2012 New Visual Artist: Tracy Ma

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By Ian Volner

Reference manual for Boredom and Destraction, 2010

Careerwise, Tracy Ma has just landed on the moon. The 23-year-old designer, born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto, wrapped up her undergraduate studies at Canada’s York University in 2010, and for the next year and a half settled into a professional pattern that she unfondly recalls as a rut. “I was just kind of unhappy,” she says. Working at a big ad agency and helping with the redesign of a local magazine, Ma wasn’t exactly at loose ends, but the postcollegiate malaise was definitely upon her.

Age: 23Graphic designer/art directorFrom: Hong KongLives in: New York CityWebsite: http://tracyma.com/

Then, last October, she got the call. Richard Turley, creative director for Bloomberg Businessweek, had heard about Ma’s work from her friend (and fellow New Visual Artist; see page 52) Drea Zlanabitnig. By an uncanny coincidence, Jennifer Daniel, the graphics director at the magazine (and NVA, class of 2009), had bought a piece of Ma’s artwork at the New York Art Book Fair. Ma says, “When Richard asked for her input, she was like, ‘Oh, her!’ ” The planets had come into alignment, and Turley summoned Ma to New York.

Illustration for Bloomberg Businessweek

Design for Boomberg Businessweek spreads, 2011

Poster for Interiors and Tony Takitani DVD packaging (self-initiated), 2010

Chart design for Toronto Life

The city is a “big rush of never-ending invention,” Ma says, “a sensation of being late to everything.” Feeling like a stranger in a strange land is not unknown to the designer (she emigrated from Hong Kong at the age of eight), and it’s an experience that has colored her work. Her pages for Bloomberg are littered with pop fragments, the magpie method of someone trying to assemble a picture of an unfamiliar world (e.g., her two-page spread on the Occupy movement, with its floating disjecta membra from Zuccotti Park). Ma says, “I think graphic design is so much about that—finding common denominators, a wink or an Easter egg, an in-joke or something.” And at least for now, Ma seems to have found a sweet spot at Bloomberg, a place on the inside for an outsider.

Menu design for Smith restaurant, 2010

Menu design for Smith restaurant, 2010

Menu design for Smith restaurant, 2010

See the other 2012 NVA winners:

  1. Sang Mun

  2. Erin Schell

  3. Berton Hasebe

  4. Drea Zlanabitnig

  5. Casper Heijkenskjöld

  6. Kelsey Dake

  7. Jerome Corgier

  8. Tracy Ma

  9. Olimpia Zagnoli

  10. Ryan Thacker

  11. John Passafiume

  12. Lisa Hedge

  13. Jungyeon Roh

  14. Dafi Kühne

  15. Jing Wei

  16. Caleb Bennett

  17. Naz Sahin

  18. Serifcan Ozcan

  19. Brendan Griffiths

  20. George Michael Brower

More Design Resources:

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  2. Available now: Print Magazine’s Guest Art Director Digital Collection

  3. Get an inside look at logo design from Chermayeff & Geismar