Graphic designer YuoNing Chien – better known by her alias Yoyo – uses her work as a form of stress release when life gets too overwhelming. And in her ongoing project titled the Eyeball Series, she plays around with the body part to establish a connection with her audience.
Originally from Taiwan and now based in New York City, Yoyo is a graphic designer whose work is instantly recognisable thanks to its crisp, clean shapes, saturated colours, and repeated use of her signature motif: a pair of gigantic eyeballs.
Popping up again and again in her personal projects, Yoyo's decision to feature eyeballs goes back to 2018 when she first started working as a graphic designer. During this time, her eyeball series was purely something she did for fun, and her main goal was to share glimpses of her life and the things that surrounded her through her illustrations.
"As the project gained traction and my skills as a graphic designer improved, I realised there was so much more potential to explore," Yoyo tells Creative Boom. "I started taking it more seriously and decided to expand the original idea in different directions. It became clear that this project was an ongoing journey with endless possibilities."
She adds: "I became more dedicated to pushing its boundaries and not confining it to just illustrations, believing that the project's evolution will unfold organically. I want to take this project into uncharted territories and see where it leads. The only certainty is that there will not be limited illustrations anymore."
Yoyo is the first to admit that gigantic eyeballs are something of an unconventional motif. And while they might look fun as they peep out of a stack of skateboards or from a tower of cabinets, there is more to them than immediately meets the eye.
"It actually stems from a personal reflection," she reveals. "I have always had small eyes, and since a young age, I've had a desire for larger eyes. I couldn't change my physical appearance, so I drew many big eyeballs in my illustrations. By drawing what I didn't possess, these eyeball characters emerged as a representation of myself."
Not only are the eyeballs meaningful, but they're also used by Yoyo as an intriguing and enjoyable way to establish a two-way connection with her audience. Through this motif, it's as if Yoyo herself is looking at the viewer while simultaneously being observed herself. "This intricate interplay between the viewer and myself is something I find particularly captivating," she says.
Despite being separated from the rest of the facial features, Yoyo's illustrated eyeballs still manage to retain a certain character of their own. This wasn't something she originally set out to do, but through the consistent style and composition of the illustrations, a distinct personality emerged. She puts this down, in part, to the blue iris, a colour which she has a certain fondness for.
"The cohesive visual elements and the deliberate colour choices I make for this eyeball project contribute to a sense of brand identity, almost like a recognisable visual signature," Yoyo explains. "As a graphic designer, I find joy in creating branding experiences, and this leads into how I present the eyeball characters."
This isn't to say the project doesn't contain its unique challenges, though. Maintaining a continuous stream of ideas for the illustration series was singled out by Yoyo as the biggest hurdle. "Since this project is deeply rooted in my personal life, it's akin to sharing my diary with the audience," she says. "Naturally, there are times when inspiration doesn't readily strike, and I believe this is a common experience shared by many creatives."
Yoyo says, "Another challenge stemmed from working alone for prolonged periods, which sometimes led to discontent with my work. However, I have found ways to overcome these obstacles.
"One key approach has been to balance focusing on aspects I enjoy and pushing through the less enjoyable parts. By prioritising the aspects that bring me joy and align with my interests, everything flows more smoothly.
"Additionally, I have actively sought collaboration opportunities to introduce fresh perspectives and ideas into the project. Collaborating with other individuals allows for the infusion of diverse thinking, more creative minds, and, ultimately, the potential for more interesting and engaging projects."
One such creative who has had a significant impact on the project is Enzo Mari. According to Yoyo, his exploration of diverse creative works and the boundless possibilities he demonstrated greatly inspired the Eyeballs series.
"Seeing his versatility and ability to pursue different styles and learn various skills simultaneously has motivated me to push the boundaries of my own work. Mari's approach to creativity has encouraged me to embrace experimentation and continuously seek growth and learning within my artistic journey."
Seizing the moment is a theme at the heart of Yoyo's work, including her eyeball series. Whenever she encounters something intriguing or captivating, she documents it and incorporates it into her illustrations. This allows her to capture fleeting moments and preserve them visually, even though the images themselves may appear static.
"One of the most fascinating aspects of graphic design, in my opinion, is the ability to frame and present a specific moment in a way that the designer deems the most impactful," she says.
"I believe that life is made up of countless moments, big and small, and each holds its own significance. By acknowledging and incorporating these moments into my project, I strive to create a relatable and engaging experience for the audience. It's a way to remind ourselves of the importance of appreciating and embracing the present moment, both in our lives and the broader human experience."
As for the future of her eyeball series, Yoyo envisions the project transcending its current confines as a purely graphic-focused endeavour. "I see numerous untapped opportunities waiting to be explored," she concludes. "I intend to continue working on this project and, ideally, collaborate with diverse artists and designers to create unconventional and boundary-pushing works." We'll keep our eyes peeled for further developments.
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