Today, things made in China are used around the world, but many people may never know the true state of life of the Chinese migrant workers who make, package and transport those things. Migrant workers who are marginalized by cities are surrounded by the culture of "graphic design" all the time.
Ivy Li, a Chinese designer who teaches at school of Design in the US, created On Being A Factory Worker, A 2019 work about migrant Worker communities in China's cities. Recently, she was interviewed by It's Nice That and told the story behind her work. Designer Ivy was born in Chengdu, China. After graduating from the University of Southern California, she became obsessed with art and design. She went to the Department of Visual Communication of Virginia Commonwealth University for further study and successfully obtained the Master of Arts degree. After graduation, she chose to teach at Parsons School of Design in New York.
In "On Being A Factory Worker", Ivy takes inspiration from the local visual language of Chinese factories and captures the unconscious reverse design visual output of Chinese migrant workers. Graphic design education isn't easy for the masses, she admits, and in the past, "design principles might have been just elite conventions built on history." But migrant workers are literally surrounded by print every day, and whether they know it or not, their lives have become intertwined with design. As a result, their experience also expresses a unique visual language.
While Ivy didn't mention the rise of the "new ugly trend" in her interview with It's Nice That, the success of the "new ugly trend" can't be achieved without advertising supply and demand around China's migrant workers. "Chinese farmers and workers play a key role in the global economy," Ivy said. Many of them have left their homes in rural areas to find temporary work in factories in the urban fringe. Their living and working environment is full of danger and chaos, but their quasi-urban life is filled with rich and unique visual language, such as neon signs, government slogans, job announcements in factories, cheap restaurants, accommodation, lottery shops, and many other unique visual cultures.