Betty Wang is an art director, designer, and strategist striving to create critically engaged work focused on technology, power, language, and contemporary culture. She works with a variety of clients on projects ranging from brand strategy and development to print, packaging, and web design.
Two years ago I was on a thirteen-hour flight to Beijing when I opened the Google Translate app on my phone. While my Mandarin barely passes as third grade level vernacular, my ability to read is much, much worse.
Already set to identify and decipher Chinese ideographs, the live camera feature manifested flickering words onto spaces where there weren’t any. I was intrigued by this silly error; for so long I had proclaimed the imminent Singularity to anyone who would entertain it, and here was the world’s most powerful search engine and largest information library unable to differentiate object/environment from Chinese text.
I spent a week in Shenzhen, a mecca of technological production and manufacturing, with intent to create a product for an American audience. Back in the States, I began to think about this relationship between image and text, extraction and generation, production and consumption. A year after, I became a tourist in San Francisco. As I wandered Chinatown, I felt a strong sense of alienation, like a foreigner in my own home. But which was home? And which was foreign?
Like other travelers, I took pictures of the cheap, mass produced trinkets that made Chinatown the American spectacle of a market that it was—the commodified East for the all-consuming West. Using Google Translate's live feature on the images, I screenshotted endlessly as text flickered and vanished over jade and plastic. The result is a funny, at times uncanny, other times poetic, exposition of moments where the attempts to understand and transcribe resulted in the manufacture of meaning. These screenshots come to represent not only the way images are codified with cultural messages but also ascribed meaning onto them by tools we use to decode our world. A curated selection out of over ten thousand screenshots, the final forty images challenge the way we understand the constructed Eastern "Other" through a Western perspective. The "translation" results in an imposition of value—we continue to create and reinforce a Western fantasy of "Chinatown", consuming "Chineseness" in the way we have constructed it in our own image. The process of translation is no longer an extraction but a production of meaning.
The idea of Chinatown has long been dominated and constructed by a Western narrative, resulting in the marginalization and erasure of a history of Chinese immigrants residing in the space. It is critical to constantly question the power structures that create the stories we understand as truths, and thus the stories we allow to survive.
Fashion collection developed at RISD. Art directed photoshoot and fully designed/constructed garments. Designed an alphabet in 8-bit style and digitally manipulated Klimt's Water Serpents to create original prints to be used as fabric. Conceptually inspired by Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle.
Worked extensively on packaging and digital design for OUAI Haircare, the chic haircare brand launched by celebrity hairstylist Jen Atkin. Packaging design projects ranged from concept renders and mechanical creation for production to photo retouching of final images. Other print and digital work included concepting apparel, merchandise, Sephora signage and other collateral for brand marketing. Also did a range of social media work, such as Snapchat takeovers for brand promotion.
Lead creative for Clinique at Case Agency. Collaborated closely with Clinique in-house creative and marketing teams to create a wide variety of campaigns, from seasonal Gift With Purchase and holiday campaigns to new product launches. Concepted and assisted art direction for major photoshoots—sketched shots for reference and supported photography team on set. Developed all digital marketing and creative collateral for campaigns, including emails, social media and advertising assets, and website assets for both desktop and mobile, for domestic and international markets. Also worked on development of in-store VR Modiface tool and mobile app, assisting design of user experience and navigation.
Concepted and art directed monthly product launch photoshoots and lookbook campaigns for Havaianas USA. Ideated and sketched ideas for final execution, created sets and styled props, directed photography, retouched final images and created all digital marketing assets for campaigns—including emails, web, and social media assets. Extremely involved in all aspects of the creative process and execution in various other projects, including social media strategy, development of print collateral for stores and events, copywriting, storefront design, visual merchandising, and snapchat filters.