Odds and ends

The Center for Digital Humanities 

Branding, Web, Editorial, 2016

Based on the existing logo, I established the branding guidelines and expanded the graphical vocabulary for various visual communications for the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton Universiry, such as annual report, website, and newsletters.
Logo designed by Lindsay Nordell

CDH Events


Posters and cards designed for guest lectures and workshops at The Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University.

New Year Greeting Card

3D, Dec. 2016

New Year greeting card designed for the awesome design researh studio Diagram.

Weighing Lightness

Research, Book Design, Installation, 2016

The project investigates and reinterprets the influential parameters of two opposing concepts — lightness and heaviness. Coding process in Grounded Theory, a qualitative method commonly used in social science, has been utilized to identity qualities that will influence the perception of lightness from literature and art and design projects. By presenting an analytical lens as a tool to inspect design and other aesthetic phenomena, it offers an explanation of the rather elusive concept of lightness.

︎ Read More    ︎︎ Book    ︎ Installation

Tactic as Art:
Everyday Digital Resistance and Covid-19 in China

While capitalism prioritizes digital platforms’ marketing values, online platforms are also venues for activism across borders. Like other overseas Chinese, during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak I had been anxiously following its development through online communities while witnessing many organizing and actions of resistance. I started capturing these actions and theorizing and framing the engagement of design in activism.

Designers traditionally have been producing communicative and persuasive aesthetic content for activism. Shifting from regarding the end products as the contribution of design, the responsibilities expanded to include the organizational and strategic level of community activism. Design as a process contributes in generative ways. In addition to the persuasive and mobilization function of activism—coordinating actions and materials—resistance during COVID-19 also functions at the informative and emotional levels as a form of everyday digital resistance. We witnessed many bottom-up efforts of building community archives and crowd-sourced translation to preserve the collective memory of the outbreak as counter-narrative to the scrutinized official version. When carving out digital public space under strict control of the authorities for commemorating whistle-blower doctor Li Wenliang, and translating the journalistic interview article with doctor Ai Fen into various coded versions to creatively evade censorship, participation becomes performative actions of expression and brings solace.

Everyday digital resistance is characterized as tactics of micro-interventions integrated into life, standing opposite from radical confrontations on the continuum of activism. Often spontaneous and unorganized, the actions collectively create impact and the potential to undermine power, while individuals can remain relatively disguised and unnoticed, which is especially valuable for actors in high-risk contexts. My project frames the concept of everyday digital resistance, unpacking the factors that contributed to its domination.

Reflecting on the changing landscape of resistance completes my own grieving and prompts reflexivity in the practice of teaching visual communication design.


performance in a desktop environment

presented at The CAA Annual Conference 2021

Teaching Design in the Age of Platforms:
A Framework for Platform Education

Our contemporary social, cultural, and political experiences are increasingly mediated and shaped by digital platforms, such as search engines, content intermediaries, and networked communications tools. A digital platform is the provider of software, sometimes hardware, and service that uses computational architecture to mediate social activities strategically. Contemporary communication design practice is largely in service of and circulates through digital platforms. Design education needs to be responsive to the rise of platforms as the latest transformation of the internet on both practical and theoretical levels. This paper situates a platform education within and beyond communication design to help develop understandings of the mechanisms of platforms, values influenced by platformization, and design implications. The author presents a framework of relevant knowledge structured in a triangular model of design practice, platform literacy, and design experiment, aiming at functioning as a tool for teaching, framing, and making critical inquiries into platforms.



presented at Cumulus Design Culture(s) 2021

Gravity: 370BC, 1585, 1687, 1915, ?

Man has long been aware of the concept of up and down, and that different objects have different weights. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that objects move downward toward the center of the universe, which was their natural place, and he was convinced that heavier objects must fall faster than lighter objects. These ideas were held as true for almost 2000 more years until Galileo proposed that a falling body would fall with a uniform acceleration. Newton brought in additional enlightenment to gravitational thought by developing the first convincing mathematical theory of gravity — two masses are attracted toward each other by a force whose effect decreases according to the inverse square of the distance between them. From this point, gravity is no longer the earthbound force, but a relational force between any objects. Newton’s law of universal gravitation, in turn, was replaced by Einstein’s General theory of relativity, which describes gravity as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime rather than a force. A complete theory of quantum gravity is required when trying to describe gravity according to the principles of quantum mechanics. Human minds have been freed from the inevitable fall to the force of geocentrism, and the idea of gravity is becoming more relational and fluid. The idea of gravity has lost its fateful weight.
Dec 2015

This project uses typographical treatment to express human understanding of gravity in five different eras—from the earthbound fall to the fluidity of the quantum field.

