D&I: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2021

During the month of May in the United States, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a period for recognizing the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPIs) to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. Celebrate this month’s heritage with us by acknowledging local designers, creatives, artists, organizations and small businesses within the Houston AAPI community. In light of the current violence and attacks against the AAPI community, showing support and elevating the voices of the community is more critical than ever.

Tracy Ngo

Tracy Ngo (she/her) is a Vietnamese + Chinese American based in Houston. She received her BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Houston. Tracy is a cat-owning creative: graphic designer, writer, illustrator, arts appreciator, nonprofit volunteer and leader. As an INFJ, her superpower is overthinking.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

There’s a beautiful complexity to being part of the AAPI community. We are a collective of diverse cultures and voices, and yet we share several experiences and customs. It’s like a virtual hug! Similar to other Asian Americans, I grew up in the US while my parents are immigrants who sacrificed more than I will ever understand. I am also half Vietnamese and Chinese, but I grew up with my family embracing more of our Vietnamese heritage. Learning, understanding, and accepting all sides of my ethnic identity is crucial to my sense of self. As my identity grows and shifts, being Asian American truly means an evolving journey.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

I am honored to have received awards and recognition for my design work. However, I feel more accomplished when I support and uplift others. For example, I worked on last year’s AAPI Heritage Month campaign. I am so proud of carrying that through. Celebrating my fellow AAPI community, especially at the start of the pandemic, was so rewarding. Not only that, I love seeing student designers I’ve worked with and helped mentor eventually graduate and excel in their own paths. These are the milestones I value most.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

Over the past year, I’ve been expanding my toolkit. I’ve been investing more in writing, as well as learning different programs and new tricks in old software. Communication is also a major skill set I’m nurturing thanks to a refocus on my mental health.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

Su Mathews Hale is one of my design role models. I first discovered her at the AIGA Design Conference in 2015 when she was also president of AIGA. As an emerging designer at the time, seeing that AAPI representation in such a high role was validating. It reassured me that there’s space for me in the design world.

Some other wonderful AAPIs are: James Jean, June Digan and Felicia Chiao. They are so masterful at creating a delicate, dream-like world that encompasses their bold or relatable characters. I want to run away into their worlds. / Stephanie Chen. She runs the Real Asian Women (RAW) Podcast, and I love listening to her relatable episodes. / Tablo of Epik High. He is an incredible creative with so many different talents. Out of this list, I’ve been following him the longest. I am deeply inspired by his versatility and drive for quality results.

How can fellow Houstonians show their support and solidarity with the AAPI community?

Show up for and invest in your AAPI friends and neighbors. Talk with them, see how they’re doing, and support AAPI businesses. If you’re interested in doing more advocacy work, be responsibly proactive, educate yourself, and don’t stop solidarity with only the AAPI community. Be mindful to pace yourself, too. You don’t have to cram it all at once, but just start somewhere and make sure to follow through.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

Be patient with one another, listen, and communicate. At our cores, we all want to belong, be seen, and feel heard. It’s okay to want those things. Express them and let others express themselves, too. And if you have the capacity to help someone, do it.

Melvin Thambi

Designer with a business focus. I help creative individuals convert passion to tangible wealth.

The right mix of creative entrepreneurship, product design, brand specialization, and my love for art drives my professional life. Over 14 years of global experience influencing product design with brands including Facebook, LinkedIn, eBay, etc. Today I am a Creative director at Riversand – a global software company that empowers enterprises to transform their data into an engine of growth.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Feeling proud and happy to contribute my contributions to society through my creative skills. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to unite, support each other and celebrate this oneness.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

I was awarded the Business mentor of the year at Entrepreneur Awards 2017. I consider this a great achievement coming from a fine arts background and pursuing my career in the design field.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

I was doing product design and Branding for the last couple of years. But now, I focus more on Branding and marketing after joining an established Data Management company in Houston, Riversand. I believe data & Branding define a business. So I am happy with the current shift in my career.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

Chris Do. He is a mentor to me, and he taught the business in design. And he provides a lot of value through his social media channels and has become a role model for many designers worldwide. I am super proud to be in his tribe and to get more insights from him.

How can fellow Houstonians show their support and solidarity with the AAPI community?

