Meiting Song is a graphic design and motion graphics artist based in New York and Beijing. Her works exude the fun and exciting energy of early 2000s Asian pop culture and embraces girlishness in their character designs and color palettes. She is currently finishing her final semester at School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC.
In this radio-style conversation originally recorded in Chinese, Meiting talks about how she developed a simple aesthetic for her digital designs through the process of silkscreen printing, finding the relationship between colors blocks. She also shares her influences looking back on the nostalgia of 90s and y2k aesthetic shared between her Asian friends, where the common language of communication is English but the visual language of shared pop cultural knowledge transcends words. Meiting ponders why no one aspires to design the branding of feminine hygiene products, and hopes to one day work on such a project herself, where she gets to design a fun and lovable brand image for such a ubiquitous and important product.
I saw that one of your illustration has been translated to a t-shirt design on Animal Crossing?
Haha, yes. In the beginning I tried to make a pixel art design in Adobe Illustrator, but there is some difficulty as the squared corners become rounded in the game drawing tool. It’s hard to come up with original designs as I have to do a lot of drafts, so what I do more now is to turn clothes already available in stores or others’ designs into digital versions in the game. There are also many accounts (like Nook Street Market) dedicated to making designer fashion and luxury items into Animal Crossing outfits. It also feels great when I can wear a luxury brand I really really like without spending any real money!
What is the situation like for young artists and art students now in NYC with Covid-19? Do you feel less affected since most of your works are digital?
For students in the digital art department it’s pretty much the same, we are used to working remotely on our laptops. But I’m taking a risograph course this semester and I can’t access the studios to work on my prints.
The grad show is also affected, as we usually have a huge event at SVA where we get to present our works to industry experts and network with them. I would say our career prospects are definitely jeopardized.
I especially love the animation series and gifs you’ve been working on lately. They remind me of Chinese paper-cut animation enlivened with simple Internet aesthetic. Can you tell us more about how you developed this aesthetic over time?
When I first started out doing graphic design in college I was making a lot of minimal and clichéd designs. We were all inspired by Apple’s aesthetic, but the minimal things I made in the beginning were more unfinished, and I realized I can’t keep doing that.
For the whole of last year I took silkscreen printing classes, and that was where I really challenged myself to think about the relationship between color blocks and each layer I’m making; eventually I learnt the skill of simplifying a very complicated thing. A lot of people like to make complex prints with silkscreen, but that’s not meaningful for me personally. At the time I also looked at a lot of art involving color blocks, and Taiwanese graphic designer Wang Zhihong’s works especially inspired me.
There are strong elements of 90s and Y2K Asian pop-culture in your works, are they from your own nostalgic references?
When I was little I didn’t pay particular attention to the pop-culture I was consuming. It was actually after growing up and meeting many Asian people from other parts of Asia that I noticed these things more. In fact, my inspiration comes more from other people’s sense of nostalgia. For me I watched a lot of Card Captor Sakura, Crayon Shin-Chan, Doraemon, and Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana was actually my fashion icon as a kid. Now I am searching for the songs that were super popular in my childhood, like Jay Chou’s songs, and trying to recall the streets and scenes where I heard them. It brings me a lot of joy doing that.
Another interesting thing I found is that, with my Asian friends, even though we communicate in English, we actually know the celebrity or show we’re talking about, we just don’t know the name in the other language. Communicating this shared cultural experience in English and reaching that moment of connection beyond language is really great!
Fashion and art are very interrelated. Oftentimes we find artists expressing themselves in both their art and fashion, and the aesthetics of both are usually aligned. What kind of clothes are you into right now, and how do they reflect or inspire your creative process?
Right now I’m really into the clothes by designer Rui Zhou (a recent Parsons MFA graduate). I especially like the sinuous lines in her garments, the flow of the curves, as I like round edges. The pearl/ bead element that holds the delicate knitwear together is my favorite part, it almost looks like an exclamation mark! I probably wouldn’t wear the whole look directly over my body, but it’d nice to just wear a piece of the ensemble as an accessory. There are also a lot of singers and celebrities in America that are wearing her clothes in their MVs or photoshoots. I find it interesting that what is indie or non-mainstream is the mainstream in New York.
I do think that she is one of the designers creating entirely original designs and pushing the boundaries of fashion. You recently did a collab with clothing brand Unif and photographer Monimogi, can you tell us the concept behind that collab?
It began with Moni following me on Instagram, and she liked the Sunrise Mart zine that I made and wanted to collab on something similar for Unif. Sunrise Mart had more of a Shōwa era advertorial aesthetic, with the nostalgic design elements stemming from that time, but for the Unif zine I wanted to make something with a Y2K aesthetic.
I wanted to make something very “Tai” (corny Taiwanese subcultural style), hence the blings and saturated colors, and the use of Traditional Chinese chracters. They are quite characteristic of early 2000s teenage girls magazines as well. In those magazines you will often find horoscope readings or personality quizzes, and I incorporated that into the Unif zine, by making a quiz for “finding your perfect shoes.” I previously made a quiz for finding out what type of drink you are in Sunrise Mart and my friends told me it was pretty accurate lol.
I also made a series of stickers to go with the zine, adding many elements that I have designed on my own. I also slid in a picture of a glass dildo with a heart shape on the top, and I thought no one would find out since its quite inconspicuous, but Unif side found out immediately and exposed me. But they kept it anyway because they thought it was funny. They’re pretty chill about things.
It took quite a while to make this, from the photoshoot in February to layout design of the zine in March. The Covid-19 situation was worsening at this time, and I had to focus my mind on making this really cute and fun zine when in reality I was being super anxious.
I’ve always thought about those teenager accessories, and feminine hygiene products, why does no one want to do branding for them? All the students in art school aspire to design for museums or luxury brands, but no one aspires to work with sanitary pad brands.
The pads or tampons that I find in CVS are rather plain, and don’t entice me to purchase them. The quality aren’t that great either. The feminine product packaging and marketing visuals in Japan are much cuter. In China I have seen the use of anime or cartoon characters on these packagings as well.
Most people consider feminine products to be something embarrassing. No one will go around the school showing off their pads. I would love to take on the branding of feminine products in the future, especially for newer things like menstrual cups.
In the design of today’s podcast episode cover, I’ve put in the image of a menstrual cup as the “Holy Cup” card sign, inspired by Card Captor Sakura and nostalgic, girlish elements. I’ll be making an animation with this series of graphics as well.
Finally, any recommendation for books, magazines, artists, or music?
~This is an interview translation from Framing Visual Culture Podcast Ep 4~