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Digital Design Manager ShuYuan Zheng Takes Readers Behind the Scenes of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art

MoMA Design Store on 81 Spring Street in Soho (Photo Credit: ShuYuan Zheng)

New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is one of the most famous showcases of artistic talent in the world. Each year, over 7M people visit, lingering over works created by Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and other notable figures. In the global age, however, there is another popular side to MoMA: its online design store, which features everything from prints by Georgia O’Keeffe to Royland Kiola pianos, jewelry, and jigsaw puzzles. The artistic team behind MoMA’s digital store maintains a delicate balance between telling the stories of these products, building connections between the artists and store visitors, and educating the public about art and good design. Below, ShuYuan Zheng, the Design Manager at MoMA Design Store, lets readers into the museum’s unseen world of visual design, where every word, line, and detail must be meticulously chosen to make the biggest impact.

ShuYuan, who is also a successful product designer, illustrator, and digital artist, works his digital design magic on the fourth-floor of MoMA. His office lies behind a hidden door that shuts out the hum of the museum, allowing him to concentrate on how best to showcase an artist’s product to online visitors. ShuYuan’s desk is piled with design references, posters, product samples, previous MoMA design store catalogs, and material samples. To the outsider, it can appear a little like chaos, but to an artist such as ShuYuan, it is the epicenter of creativity, one that allows him to work with a product up close before posting its story on the online store.

“As an artist and industrial designer, working here at MoMA is immensely satisfying because I get to focus on my passion: design,” says ShuYuan. “I absolutely love to tell stories using interactive media, especially when it is for something that is bigger than myself. Here at the museum, I am fortunate to have helped with several impactful MoMA collaborations, including with the iconic artist Yoko Ono, Yink Illori and other trending leading designers, and design-centric brands, such as Bodum and Baggu. The success of each project is important to me, and it is thrilling to be able to take the vision that is in my mind and see it come alive on the Internet for thousands to enjoy.”

ShuYuan explains that when he and his team are given a new product to launch on MoMA’s digital store, it will likely require a diverse range of approaches to accomplish. The challenge is to understand the vision and stay flexible while still drawing upon foundational digital design skills.

“There is no standard approach to launching a piece of art, a couch, a book, or a mug. We must remain open-minded so that our creativity is not stifled,” he explains. “Ultimately, it will involve a combination of marketing content development, digital content development, photography, daily e-news creation, social media, and website design strategies. I may also tap into the collaborative power of our international branches, whose creative design I oversee. The goal is to stitch together the commercial and educational ends of MoMA in a way that is fresh, exciting, and unforgettable.”

ShuYuan says that one of his favorite projects was the MoMA Design Store Heritage Month Campaign, which celebrated Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Earth Month, and Pride Month.

“As the Design Manager, I worked with three other creative team members to supply the signage and digital-window-display assets for two New York City locations,” ShuYuan explains. “It was actually quite complex, as I had to be very familiar with the designers and stories of all the products that MoMA carries and select those that best represented the spirit of the month as well as MoMA’s Design Store. By doing so, I was able to come up with the overarching themes and designers to spotlight for each of these occasions.”

ShuYuan worked with each artist to gather photos, short interviews and other needed materials so that he could tell a compelling story about each product or design, especially how it represented their heritage. The products for Women’s History Month were particularly interesting.

“We included Akosua Afriyie-Kumi from the Ghana company AASK, which creates handcrafted bags; Ellen van Dusen, a Brooklyn-based designer and founder of Dusen Dusen; the Korean brand Studio Style Jieum; and founders of Remake Glass, which promotes zero waste and sustainability,” he says. “I carefully selected this assortment so that we could showcase a wide range of products and groups from around the world, from home goods to accessories, all from iconic trendsetters and innovators of material technology.”

Each spotlighted story included process images to let the public learn more about the journey a product took from conceptualization to actualization. Some of the most intriguing photos were of the designers with their sketched products, which allowed customers to understand the inspiration or technique behind them.

The assets that ShuYuan created, including for MoMA’s website, social media,digital newsletters, and digital window displays, ultimately helped to connect the public with artists and creatives from diverse backgrounds.

“These initiatives showcase how the artists’ practices have influenced and shaped today’s cultural landscape, unveiling the faces behind iconic art pieces,” says ShuYuan. “MoMA’s design store shares a similar mission by connecting designers with the everyday objects we interact with. We tell stories about how their creativity, craftsmanship, and heritage converge to create products that seamlessly integrate into our daily lives.”

With MoMA a worldwide name, future online projects are always on the horizon. As a Digital Design Manager, ShuYuan aims to contribute to the museum’s growing reputation as a center of excellent design as well as to improve the overall experience of visiting and shopping at MoMA.

“As a designer, I want to innovate how the digital and physical worlds are connected and continue to deepen my skills in product design, bio-design, visual design, sculpture, and interactive digital art,” he says. “My team and I have an important role to play, one that can instill a sense of excitement and meaning into MoMA’s digital storefront and educate visitors in a way that is just as vital as visiting the museum itself. It is a new legacy for the museum, one that will continue for years to come.”