This year I was graciously invited by Wing On Wo & Co to design their Lunar New Year 2021 merchandise line. Each year they partner with a different Asian American artist in preparation for this important cultural holiday season.
We started planning for the LNY launch in November. If this project taught me anything, it's the amount of lead time that should be planned for time-sensitive custom items. Mei Lum contacted me and asked whether I had any ideas for merch, as each year the item varied; the previous year it was a handkerchief, and LNY 2019 was a T-shirt. I sent them a list of items with varying price points and told them we could narrow down items by budget.
We ended up choosing enamel pins, and I had the ambitious idea to create two different pieces of merch for the launch and also took on the creation of 2 custom Hongbao (red envelopes filled with cash or other items that we gift each other on Lunar New Year). Both these items worked well for Lunar New Year in my mind because of course I'd always wanted to design a custom Hongbao, and the lapel pins were outlined in gold which was very on-brand for LNY. The stakeholder took on the responsibility of sourcing a vendor for the Hongbao, while I researched some options for creating the lapel pin.
Since I was creating two different designs, I decided to make one design themed around the Ox and another themed more generally around Lunar New Year. These are the initial sketches for the Ox design and the general design I came up with.
In the Ox design, I wanted to convey the magnificent and resilient qualities of the ox because those traits are associated with this specific zodiac. I also wanted to show the peony as a classic Asian motif (and I just adore drawing flowers and petals).
For the general LNY design, I had the idea to illustrate an "oriental" shelf holding various Lunar New year related objects. Fish are often associated with with prosperity because the word for fish in Chinese, "yu," also sounds like the word meaning "surplus". The top left square was swapped to be a classic wall hanging decoration with the word "Fu" in chinese, which means good luck. A Bonsai tree can also be seen, and a tray of incense which billows smoke elegantly throughout the composition.
Both these sketches were sent to the stakeholder and approved for high-res designing for print.
These are screen grabs of the Photoshop files I prepared after vectorizing the illustrations with Adobe Illustrator. The vendor was in Hong Kong and sent templates along. I also had to separate the gold foil and normal color printing art into separate layers.
My first instinct for the lapel pin was to create something inspired by Chinese red paper-cutting art. This was the initial sketch that I sent to the stakeholder:
The stakeholder's feedback was that Wing on Wo tries to be a brand that is not stuck in the past and is trying to bring a fresh take to older ideas. Basically they said they were interested in a more modern design, and suggested using the vase and flower motif from the shelf Hongbao design and adding the ox element onto the vase. This is the resulting sketch: