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  • Inez Suen

Words: Throwback to Chinese New Year Product Designs 1999

Chinese New Year is coming up next week and I was reminded of a major #throwback to 1999 when I was an intern at DesignIdeas. Not many people know that I’m a trained product designer. I got my undergrad degree in Industrial Design at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. It was during my time at UIUC that I earned an internship at this small yet mighty giftware company based in Springfield, Illinois. Andy Van Meter founded the company by selling shower caddies door to door in the 80s. He is one of those rare open minded midwesterners who allowed a 21 year old me to set up an entire showroom of thousands of products at the LA mart during the giftware show.

When I was younger I was extremely ambitious and stubborn (I guess not much has changed 🤪). I demanded to Chris Hardy, the design director that they should produce my own line of Chinese New Year 🧧 products… 😂 the amazing part is that they actually did!

[Above top] are tealight holders with dragon motif; [bottom left] molded glass votive holders with 100 ways to write 壽 (longevity); and [bottom right] paper wrapped glass votives with 福祿壽喜 (luck, wealth, longevity and happiness).

[left] molded glass stack of coins taper candle holders -set of six [right] hurricane paper lamp with 龍 (Chinese character for dragon 🐉) In the catalog photograph, the lamp should be turned 90° to see the character properly. I remember at the time being so embarrassed and upset that the graphic design department made this mistake. I begged and pleaded for them to change it, but they said it was too late to reshoot and reprint. 😡

[Above] Dragon paperclip as an addition to their office products line

These products are still very much alive in my life, and they “spark joy” and remind me daily of this great experience I had. It also makes me very grateful of all the people in my life who have contributed to who I am today. Wishing everybody a very happy Chinese New Year of the Pig 🐷. 新年快樂!恭喜發財!豬年大吉!🙇🏻‍♀️🧧😁


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