We had the good fortune of connecting with Aiqi Zhang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aiqi, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks is an indispensable part of the design path especially for multidisciplinary designers. For me, it means how we could step out of our comfort zone and be open to all the possibilities. Most of my family members are architects and great at mathematical topics. However, I’m afraid of doing topics that are related to it, because I felt my comfort zone is designing and communicating an idea through visuals. This time, I wanna try to see how I can combine mathematical information with those intriguing visuals that the public will understand better. A rebranding project of mine that demonstrates this is Sound Studies Lab. What the lab does is invite young and experienced scholars and artists to work on the sonic sensory aspects of individual lives and in societies, cultures, and historical eras. I grabbed as much information as possible to build connections between functions and arts before I started designing. After researching and exploring, the identity system of the lab connects artists, designers, scientists, scholars. Through this process, I learned how to merge the mathematical terminologies of sound with visible intriguing visuals.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I prototype in all dimensions and find emerging relationships between media, architecture, and design in an interdisciplinary way. With each project, I bring my work into a dimensional world, allowing people to experience it in new and exciting ways. My desire is to have a multidisciplinary practice with no boundaries.
Life itself is a bumpy road, it is not all smooth sailing. I am an international student from Beijing, China. I came to America without knowing what graphic design was. All of my confidence was based on my photoshop skills. The notion of a “design concept” was a blur to me. During my first presentation at ArtCenter, my instructor discontinued my presentation because I was doing the design without knowing what the topic was really about. It was embarrassing back then, but now I feel thankful when I recall this moment. It taught me a foundational first lesson: research is the basis of good design. Besides designing, becoming confident in my opinions was another valuable lesson that I learned along this journey. I was a shy person, but I knew a “rock girl” was inside of me. I just need to let her out. I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone and embrace my weirdness. Every conversation, every presentation, every new challenge; an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone a little bit more. I wanted to find out what rules I could break and how far I could reach.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am a big fan of photography. One of my favorite leisure time activities is walking around and capturing something with my sense of humor. There are so many great places in Los Angeles. The industrial area around Culver City is a pretty great place to explore with. The architecture over Hayden Track has been transformed into an eclectic group of businesses ranging from traditional manufacturing to design and entertainment. How the architectures mix different materials and media is also a highlight. Moreover, I love to go to Manhattan Beach with my friends during my time off work. It would take us about an hour to get there. In the meantime, we will carpool karaoke along the way with some of my favorite albums, like OK Computer by Radiohead. I’d take my friends out for Lattes at Blue Bottle Cafe, and then spend an afternoon at Barnes and Noble in Glendale. Nothing wraps up a night like a strike at the Highland Park Bowl.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to talk about a story of my mentor and me, that changed my mindset. I am a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist is a blessing but also a curse. Growing up, people always told me to take care of the details. Sometimes it would restrain my creativity and decision-making. Last year, I struggled with my project and stayed up for almost three nights. I was panicking more and more and was exhausted over insignificant details. Even though I knew that no one would notice them, I was still not satisfied. Then my instructor Miles Mazzie said this to me: “Sometimes good is better than great.” It gave me such strong support and insight. Whenever I was suffering from overwhelming projects and couldn’t decide on details, I always went back to this simple sentence for relief.
© Photo by Aiqi Zhang.