By Ryan Pangilinan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
To many people, Vern Yip is best known as the former designer on the long-running television show, “Trading Spaces,” on The Learning Channel. Others identify Yip as the current host and creator of “Deserving Design” on Home and Garden Television.
However, if someone were to ask Yip if he planned on having a career in television, the answer would have been no.
Yip’s early undergraduate education had an emphasis on economics and chemistry, but he eventually found his passion in architecture and design.
Based in Atlanta, Ga., his company, Vern Yip Design, gained the interest of TV producers. He won the Southeast Designer of the Year award in 2000.
“[The producers of “Trading Spaces”] thought I would be a good addition to the cast,” said Yip. “They asked me to come audition, and they pretty much offered me the job on the spot, and I said that I wasn’t really that interested.”
The $1,000 design budget that Trading Spaces offered people for the projects was limiting to Yip. He eventually changed his mind when he realized how the show opens the door for the design industry.
“What I really liked about the show, or the concept of the show, rather, was the idea that great design can be accessible, and it can be something that everybody can have and make everybody’s life better,” he said. “I fell in love with the process of making a television show about design.”
Following his stint on “Trading Spaces,” Yip moved on to his own show, “Deserving Design,” a program in which Yip redesigns two rooms in the homes of inspirational families.
“‘Deserving Design’ is a show that I love doing,” Yip said. “‘Trading Spaces’ was a great training ground for what I’m doing now.”
On April 25, Yip will be making an appearance as the featured guest for the upcoming Eye on Design event at the Seattle Design Center.
“It’s really a different kind of event, and I’m excited to come to Seattle to be doing it,” said Yip. “We’re going to be showing a lot of examples of my work but also talking about why design is relevant in the lives of everybody, why it’s such an important thing.
“Because ultimately, design isn’t just about making a space beautiful or pretty, although that is oftentimes the end result. The real purpose of design is to transform somebody’s life. … We’re going to be talking about what design elements are in peoples’ lives, how people can access design smartly, and we’ll be leading a panel discussion where we’ll be answering questions that people have.”
In addition to having a celebrated career and an articulate voice for design, Yip’s profile on TV has made him one of the few Asian Americans on national TV.
“I think it’s still interesting [that there are not many Asian Americans on TV],” said Yip. “I’m not quite sure why that is, because Asian Americans have been in the states for many generations now and we’re involved in all facets of society. … I would really love to see more Asian Americans represented on television. It will give people a more diverse representation.”
For people who are interested in having a beginning career in design, Yip offers prudent and important advice:
“The best designers I know are the people who have broad experience and a broad-based education. That’s not necessarily what people think right away. Instead, they think, ‘Okay, if I want to be a designer, I should go to design school and focus on design right away,’” said Yip.
“Nothing against design school — it’s a very valid path for a lot of folks, but I’ve always found that one of the things I could always lean on, and it’s the strength in a lot of designers I respect, is that they are educated in a lot of other fields as well. … Study history, study literature, study science, study math — all of those things influence design, believe it or not, and you can give yourself an advantage if you have an understanding of all those subjects,” he said.
Yip also stressed the importance of studying other cultures and countries and looking beyond immediate influences and surroundings. He also advised to home in on listening skills to understand the client’s needs. (end)
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.