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Academy of Art University Graduate Takes SIGGRAPH Top Honors ... Again!

Academy of Art University graduate Garman Yip has been selected as the First Place winner in this year's SIGGRAPH Student Interactive Media Competition.

Yip, who earned an MFA in New Media at the Academy, now works for TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, in the interactive group known as "Tequila." Jin Young Kim, also an Academy student, nabbed the same award last year — quite a coup for the Academy of Art University considering the number of incredibly talented entrants.

Garman’s winning entry, Poetic Waves, is a moving exploration and documentation of the Chinese internment camp at Angel Island. Poetic Waves is not only thought provoking, but it pushes Web technology to a new level of interactivity.

Garman Yip's winning effort will be highlighted at the SIGGRAPH International Conference in Los Angeles, California July 31 through August 4, 2005.

We spoke to Garman about the award, his time the Academy, and his future:

Tell us about how you developed the site, from receiving the assignment to choosing the subject matter to executing the "Poetic Waves" concept?

I was first introduced to the Angel Island Immigration Station by my father. As an immigrant from Hong Kong, he always taught me to appreciate the sacrifices Chinese immigrants made to come to America. However, growing up here made it difficult for me to relate to their struggle.

It wasn't until 2002, when I moved to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art, that I learned more about Asian American heritage and began to see for myself what my father and other immigrants had gone through. For the first time, I was living among many other Asians Americans and realized that there are millions of people just like me.

The first time I visited Angel Island, I felt this story should be shared and remembered by new generations who otherwise would not know the story of how they became American. I saw the immigrant struggle as an opportunity to learn and wanted to expose it. It is hard to see where to go if you do not know where you are from, and I felt that if this story became lost, so might we.

I was confident I could design a Web site to extend the reach of the Angel Island Immigration Station story. The inscriptions of poetry are perfect visual and verbal representations of the past. Primarily, "Poetic Waves" is for young Asian Americans who want to learn more about their history. It is also for anyone whose family came to America in search of a better life. Angel Island is just one place at one time, one representation of the pursuit of the American dream. What stared out as a Web site about Asian immigrants had suddenly transformed into a larger concept that I hoped everyone could relate to.

I began this project by gathering information from the Internet, libraries, the National Archives, interviews, and in gaining support from local Asian American organizations. I asked lots of questions and attended a tour guide training session of the Immigration Station. I then organized the information into several binders. I wanted to use the typography from immigration documents to overlay old photographs. This was to show how the immigrants were held back by the American legal system and the Exclusion Laws, which made it virtually impossible to come to America. This became the visual style of the project and would later become the navigation system for the Web site. The name "Poetic Waves" refers to both the ocean waves and the waves of Asian immigrants.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting the site together?

The greatest challenge was to organize the large amount of information and make it easily understood by the viewers. The articles, brochures, maps, and immigration documents needed to be simplified. The highest level of organization was to group the site into five sections, which were the Tour, Poetry, People, Timeline, and Gallery. This introduced the information in the same way one would visit Angel Island.

From the tour section, the viewer is introduced to an overview and the history of the Immigration Station. Second, they discover the poetry carved on the walls and hear the voices of those who were detained, spoken in both Chinese and English. Third are quotes from immigrants; they were interviewed years later, describing their personal experiences. Fourth is the Timeline, which put the events into chronological context, starting from the first Asian American immigrants and through to today. Lastly, the Photo Gallery helps the viewer visualize the events that took place. Each section was color-coded to reinforce this architecture.

I also included an audio guide, video, and designed each page individually to fit the content.

How did you enter the running for the award?

I was made aware of this competition by Lourdes Livingston, the Director the New Media Graduate Program. Lourdes has been a great supporter of this project since it began. She convinced me to submit the project to SIGGRAPH.

How did you enjoy your time at the Academy of Art?

My experience at the Academy was amazing. Every class that I took played an important role in my personal development as an artist. Those who stand out are Alex Pineda, Terry and Nori Green, Mitch Hudson, Scott Looney, Betsy Kopmar, Gabe Zentall, Lourdes Livingston, Mark Badger, Carolina de Bartolo, and many more.

I was also very influenced by friends at the Academy, my favorite days in class was when students would present their work. The large number of Asians who I befriended also helped me translate information for Poetic Waves.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to continue my career in design and to contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Asian American history. I hope to explore other mediums besides the Web, such as motion graphics, print, outdoor photography, and film.

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