Get to know the phenomenal class of Young Guns 21
After 85 incredible finalists and intense deliberation, the Young Guns jury has narrowed it down to the 29 winners that make up the class of Young Guns 21. An astounding collection of animators, illustrators, film directors, typographers (a few Ascenders 2023 winners as well!), graphic designers, and photographers make up YG21.
Every year we interview the Young Guns winners to get to know them better as artists and people. And as always, we are welcoming another class of outstanding individuals into the highly coveted Young Guns community.
Now that you know the YG21 winners better, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating them in person at NYC’s Sony Hall on Wednesday, November 15, 2023, at 6:30 PM. See you in two weeks and get ready to party!
Art Director & Visual Artist
New York, NY
What were your original impressions of the Young Guns competition, the award, and the community?
I first learned about Young Guns when my college professor invited Zipeng Zhu (YG13) to my sophomore typography class in 2016. I still vividly recall the moment when he introduced the Young Guns award to us. I was in awe of someone achieving it at such a young age, and secretly, I began to dream about winning the award myself. My initial impression of the Young Guns achievement seemed quite distant from the 19-year-old me, especially since I had just embarked on my first official year at SVA.
How did you end up in the creative field anyways?
I didn't know if I was going to be in the creative industry during my high school years at all. Since no one in my family has ever worked in the creative industry, I only considered art as a passion before 15. However, after struggling with my student state of mind, I was able to overcome numerous obstacles and academic pressures, and I got into Central Academy of Fine Arts– the top-tier art school in Beijing. That's when I started my creative journey. The moment I began to make art, I immediately realized that I was made for this.
Congrats on the W! Why did you decide to enter this year?
Thank you! This is my first time entering to see what might happen. I'm well aware it's a highly competitive award, so I've tried to maintain a positive mindset regardless of the result. I submitted my entry when I was 25 years old, marking a significant milestone as I completed a quarter of a century.
I've always been curious to discover how far my work and creativity can take me on a public platform, so I decided to give it a shot. On a personal note, I also believe that artwork and design need to connect with other people to truly flourish.
You only get to submit six projects that embody you and your talent. The best of the very best. So, how did you decide which pieces were good enough to make the cut?
The day I decided to enter Young Guns, I thoroughly reviewed everything, including both commercial and personal projects in my portfolio. To be frank, sometimes you can immediately identify which projects resonate with you the most, as they're all like your carefully nurtured children.
The perfect pieces are undoubtedly where your passion is most evident. These are the projects you can discuss in intricate detail for days on end without a moment's hesitation. And of course, they reflect your unique voice, thought process, craftsmanship, growth, and choices. Eventually, you will notice those projects help define you as an artist.
"The perfect pieces are undoubtedly where your passion is most evident. These are the projects you can discuss in intricate detail for days on end without a moment's hesitation. And of course, they reflect your unique voice, thought process, craftsmanship, growth, and choices."
An example of this is the visualizer video, "Life After Salem" for Lil Nas X, which currently has 4.4 million views on YouTube. I was able to extract emotions from his beats and lyrics, working closely with director Saad Moosajee (YG18), to define the dreamy aesthetic. We captured the unique visuals to create the full video experience.
When I listen to the song, I can feel the hope and pain in his singing. Therefore, I collaborated with Lil Nas X to help him visualize the surreal emotions that burst out of his song.
What was your reaction when you discovered that you won?
When I found out I won Young Guns, it was on a quiet Friday morning. An email popped up in my notification center while I was on my phone. Suddenly, I jumped out of my bed and started screaming - yeah, I was a bit dramatic, but it is my dream award, after all. I am also excited to represent the Chinese community on a world-class platform. Therefore, I carefully wrote back to the email and secretly waited to share this news with my closest friends.
In what ways does your hometown inspire your creativity as an artist? What about your current city?
My hometown supports my creativity on a cultural basis. I was deeply rooted in an East Asian cultural mindset, but studying abroad allowed me to embrace others' perspectives on a whole new level. New York, on the other hand, is a place I would call my second home. It was the first city where I lived independently.
Beijing is the city I grew up in - the sounds, the bustling traffic, the architecture, and the people all inspire me to understand the journey I've taken. However, New York has shown me the possibilities and potential of my future self. There will always be a special place in my heart for NYC, as it allows me to be an artist freely while also embracing me like a child.
Now that you’re a part of the Young Guns community, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?
I have had the privilege of working with several past Young Guns winners, including Jessica Walsh (YG8), Saad Moosajee (YG18), Andrew Herzog (YG), Joyce N Ho (YG17), Santiago Carrasquilla (YG14), Juan Carlos Pagan (YG11), and others. If you were to ask me which past winners I look up to and admire the most, I would say Stephan Sagmeister (YG1). He is the kind of artist and designer who possesses a unique personality and perspective while remaining curious and humble about many things. I hope to have the opportunity to work with him one day.
If you could create a new Young Guns tradition, what would you want it to be and why?
We can let each Young Guns winner design an unofficial Cube trophy on their own. That must be so fun to do!
Name a creative and professional dream project that you have yet to fulfill — maybe Young Guns will propel you in that direction!
I wish I could self-direct or collaborate on a short or feature film based on my imagination and written story, either in an animation form or mixed media. I have always wanted to share my own story through the lens of cinematography. I would also love to work with fashion designers like Rick Owens or Yohji Yamamoto on their fashion films, if they ever make one.
This is YG21, but what do you imagine you’ll be up to when YG31 rolls around in 2033?
That's a wonderful question. Professionally, I hope to achieve something that satisfies my current self. Continual growth is what I seek in the next decade of my career. I also hope that my team and I create more unique work together to fulfill our vision and passion. Growing alongside people is another aspiration for my work life.
On a personal level, I hope to meet more people and travel to more places to experience different worlds and culture. I want to explore and understand my true self a little more.
Will we see you at the YG21 party in NYC in November?
Yes! I can't wait to join the YG21 ceremony to celebrate.
Come party with us and celebrate all the Young Guns 21 winners on Wednesday, November 15 at Sony Hall! See you at 6:30 PM in NYC!