Arts, design and expertise

My expertise is a bit complicated to tell, just like everyone’s.

I was 12. I told my mom that I love acting and wanted to be a performer. Because I think it’s a cool job to experience different life and stories. I have a pair of traditional Chinese parents, who told me to stop dreaming and get back to my study. I listened. Maybe they were too worried: I tried painting, soon they said “you are not good at it”. I believed and I stopped. I tried to dance and was told that I’m short, so I wouldn’t have a future. I believed and I stopped…

Maybe at the moment, I forced myself to stop pursuing my dreams about arts, I became a person with two split souls. One soul was as always a good kid, I studied well, I listened to my parents, I believed in them. I wanted to become the person they wanted me to be. I was doing good in school and I went to a good university.

The other soul was a tiny, unconfident and sensitive person who secretly want to do things that related to arts. I learned how to shoot videos, how to take pictures, how to design lightings and how to be a dramaturg. I chose to not be the one on the stage but as a supporting role or the person behind the scene. I enjoyed the position, and as time passed, I found that I could re-gain the confidence working with arts and artists.

While maintaining a “closed outsider” of arts, my other soul was busy with a “normal” life. I have been working in an office environment for many years, mostly in tech. In the beginning, I worked as a consultant for enterprise applications, analyzing and forecasting its business and market. Later, I became a business analyst focusing on product functionalities and business strategies. In recent years, I’m a product designer, designing human-centered experiences for digital products.

Gradually, my “regular” full-time career seems moving toward the creative side, like I’ve been walking along, step by step, arriving in a place where both of my souls can meet each other. I used to think that my story with arts was a story of a failure, who had no courage to challenge the parents and be self-confident. However, I’m glad that I grew past the stage of spending my time complaining and wondering why I didn’t do this and that. Life is a realization process and I think I’m a lucky person. I have been able to live with both of the souls for so long. I can understand and identify the emotions, the rationals, the challenges and the little nuances and detours in-between two endpoints. That is the expertise that I learned and own.

I started painting again in 2019. And I enjoy my freelance works on arts projects as a lighting designer, dramaturg and videographer. I learned that been working in the arts makes me a better designer because I treat my works not only just features and functionalities. On the other hand, being a product designer also give me many advantages to work with artists, especially in a recent trend on working collaboratively. From years of my working experience, I know that collaboration is not an easy thing, especially in the arts. To respect each other’s contribution, while managing to follow artist’s ideas and passions, that require the team to do many more than just making arts, such as strategy planning, goal orientation, team alignment and many other soft skills that are usually trained in a business world.

Moving forward, I hope I can contribute more in the arts community, to express an opinion, to discuss arts with people and to share some stories. I believe in the number of stories to share. It needs to be as many as possible to the community to embrace the complexity of arts and the arts community. I may be able to represent an opinion that involves both arts and business. I may be able to help the arts community to explore tech and its digital platforms. And most important, I want to be a good listener, contributing my empathy and care to others.

Product designer, arts enthusiast