I first met JOYCE WAN in a classroom. We were taking courses on Greeting Card Design and Art Licensing at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City. These classes were a valuable experience helping us understand the economic potential of our artistic visions while providing avenues for getting our art in the marketplace. We learned how to build a brand, market our products, exhibit at trade shows and set-up licensing deals with manufacturers.
One of the best parts of these continuing education classes was meeting a diverse group of talented people and discovering their artwork. I vividly remember the first time I saw Joyce’s Asian influenced designs. What many of us were searching for, Joyce had already discovered; her brand. Her style was simple, colorful and precise. Joyce’s design studio WANART is a prime example of how creativity, focus and a dedication to spreading happiness into the world can lead to success.
When I create my illustrations that’s always one of my goals; to make them sweet, charming and innocent and people respond positively. I’m inspired by Japanese pop art. My aesthetic lends itself to more playful, some say a juvenile quality (laughs), but that’s the kind of style that I like. Because of the simplicity of my illustrations they appeal to very young people. For example, my books are board books that are usually geared to ages 0 – 3, but honestly I’m lucky because a lot of adults appreciate my designs as well.
Both of those books came from my greeting card designs. “You Are My Cupcake” is based on a line of new baby cards I had with illustrations based on food terms of endearment like ‘cupcake’, ‘sweet-pea’ and ‘cutie-pie’. “We Belong Together” is based on a line of non-conventional wedding cards with images of things that go together like ‘peanut butter and jelly’, ‘bacon and eggs’ and ‘pencil and paper’. I thought “You Are My Cupcake” would make a really cute baby book. I didn’t have a literary agent at the time, so I created a mock-up and sent it out to different publishers. Scholastic is the one that got back to me. Ultimately, we collaborated and came up with the second book, “We Belong Together.” We thought it would make a nice companion book.
Kiwi and Pear are two monkeys that are inseparable; they do everything together. People ask me if they’re boys or girls, but I keep them androgynous on purpose. Although they’re shown as a pair of monkeys hugging, I consider them a symbol of love and friendship. Kiwi and Pear were originally based on a greeting card of the monkeys hugging on a solid pink background. That card was one of my best selling cards. People really responded to the simplicity of it. I wanted to expand on that design and started putting them into situations like traveling or watching the sunset together in a similar pose. From putting them in scenes like traveling the world and visiting landmarks, a narrative started to form. Those characters are actually what got me my first book contract. I was exhibiting at the New York International Gift Fair and a publisher that was familiar with my greeting card designs stopped by my booth. They called me a couple of months after the show and asked if I’d be interested in doing a book on Kiwi and Pear. My first picture book “Greetings from Kiwi and Pear” came out in 2009.
I have a line of infant apparel based on the Chinese Zodiac. Baby onesies packed in little take-out boxes. I sell prints and buttons. Also a big part of my business is greeting and note cards. Lots of paper products.
Asian inspired designs fuel my inspiration. My reason for starting [my design company] WANART is because I couldn’t find designs I could relate to or send to my parents. My first collection of designs was the Chinese zodiac created in a very simple and contemporary style. A bit of advice I give is you can’t appeal to everyone, so you should try to pick a niche and start from there. It will help you stand out from what’s out there.
bndd: When we first met we were students at SVA. It’s been almost 10 years and now your teaching those same courses. What’s it like instructing creative spirits?
When I took those classes they changed my life and it’s so great for me to sit on the other side of the classroom now and help someone start a project by motivating, guiding and answering their questions. All of those things can add up to someone possibly doing something great with their lives and following their dreams. I always feel extra proud when my students take what they’ve learned from me and put their art into the world. I have one student, Brannon Cullum who debuted her line Happy Cactus Designs at the National Stationery Show. Brannon’s really taking everything’s she’s learned and moving forward. Instructing at SVA has been amazing for me. I feel like everything has come full circle. For me to give back in that way has been very rewarding. I enjoy helping people follow their passions. –