Everyone should believe in the philosophy of oneness, irrespective of race, religion, national origin, or color. We need to have more collaborative projects where all people can participate and bring the colors of different ethnicity and culture into a single work of art. I wish to see such initiatives come. Appreciate AIGA for taking these steps to spread this beautiful message.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

As a designer, I am always open to mentoring young designers through the ‘ADPList’ platform. https://adplist.org/mentors/melvin-thambi. I dedicate a few hrs every week to these sessions where I can help fellow creative people to shape their careers. Let’s all support each other in mentoring sessions and collaborating on different projects.

Alwyn Brownewell

Alwyn Brownewell is a graphic designer at CORE Design Studio. Previously, she worked as a nurse before changing her career path. With the affinity to the arts, she graduated in 2018 with a BFA from the University of Houston Graphic Design Program. During her time at CORE, she has helped with a wide range of projects from print to environmental design. When she is not at the studio, she loves making ice cream, tending to her plants, and going on road trips with her husband and their pup.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being an immigrant from the Philippines, who came to America during my teenage years, has always meant “other” for me. However, Houston’s diverse community has taught me that my otherness is a wonderful thing. I was often surrounded by people from all over the world that when I went to other cities in Texas or even out-of-state I felt as much culture shock as I did when I first came to America. So being Asian American to me means being proud of your roots because you have a lot to contribute to the American culture.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

CORE’s partnership with the Houston Zoo in their newest exhibit named South America’s Pantanal was probably one of my proudest accomplishments in my current career. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help create, design, and build the concept. Seeing your work go from a sketch and having it realized in an exhibit was pretty mind-blowing. It was an exciting experience alongside the amazing and talented people at CORE, both past and present.

How can fellow Houstonians show their support and solidarity with the AAPI community?

Aside from donating your time or money to AAPI causes, it is a good start to first look introspectively at what you may have done or said in the past, that was or could be harmful or unkind to the community, and work towards correcting those things within yourself. This one is a hard one since people would have to admit that what they have done, thought, or said was harmful or bad and then do something about it to correct the behavior. But you can’t help others if you can’t see the wrongs within you in the first place.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

I think by this point in 2021, we as part of the AAPI community have checked in with our families, friends, and colleagues. If you haven’t and are reading this, I urge you to maybe take this chance to check in with your family, friends, and colleagues (or yourself even!). A little bit of kindness goes a long way. It may not matter to you, this bit of kindness, but it may be someone else’s bright light. It could be as simple as reaching out to someone, actively listening to what they have to say, and having a human connection. We all just want to be heard.

Dennis Nguyen
Dennisdoodlez

Asian boba boi

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

Nothing. An artist is never proud or satisfied with their work. IM JUST FUCKING WITH YA the best accomplishment was going to Anime Matsuri convention, my first con ever and boy howdy was it an experience. People from all over the states came to my booth and recognized my work! Hearing them say they enjoy my art and show it to their friends, then actually using their hard-earned money to purchase merch and support me, was the most fulfilling feeling ever. Even better than getting on my knees and being filled with the Lord’s salvation. To create cute shit that resonates with people is what keeps me going!

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

When I first started doing art about 3 years ago, I was very meticulous about my work. It would take me upwards of three weeks to finish one comic because I was so anal about the dialogue and the backgrounds, the colors, the message. I don’t regret the efforts though because to this very day I still have people that enjoy and purchase those pieces! Nowadays I’m a lot looser with my work and try to output content just a smidge faster and even those I’m very happy with. It’s important to not get bogged down on the details and just make sure your art is to your own liking. All I need is boba, a vision in mind, and cocaine to fuel me. Just kidding about the cocaine haha but seriously art is neato.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

We can start by, ya know, not fucking each other up and just being decent people! Seriously it’s not that hard ya’ll, I do it everyday. Even as I type this I am not beating up someone that’s different or shooting a grandma. You can do it too! Our differences make us cool and you’re not cool if you’s a bitch.