Each chapter features text selected from a scientist’s obscure original publication, in purposeful contrast with accessible explanations in modern language from Wikipedia. Two typefaces have been applied to denote the distinction in readability where modern texts are easier to grasp, and thus lighter. The original discourses are set on the left side of the spread, while modern texts are set on the right. Different page number position and movement, text alignment, and glyph choice in five chapters mirror the variant gravitational theories. The page number of the heavier side falls faster in Aristotle, while they fall equally on two sides in Galileo’s age. Instead of moving from top to bottom, the numbers move toward the gutter as gravity turns into attractions between two objects according to Newton. The book is saddle stitch bound with five separate signatures connecting together by a continuous cover.

Punctuation marks serve to clarify relationships between words and sentences. Symbols are representative of materials and concepts, especially ones that are abstract. The 2016 Pratt Graduate Communications Design MFA thesis exhibition, (Within)—Between., highlights the process of drawing abstract relationships between eighteen distinct points of view.

As the position of design in contemporary society becomes increasingly multi-dimensional—blurring the boundaries between what constitutes design as a format, a process and a discipline—the designer is left to clarify their own parameters. In turn, such disparate ideas and approaches inflict a desire to draw connections. The collection of thesis investigations presented in this year’s exhibition follow no underlying theme, other than what lies in the transitions—within and between designers’ research topics; within and between the gallery and the outside world; within and between the individual designer and a larger public; and within and between an MFA program and the continuation of a design practice.

(Within)—Between. features the collective thesis work of: Jacqueline Anerella, Emilia Aragón, Alexis Baran, Aryn Beitz, Melissa Berman, Corwin Green, Leonor Kerke, Andrea Laszlo, Xinyi Li, Dina Michl, Kiran Puri, Abbey Roam, Craig Roberts, Nicole Salamone, Ryan Schoenherr, Moeinedin Shashaei, Katie Wylie and Michael Zibin Yuan.
︎︎ Visit Exhibition Website
    We’ve become a nominee of AWWWARDS!

    Roles: branding, customise glyph typeface

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Exhibition Catalog

Exhibition Poster
My research project Weighing Lightness, investigates and reinterprets the influential parameters of two opposing concepts—lightness and heaviness. I mainly utilized Coding process in Grounded Theory, a qualitative method commonly used in social science, has been utilized to identity qualities that will influence the perception of lightness from literature and art and design projects. By presenting an analytical lens as a tool to inspect design and other aesthetic phenomena, it offers an explanation of the rather elusive concept of lightness. Design projects are embedded through out the process at where they serve as exploratory tools.


The conceptual and philosophical implications of lightness go beyond the general definition of the physical absence of weight. As the dichotomy of lightness and heaviness has been discussed in various disciplines such as philosophy, literature, visual art, architecture, and product design, this research aims to explore the meaning of lightness in communication design. By applying methods of literature review, ethnography research, cultural probes, and grounded theory, this thesis investigates and reinterprets the influential parameters of the opposing concepts of lightness an heaviness from a perspective of communication design. The result presents an analytic system as a tool to analyze design and other aesthetic phenomena in an attempt to explain this rather elusive concept and reveal the underlying rationale of lightness.

→ Thesis Book

→ Watch my presentation at Fresh Grad AIGA NY

Process and Projects

Literature Review

Laughter: Lightness and Heaviness
A Sensory Ethnography Film
April 2015

Cultural Probes
A kit is distributed to people to gain an understanding of lightness through asking research subjects indirect questions and performing simple game-like tasks. Multiple compartments within one package are designed to be unwrapped one by one for seven days. This research serves as an early exploration of the multiplex dimensionality of lightness and the play of subjectivity.

May 2015

Fine Art Project
September 2015

Impulse from Xinyi Li on Vimeo.

Soundscape: A Research journal
September–December 2015

1 Place

2 Sounds
A Moment of Heaviness
A collection of sounds for a moment of heaviness

3 Heaviness
Interviews about dream weight within a meditated experience and monologue

Analytical Model


Weighing Lightness
May 2016