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Cooper Union Senior Profiles: Yun Gao

Who are you? Tell me about yourself.

I am an artist/designer born in China and raised in the U.S. I am currently a senior at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City, where I have taken advantage of many design courses. My work circles around social and cultural conversations, and I have a special interest in exploring the overlap of design and education. I have taught at The Cooper Union Saturday Program, a tuition-free studio art program for NYC high school students taught by Cooper undergraduates, and worked at Block as a junior brand designer. I am currently collaborating with EA Creative, an engineering, urban planning, and design firm that works with large-scale transportation clients.

When are you graduating?

Really soon — May 2023

What is your major? And why did you choose your major?

I major in fine art (BFA). I chose the major because I think art was something I was best at since I was a little kid. I never expected it to be an actual career option until I got to college, but I would probably become a nurse if I didn’t choose art for the sake of stability.

Who is someone you look up to in your field? Either today or historically?

Although I have no one particular in the field that I look up to, I respect my sister greatly as she is the most hardworking person I know, and I draw my inspiration from small everyday encounters living with my family.

Why did you choose Cooper Union?

I came to Cooper for many different reasons. First, Cooper Union has always been the most prestigious art school in the U.S. Not only did they provide tons of scholarships, but Cooper students are also not “majored” like other art schools. The freedom works out for me because I really didn’t know what I wanted to specialize in. Secondly, I have lived in New York City for the past 10 years, so proximity was important.

What is one thing that you learned at Cooper that you didn’t expect?

One of the surprising things that The Cooper Union has taught me is the power of communication, and how good design is often unnoticeable.

What inspires you?

Reading and watching other people’s creative processes.

What are you reading, listening to, or watching?

Of course, The Glory! It’s a k-drama series on Netflix about revenge. The plot twist in this show is so satisfying and I watched it three times just because I was recommending it to other people. Part two is coming up in two weeks so I am hyper-excited about it. I have also been reading “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” by Scott McCloud, a great book about understanding comics as an art medium.

What do you see yourself in 5 years?

I don’t think I have a big dream right now, but hopefully, I can become sustainable as an NYC designer in the future.

What are you passionate about? And what do you do in your free time to refresh yourself?

I am passionate about communicating a story using my design. The story could be a political scandal or a funny object I found on the street. But most importantly, being able to talk to people using the most powerful language—visual language – is what I love about design. In my free time, I like to drive myself around just to refresh my eyes and brain.

What is art?

Many people have asked me this question over the years because I attend an art school. But honestly, I don't know the answer either, and its ambiguity makes art artistic.

Some examples of Yun's work. (When we saw her work – we knew we needed to collaborate)

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