Mercedes Chanthanark

A native Houstonian, Co-owner of Lftdstudio and doing hair for 6+ years. When I’m not working you can find me painting or being the ultimate plant mom.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being Asian American means a lot to me because it’s my whole identity. My culture is very unique and lively in every aspect and it truly played a huge part in building my own personality. I’m extremely grateful and proud to be representing the Asian American community.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

Running my own hair studio! When I started doing hair I always wanted to have my own salon but always had doubts on how that would go for myself. I have a great support system that pushed me to just go for it and I am glad that I did because it’s been a successful experience. Working for myself has helped me balance life and enjoy doing hair even more.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

During this pandemic I didn’t have high hopes for a busy year and I didn’t dwell on the things I couldn’t change either. So staying present really helped me just focus on consistently growing my business. I have learned to stay positive and build a creative environment that my clients enjoy being in.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

The most influential artists that I follow are Sue Tsai, Jhene Aiko, and Aleali May. I love how they all stay true to their own unique styles, because that has made them successful and a huge inspiration to other women. Whenever I see their accomplishments it really helps inspire me to not only find my own creative style but help my clients express themselves with their hair also.

Honey Art Cafe
Featuring Lulu and Lin

Lulu and Lin are a Houston-based art duo that run Honey Art Cafe. Their cafe offers DIY activities, cute desserts/drinks, monthly art exhibits, and instructor-led art classes.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

Opening Honey Art Cafe remains our biggest accomplishment.- Being Asian American has really pushed us to build a lean startup. We self-funded, did the design and non-technical part of the construction ourselves, made our own website, and built our menu from scratch.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

We’ve adapted our business by offering more virtual art classes and creating more take home DIY craft and dessert options.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

Check in on your friends and family (virtually) and continue to support small businesses!

Vivian Leba

Vivian is a full-time IT professional but recently launched her social media marketing business as a side passion project. She leverages both her University of Houston degrees in Architecture and Finance to build SnapBox Studio, which is primarily focused on showcasing Houston hospitality through photography, videography, and copywriting to drive intentional storytelling. Her clients include Nobie’s, The Toasted Coconut, Squable, Anvil, Better Luck Tomorrow, The Blind Goat, and Kokoro.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

If heritage is what we inherit, and culture is what we create, for me, it’s about taking what I’ve learned by tradition, and fervently amplifying AND challenging my understanding of what it means to be a first-born Vietnamese American woman. The generational pieces passed down from our immigrant families can add so much color and pride to who I am, but recognizing their shortcomings is a necessary part of evolving my Asian American identity. Uncoupling antiquated Asian values that don’t align with equity, inclusivity, and empathy while celebrating the parts of my heritage that do is how I feel like I can contribute to the future of an Asian American culture I want to be part of and represent, even if it’s uncomfortable along the way.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

Like so many AAPI individuals who understand the cultural pressures of choosing a financially secure, stable profession, I’m doing just that with my corporate day job. But for many of us, the tradeoff of not pursuing more creative professions can leave a huge part of our aspirations unfulfilled. It took thirty years of my life to realize my career doesn’t have to be linear or finite. While I can’t go back in my twenties to take more risk, I’ve leveraged all the incredible discipline and acumen I’ve learned from my corporate experience to catapult my business. What’s complex though, is that I thought doing so would represent my proudest career accomplishment but it didn’t.

When I started my business, there was a very real part of me yearning for validation in creative spaces I wanted to prove myself in, especially for an industry that’s exalted with elusive exclusivity. Once I was on the other side with some of the best clients I could’ve hoped for (thanks to my dream team), I didn’t feel any more validated than from where I started. In fact, I developed imposter syndrome where I had continual self-doubt or trouble believing in my achievements (even writing this is a little tough!). The real accomplishment for me happened during the pandemic–when I reconciled the parts of vanity that come with any creative work by realizing that I owe my successes to the people who helped me get there. In my career, I’m MOST proud of the people I’ve had the fortune to surround myself with to make these things happen–my partner, family, and friends who remove my self-doubt but aren’t afraid to challenge me so that I can keep telling the stories for my incredible clients in a city I love. I hope the next big chapter in accomplishments is about how to pay it forward, how to leave the ladder down, and how to give back.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

