The American artist uses techniques from engineering technology and material science to inform her cross-disciplinary designs
Photography courtesy of Kaijie Chen featuring Unusual Beauty, Twist Mind
ICON: As a surface innovator and visual artist, your work combines engineering technology, material exploration and visual design. How would you describe your approach to design?
Kaijie Chen: My design approach is quite interdisciplinary. I create experimental artworks that explore the intersection of material processes and visual identity. I treat every surface as a canvas to create unique designs. As an artist, my work ranges from more traditional graphic design to custom large-scale murals and to material design with a graphic edge.
ICON: Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
KC: I’m inspired by many. My partner, Ishraki Kazi, brings me inspiration by offering me their perspective in art and science. Simultaneously, I’m also inspired by artists who dedicate themselves to a single project, such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude and their project The Gates, and artist Cai Guo-Qiang and his work Sky Ladder.
ICON: How would you describe your visual aesthetic?
KC: I would say my artworks have a mix of futurist, surreal and whimsical aesthetic.
Photography courtesy of Kaijie Chen featuring Unusual Beauty, Exploding Brain
ICON: What projects are you currently working on?
KC: I recently worked with my partner on a competition for an electric car company. Currently, I’m collaborating on two immersive climate experiences with Local Projects. One project, Birdsong Immersive, leverages personalised birdsong to inspire visitors to save the birds and the planet. The other, Recruitment Center, is an immersive gaming simulation inspired by NASA visualisations.
ICON: In your project Haptics you explore the haptic perception of touch. Often, the senses of touch, taste and smell have been excluded from the aesthetic realm. Why do you think that is?
KC: Often in architecture, senses besides sight are used for utilitarian purposes. In my design research, I learned to use all five senses to fully embody the concept or object being designed. My project, Haptics, invites participants to engage their sense of touch as an aesthetic experience.
Photography courtesy of Kaijie Chen
ICON: How do you think digital tech is influencing the world of design?
KC: Digital tech has created a more accessible playing field for people to be creative. However, there are some downsides, such as aesthetic fatigue caused by the representational similarity of generative art. Additionally, while the current models of AI are good at creating bold designs, in the future, digital tech will need to be more seamlessly integrated into our everyday experiences.
ICON: What visual message do you hope to convey with your work?
KC: I utilise my expertise in visual storytelling to create impactful narratives. My project Unusual Beauty invites people to challenge stigmatised views of neurodiversity. Another project, Stranded, reveals untold stories of individuals living in the US on a non-immigrant visa.
ICON: What’s your dream project?
KC: To create a platform for cross- disciplinary collaboration between art, design and social impact.
Photography courtesy of Kaijie Chen featuring Haptics
ICON: Where can we follow you?
KC: Via @kaijiechen or kaijiechen.com.
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