Third Culture — Taste Menu

Amber Ko

Throughout my thesis project, I aimed to showcase the Chinese Canadian experience through my own lens and also inspired by the stories of those of the community and around me. Like many individuals growing up in the midst of two cultures, I have been confused in my own identity. With cultural differences between myself and my Caucasian peers when it came to family values, traditions, and especially food, the traits I used to reject I have now come to accept and appreciate. When we fuse two elements together, often created is a fusion — however in the context of my project, I define it as a third culture. Through this project, I aimed to pay tribute to those who went through the same experiences I did, and to help others going through this identity crisis to ultimately cherish their roots.

With the understanding of various individuals’ diverse upbringings, came the opportunity to tell these stories through visual design. This opened up the chance for myself to explore my identity and these long-running, rich historical and cultural stories. The borders of the Chinese culture are limitless, so in terms of time I realistically chose to focus on one aspect, food, which is the biggest thing that brings families and communities together within the Chinese culture. It’s been an extremely eye-opening and humbling experience delving into this side of my identity in the last year of my undergrad, but also especially hard going through it during a global pandemic. With so much more left to uncover and unpack, I believe that there are still tons of questions that this project left to be answered. Going forward, I want to continue to seek ways to visually communicate aspects of the Chinese Canadian identity.
Exhibition material from A Seat At The Table in Chinatown (top left, top middle, bottom left), a sample collection of YouTube thumbnails from videos watched under the Asian American/Canadian Tag in sharing experiences as individuals in the diaspora (top right), an excerpt from Eat Bitter by Lydia Pant (bottom middle), book cover of Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui (bottom right).
Various visual research, image, and moodboarding inspiration from a variety of sources, including FatBoy Zine, IYKYK from The Infatuation, Rubbish Famzine, Chinese Protest Recipes, and many more.
As a visual research sprint, I branded a Hong Kong Style Cafe that’s inspired by the Chinese Canadian/American individual’s favourites, influenced by growing up bi-culturally. With an inspiration of branding deliverables in mind such as logo, business cards, cups & dishware, and packaging, I aimed to pull a whole brand feel together with cohesive art direction. With a week’s time frame iI came up with a basic branding deck and a small takeout drink menu. This concept was inspired by Bopomofo Cafe in Los Angeles, which is run by Philip Wang of WongFu Productions, a film making group focusing on Asian-American representation in the film industry.
A concept graphic in response to the discussions surrounding authenticity in Chop Suey Nation by Ann Hui, including visual elements of stereotypical graphics that are associated with Chinese culture in the diaspora (left); A calendar concept inspired by the daily page horoscope calendars myself and many other Asian individuals of the diaspora grew up with (right).
Graphic collage, a combination of my analog photographic and graphic design practice, merging two types of elements in early exploration of my thesis topic.



Amber Ko

Amber's passion in graphic design lies in art direction, branding and identity, UX/UI, digital design and illustration. As a creative, I value effective and compelling visual communication to tell stories. Aside from working away at the computer, she love shooting photos on different analogue cameras and film stocks, collecting prints for bedroom art wall, making and drinking a variety of coffee, looking for fashion inspiration on Pinterest, and playing with her dog Koko.
Profile image of Amber Ko