When the pandemic put a full stop to the world in March of 2020, my clients faced massive uncertainty leading them to understandably terminate their contracts. It didn’t sit well with me to stand idle while my clients (now friends), with families of their own who employ so many people dependent on them for income, attempt marketing on their own. I was in a position of privilege with a secure day job, so I continued to volunteer my work during that 3-month shutdown where the industry was forced to take some of their most beloved and exquisite food and craft cocktails and reduce them to unrecognizable takeout forms. We were constantly testing foreign marketing ideas that both worked and failed while remaining vulnerable and transparent, which our community responded to with so much compassion. We survived it together and learned how truly resilient we are under the most unpredictable circumstances. And with social justice being at the forefront more than ever, I’ve learned how to be the mouthpiece to my clients’ devotion to inclusivity. There’s little diversity in marketing and PR agencies, so I’ve learned to take pride as an Asian American woman to help my clients describe their cultural inspirations and influences in ways that are respectful towards our diverse communities.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

This is easy. It’s my team member Cindy Wang. Like myself, she also wrangles a full-time profession but we’ve connected through personal hardship as Asian American women over our mutual love for good food and drinks in our city. She helps me produce some of the most stunning photography and witty captions for our clients, and I’m always learning so much from her work ethic and how she experiences life. She’s also great at highlighting obscure or forgotten local eats, so be sure to check out her personal creative page (@geekyhookereats). The parts about her that enrich my life the most are reminding me to do less so that I have time back to myself. She’s become one of my closest friends in this creative universe and I look up to her in so many ways because she protects who I am outside of work.

Another AAPI creative who inspires me is my client Chef Christine Ha (@theblindcook). Since our partnership, I constantly imagine being in her shoes navigating life as a blind woman, immersed in a culinary world that typically demands eyesight to create food that tells the story of her Vietnamese American identity. There are so many personal hardships she’s experienced beyond her blindness alone, but if she can make things happen for herself, give back to communities, and still show up as a wife, mentor, and leader of her two businesses, we have so much potential if we lean into the things we don’t yet understand about ourselves. And she’ll fully admit she’s never good at being all of those things simultaneously, which brings levity to a world that tends to put over-achievers on an unrelatable pedestal.

How can fellow Houstonians show their support and solidarity with the AAPI community?

By proximity to the industry, I can’t help but remind everyone to support local AAPI restaurants with targeted hate crimes on the rise. But in your relative circle of friends, continually checking in on your AAPI friends and family is critically important for mental health. Checking in is more than asking how others are doing. It’s about giving the AAPI community permission to feel and verbalize their grievances and struggles and amplifying our pursuit for change.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

Avoid binary thinking. We can’t let our personal values be the sole determinant of how we live and who we choose to be around. We don’t let specific actions and emotions entirely characterize who we are as individuals, so we can support each other better by leaving room for our discrepancies and our misalignments because we can’t grow in an echo chamber. Listen more, ask questions, and even if you’re not your best self, check in on your neighbors.

Nina Canete

Nina Canete is a Filipino chef with 7 years of experience in the hospitality industry. She currently works for Fitzcarraldo and runs Aleng Nina’s alongside her fiance. Aleng Nina’s is a Houston duo sharing Filipino culture through their food.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being Asian American/Pacific Islander to me is about pride. I’m proud of where I come from. I am proud of how loving the Filipino culture is. I am proud to also be able to say that no matter what adversity goes our way, us Filipinos are resilient and adaptable to situations. I am proud of all the OFW caregivers that worked so hard to give their kids and other family members a better life. Being Filipino to me is not just my identity, my culture, or my ethnicity. Being Filipino to me is being PRIDE that I wear on my sleeves day in and day out.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

One of my proudest accomplishments in my career is to have the opportunity to share Filipino cuisine to the community in our own way. It’s amazing to do what you love and to see people enjoying our food. On this journey, I also met a lot of people and learned a lot about them and their culture. Simple moments like this are one of the best accomplishments that I count in my life.

How can fellow Houstonians show their support and solidarity with the AAPI community?

It’s a crazy world out there from all the outgoing attacks in the AAPI community and it makes me scared and sad. The way we can support and help is to start with yourself. Be kind, educate and learn more about the AAPI community. Talk about it and spread awareness to your friends and family. Also, to shop and support your local AAPI businesses will help them and your community grow. A lot of organizations are helping through social media and accepting donations for charity. Small or big, it helps the community and a step closer to racial equality.

