood film to feature an all Asian cast
- WongFu Productions, filmmakers
- Keone and Mari Madrid, hip-hop dancers and choreographers
- Run River North, LA-based indie folk-rock band
- Cassey Ho, Blogilates, fitness entrepreneur
- Asian Boss Girl, podcast
- Jenn Im, fashion and beauty vlogger
- The Shib Sibs, Olympic figure skating duo
This blog post doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but here’s to all the Asian-Americans out there who are redefining stereotypes, shaping their own identities, and telling their stories. So whether you’re passionate about the arts, the sciences, sports, music, etc– you do you.