Alumni Spotlight: Yvonne Cao, MFA 2012

Yvonne Cao is a graphic designer, typographer, and educator who was born and raised in Hunan, China. She came to the United States for an honors exchange program at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN and received a BA in mass communication, Department of Electronic Media Production in 2009, and then went on to LSU for her master’s degree. She received an MFA in graphic design in 2012. As a designer she draws on her dual cultural backgrounds, and she has worked for renowned clients such as Johnsons & Johnsons, Colgate, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, and Pier 1 Imports.

Yvonne Cao (MFA 2010)

Yvonne Cao (MFA 2012)

She is currently an assistant professor of graphic design at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. Yvonne teaches interactive design, typography and publication design. Her areas of focus include cross-cultural branding, typography, interactive design, UI/UX design and motion graphics. Her professional graphic design work has received recognition from the HOW International Design Awards, GRAPHIS, American Advertising Awards, Summit International Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards and UCDA Design awards.

In her recent research “Visual Translation,” which started as a thesis project in LSU, she focuses on how to facilitate a smooth visual transition in cross-cultural branding by using typography. To move beyond traditional type design, her work introduces an innovative methodology for designing typefaces using existing Latin typefaces; it is created as an educational tool, which seeks to help graphic design students and type enthusiasts, with an emphasis on designers who work on cross-cultural branding. She has presented her scholarly research at major design conferences the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and TypeCon.

Her journey to become a designer started back in her first year living in U.S., she said. “I took many beautiful tourist photographs in order to preserve those memories, and then I began organizing type in the layouts and making everything fit and still be legible.”

Yvonne realized that she was interested in the design itself, and really enjoyed creating these visual works. “I’ve come to realize that everything we do is experiential, from packages to posters to brochures,” she said. “Everything we create needs to take the end users’ experience into account.”

She chose the LSU masters program because the teaching assistantship offered “a great opportunity to practice teaching,” she said; Yvonne aspired to go into a career in higher education. While at LSU, she served as an instructor for different courses, from traditional graphic design in print and analogue media, to classes that include the more advanced technologies and techniques. Through those experiences she learned “to foster and support a range of student learning styles, which in turn leads to a better learning environment.”

Teaching a seminar course prepared graduate students who were pursuing a teaching career with “a total package from application guidelines, course materials to teaching methodologies,” she said. “The course engaged us in critical discussions of current scholarship in the fields of learning and pedagogy, with opportunities to apply new pedagogical approaches in our own teaching practice.”

Though she chose LSU primarily for the teaching opportunities, Yvonne also thought that Louisiana would be an interesting cultural experience, coming from China, and she was particularly intrigued by Cajun culture. After graduation she was offered the assistant professorship position from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and moved to Texas.

As a graphic design educator, her focus is to construct a teaching environment that is friendly to discussion and asking questions, where students are encouraged to develop problem-solving strategies and lifelong learning skills. “For me, teaching is a collective and reflective enterprise in which teachers and students at all levels learn from each other in a respectful and thoughtful environment,” she said. “I feel I benefit from this symbiosis as much as the students.”

Besides teaching and conducting research, Yvonne runs a freelance business that provides design services including brand development/support, identity systems, book/publication design, and UIUX Design. “I have generated work from clients both large and small – from boutique businesses and start-ups to Fortune 500 companies,” she said.

Yvonne said that becoming a graphic designer has changed the way she perceives the world. “I think being a designer has increased my thirst for learning,” she said. “The more I know, the more I want to know – and the better my solutions. Bruce Mau said, ‘It’s not about the world of design, it’s about the design of the world.’ I wanted to be a contributor to the evolution of the world.”