Brian (Cobi) Luangraj

I am a Houston native and entrepreneur. I was born and raised here in Houston, TX. My career is changing people’s lives by helping them reach a healthy lifestyle and find balance in nutrition. As I continue to grow in my field, I hope the knowledge and inspiration helps those in need.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being Asian American means to me—freedom. Due to the challenges my parents made to escape oppression, I see that being an Asian American allows me to reach the American Dream. The dream to create my own way and pursue my own purpose for life.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

One of my proudest accomplishments I’ve made was the ability to build a great team of athletes in the competitive world of bodybuilding. The Dream Team is what they’re called. Not because of the success in competing but the inspiration they’ve created for so many others to push towards their goals in fitness.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

One way we can help support each other is by spreading awareness of cultural differences. In today’s time, there’s too much hate and discrimination going on and it’s more visible in this era. We need to be more educated in cultures, people, and different religions.

Gabby Nguyen

Gabby Nguyen is a freelance brand identity designer and owner of APDAT Print Co., a screen printing shop in East Downtown. She has a passion for designing brand identities packed with small details and backed by strategy. Her favorite part of running a screen printing shop is having the ability to educate and show people the wonderful world of print by printing on site at events. In her free time, if she has any, you can find her petting dogs and getting her hands on any and all crafts.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

Owning and operating a business that supports my family and I. I’m not the biggest risk taker, so when I jumped ship from working at a brand agency to being a full-time entrepreneur, I experienced both good and bad emotions. It was a slow start, but over the past 7 years, we’ve been able to find our niche in the print community through live screen printing along with making strong connections and memories with huge bucket list clients.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

Pum Lefebure, Co-Founder of Design Army – Pum is a different breed of human. I’ve learned that every project, as boring as it may seem at first, can be fun and rewarding as long as you put the effort into it, which I’ve learned through Pum’s unstoppable work ethic. I admire her no bullshit attitude and new perspective she incorporates into her work. She’s a perfect blend of creativity and business.

Joy Cho, Founder of Oh Joy! – I admire Joy’s versatility in her collaborations. She could be working on everything from floor tiles to shoes and you can still tell Joy’s creativity is behind it all. She also does everything with a sense of positivity and happiness which keeps her at the top of my inspiration list.

Dandee Warhol, Pop Artist – Besides being a huge advocate in supporting local artists, Dandee has some type of magic in his system. I’m always excited to see what his next piece will be or what huge client he’s working with. Seeing how big of an impact a local artist can make on his community aspires me to do the same.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

Encouraging others to do their research, listen, and not be afraid to speak up as Asian Americans. I’ve been fairly reserved and quiet all my life up until recently. Seeing my community and other Asian Americans stand up to speak up against hate encourages me to do the same without feeling alone. We also have such a huge Asian American influence in our city and to support local Asian American small businesses is what we need right now.

I also believe in seeking mental health help when needed. Our cultural values traditionally view mental help as a sign of weakness, as we’re pressured to succeed and be perfect. There’s still a lot that needs to be done, but I feel like our generation right now has the momentum to move our society forward in the right direction.

Evan Neuhoff

Evan Neuhoff (he/they) is a queer Filipino-American writer living in Houston, Texas. Evan is currently a Junior Copywriter at Thras.io, a company wizarding brands into some of the highest performing accounts on Amazon.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

It means feeling both the pain and joy of those who came before you. It means paving the path for those who have not yet made it to where you are. We hold our families and communities close to us because we were ostracized by American society for so long. In order to survive, we fostered safe spaces that took the forms of community centers, religious spaces, cultural gatherings and Asian-owned businesses, all while working laborious jobs to provide for ourselves and our families (note: we are not the model minority and we do not have anything to prove). Cultivation of community is so essential to our identities today. As a Filipino-American, the excitement I get when I meet another pinoy is palpable. They’re immediately categorized as my “cousin” and I’m going to fuck with them heavy and ask if they want to grab lumpia with me.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

I made the switch from account management to copywriting less than a year ago, which was a drastic change for me. It was terrifying because I didn’t think I was a good enough writer or creative to be considered, let alone talented enough to be paid for it. For a while, and even now, it feels like I’ve created an elaborate smokescreen that people are going to see through at any moment—even if I have worked hard to get here and have the skills to show for it. This imposter syndrome is backed by personal accounts of discrimination and lack of opportunity in the workplace. It’s a trauma response, so it’s justified, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Seeing folks with marginalized identities show up, make moves and bring others along with them is what inspires me to continue fighting the good fight and making good work.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

Find the red thread that connects you to another person. Find it with people you wouldn’t expect to have anything in common with. From there, build up a community with those around you using empathy, kindness and a whole lot of self-education (and always acknowledge the role that privilege plays in these dynamics). This is how you create meaningful connections with people from different backgrounds/experiences and how we learn to take care of each other as a collective. We really, truly need it now more than ever.

