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I did this design for TOPYS in China for a New Year’s money envelope. It’s the year of the dog coming up and the theme was “kiss”, which is what it says in gold. You can get it here (shop and site in Chinese).

They also did a short interview with me (translated into Chinese here) which I’ve pasted beneath. Wax poetic!

Thanks TOPYS, happy new year. 

We visited your website and found some fantastic posts in your blog, for example, some interesting ideas from sandwiches. So we would like to invite you to share 6-8 kinds of food inspiration or funny food metaphors in your life and works.

Food can represent many facets of consumption and sustainability but I think it depicts people’s fears and desires best of all. Our experiences in life are taken in through our senses and food can describe or act as a metaphor for every human interaction.

Recently I started making fake condiments packets and other small items that combine different drugs with different foods. Just an exaggeration of how processed food works. Here are 6 ingredients, additives, or foods that keep my curiosity.

Vanilla – Spices can surprise your expectations and change the chemistry of your idea, if you’re willing to take the occasional risk. Balance requires experimentation and restraint. I think that holds true for most things: whatever you do is more about the small choices you make while doing it and less about your initial idea or the end product. You are the process and not the product, the result is just the end of the cycle.

Vanilla is a fruit pod from an orchid and the smell of vanilla is so successful that most of what we use is fake. The commercial food world is covered with this approximation of a plant part’s smell and taste. Possibly because of its similarity to mother’s milk. It’s a fascinating circumstance.

Mayonnaise – Some people don’t like mayonnaise but I think it improves a whole number of foods. I don’t see what’s not to like: it’s tangy fat. With french fries or fried chicken? It’s the best.

Fat is stored energy. If you’re adding fat you’re adding potential. That’s what people look for.

Vinegar – Rot is the most interesting thing. Even the foods we don’t think of as having rotten starts, processed cheese, breads, beers, chocolate, etc., came from the process of rot at some point. Not to mention soy sauce, yogurt, kimchi, wine… the list goes on.

White vinegar is the best thing to clean your house with and it’s also very good in some soups. Really opens the nose.

Cola – I have a book of short essays in which I use cola as a metaphor for the connection between mind and body. That the head of foam represents habitual thinking (bubbles of memories and projections colliding together) and sits on the substance that is the body (the vehicle for the head, the mysterious knowledge of the physical world). What I really love about cola is the combination of neroli, cinnamon, vanilla, lime, nutmeg, and coriander. I love Coca Cola so much I don’t drink it anymore because I can’t stop. The first sip is the best. It burns all the way down. It’s like a drinkable acid that strips your insides clean.

Honey – Lasts forever. Found in Egyptian tombs. Made by social insects. That are all dying. Clover honey is the best.

Chocolate – Chocolate is hard bean paste with sugar. Isn’t that weird? The history of chocolate is thick and complicated, just like how the taste is thick and complicated. It was a currency, ritual, religion, medicine, then a symbol of international trade and power, war, slavery, now a highly refined product whose raw material is outpacing the price of gold. All of that makes a candy.

I grew up watching my dad learn to work with chocolate, a long trial and error process of complicated variables, to become highly skilled. If you love it it’s worth doing–and that legacy is just a story. That’s what chocolate taught me.

1. What‘s your understanding of cool ?

At best: observational, honed, galvanizing, crisp, natural. At worst: detached, ineffective, egotistical, mushy, impulsive.

2. Use three words to describe your design style.

Flexible. Even. Bright.

3. Describe a typical work-day of you  and non-work day of you.

My work and non-work days are very similar these days: sketchbook, study, play, exploration, reprimands.

4. Share your own ways of collecting inspiration.

Friends and mentors, going to specialty grocery or kitchen supply stores, anything that’s been outside a long time, and birds.

5. What’s your favorite work conditions?

Evening time to late night: low noise and low light.

6. When it comes to designwho influence you the most? 

Shiro Yamada (my grandfather), Morris Louis, Shigeo Fukuda, Art Spiegelmen, Jack Davis…

7. Please recommend one of your favorite books, songs and movies.

Book: The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt. We use it so much it’s filthy.

Song: According to iTunes the song I’ve played the most is Your Gold Teeth by Steely Dan

Movie: Style Wars

8. Next, what do you want to try the most? 

Unfamiliar fruit.

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