DIM SUM COLLECTIVE

Michelle Zheng

Empowering AAPI women and amplifying their voices.

Dim Sum Collective is a project about the female Asian American experience. The “Collective” means that this is a project made through group effort. I am the designer but nothing could be done without the ideas and voices of the women I talked with. And “Dim Sum” is a Chinese afternoon tea/ brunch is commonly had with friends and family.

If we go in a large group, we sit around a spinning table filled with foods and tea that we share. And just like how we eat, drink, and talk around this table, this is what my project represents. I want to create a safe space for women to have meaningful conversations with each other and in turn, start a community of empowered AAPI women.


Problem Space

Asian hate crimes have been rising rapidly since the start of the pandemic. When the 2021 Atlanta spa shooting which killed six Asian women happened, it came out that the motivation behind the attack was a sex addiction and ironically the police statement came out denying any racial motivations and even excused the perpetrator’s actions as simply a bad day. This was a wake-up call for how little western society has progressed in the way they view Asian women. The umbrella term AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islanders) often ignores the unique forms of hyper-sexualization, fetishization, and othering that Asian women face. The issues surrounding Asian women are intersectional. AAPI women’s gender, race, and social class are inextricably tied to how they have been oppressed in the past and even now.

Objective

This project aims to create a community among AAPI women to share their stories surrounding racism, misogyny, and their Asian-American experience. Through a print-based publication and a website, Dim Sum Collective uses design as a tool to create a space that can spotlight important discussions. Most importantly, this project aims to empower women and encourage vulnerability through storytelling.

The Project

Part 1: Visual Identity

The visual identity of this project rejects rigid structures and a “professional,” glossy outcome. Inspired by past feminist organizations/movements like Guerilla Girls and Riot Grrl and a bit of pop art, Dim Sum Collective emulates strength, boldness, and personality through an analog collage design style.

Keywords: culture, community, bold, power, amplify, hand-done, personal



The lips represent the act of eating at the dim sum table but also speaking and sharing stories. The two lines present the projection of the voice and also chopsticks. And the text expanding is both going outwards and inwards representing the importance of sharing our experiences but also being present to take in other people’s stories.


Part 2: Dim Sum Zine – Issue One

The first issue of the Dim Sum Zine, titled “Kindly Fuck Off,” was created during the winter of 2021. I asked Asian women to send me screenshots and transcripts of the graphic remarks they receive both on-screen and off. I created this zine, not with the intent to further victimize these women but to give power to their voices. Through the usage of humour and irony, I wanted to address serious topics in a light-hearted way (hence the name).


Part 3: Dim Sum Zine – Issue 2

The second issue, titled “We haven’t talked in a while… Let’s go for dimsum:),” was created during winter/spring of 2022. The making process of this zine started with a workshop I hosted for my female Asian peers. At the workshop, I asked the seven participants to make a collage using the old magazines I gathered based on a story they want to share about their experiences being Asian women. Just like how we would gather around the dim sum table and share food, we shared materials and stories with each other. We spent those two hours talking about our personal experiences and learning about our similarities and differences. Afterwards, I collected their stories and collage pieces and designed a zine around them.

Risograph printing process

Part 4: Website

The website serves as a platform to host the zines. In concept, the user will be able to read, buy, and contribute to future zines on the site. The design process started with thumbnail sketches and wireframe designs to a functioning prototype through Adobe XD.

Acknowledgements

I live and work on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation).

A special thanks to the Asian women who contributed to this project, to my peers who supported me along the way, and to Jon Hannan for always motivating me when I felt stuck and for being an overall amazing mentor.

Michelle Zheng

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I am a Chinese-Canadian graphic designer whose identity as an AAPI woman affects the way I go about my design practice. My values are relationships, connection, open-mindedness, growth, and exploration. My interests include fashion, films, theatre and music, which all influence my design style. I am very hands-on when it comes to making and I enjoy creating tangible things. I also have a background in fine arts such as painting and drawing. This influences my approach toward design when it comes to experimenting and aesthetics.

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