Purvi Ghedia Baron

With over twenty years of design experience, Purvi leverages her experience working with a breadth of industries and a variety of both digital and print media to help businesses, small and large, across the nation and abroad. Purvi’s mission is harnessing the diversity of her experience to dramatically elevate client brand awareness. Purvi graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts, and has since, also served as an adjunct professor for the Department of Fine Arts.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being an Asian American is about empathy and resilience. Migrating here when I was a teenager, I had to adapt to being immersed in a new culture but not lose the perspective of my Asian heritage. These diverse experiences have provided a richness to my life that I am fortunate for, and both cultures have helped shape who I am.

What are the proudest accomplishments of your career?

I am proud to have gathered the experience and the courage to go independent and create my own path, and I feel fortunate for the connections I have made along the way.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

In the past year, I realized I am inspired by connecting with people. Reaching out and staying connected has been vital. I’ve learned to listen more in my process.

How can fellow Houstonians show their support and solidarity with the AAPI community?

The AAPI community here in Houston has so much to be proud of, including being Houstonians. In the end, regardless of what communities we are individually a part of, we each have our own diverse backgrounds, experiences and stories. We should all stand together, and stand up for one another, as Houstonians.

Lillian Hoang

Journalist first. Cat enthusiast second. Lillian Hoang is a staff reporter for OutSmart Magazine, where she is dedicated to accessible, relatable journalism. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and minor in Asian American studies. She also works as a UH College of Education communication assistant and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

Being AAPI means reconnecting with and celebrating our roots. It means learning how capitalism, Western imperialism, colonialism, and the American military–industrial complex have devastated our motherlands. Being AAPI also means recognizing how we can help build a better world through activism and the arts.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

As a journalist, I want to write accessible and relevant articles. I think my writing has become more succinct and conversational, with each article. I’m trying to incorporate more voices into my work and “show, don’t tell.” I have a long way to go, but I think I’m on my way to becoming a great writer.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

The following designers and creatives inspire me for different reasons. Matt Manalo’s (@mattmanalo) creations are thought-provoking; sheselle’s (@sheselle) designs are vibrant and aesthetically pleasing; and Shing Yin Khor’s (@sawdustbear) work always leave me wondering, “What can’t she do?”

Alan Nguyen

Alan Nguyen is a photographer and marketing professional who’s just aiming for work that reflects something meaningful by creating vibrantly and vigorously. He works as a marketing manager at Combined Arms, a nonprofit that helps impact military veterans and their families and the communities they serve. He loves exploring cultures by eating and drinking and may take that a little too seriously.

What does being Asian American or Pacific Islander mean to you?

It means contributing to the grand tapestry that is America. As much as people would work to deny it, this country is a hotpot of ideas, art, and so many other things that make it interesting — to dull it down is a crime itself. I’m as excited to learn about where you come from as much as I’m excited to share.

How has your creative practice changed or evolved over the past year?

It’s been just like life is — it’s a mostly improvisatory experience. Don’t get me wrong, planning is great, but always knowing where you’ll be at the end is overrated. My previous three years of work have been uneven, but so has what we’ve all experienced. Embracing that has made me improve my creative processes.

What AAPI designers and creatives inspire you? Why does their work resonate with you?

Alan Yang – his storytelling (which you’ve probably seen before in “Master of None”, “Little America”, or lesser watched “Forever”) hits notes for me that are both smooth and jarring. He documents an experience while unlocking something within you just never thought about before. We can all use the newly opened doors and windows in our minds.

Kogonada – a filmmaker and video essayist whose film “Columbus” strikes a chord of anchored introspection and melancholy at the same time. We’re all interested in how the slow march of time overcomes us, so why not slow it down some more? His work will do that.

What is one way we can all support each other right now?

Just know that all we have are each other. Act like it. Take responsibility for who you care for, and the world you build around you will be different.


Thank you to all of our participants for sharing their experiences with the AIGA Houston community.

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