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AAPI Voices: Teresa Chan

From the first moment we met surface designer Teresa Chan we knew we had to work with her. Her smart, bubbly personality and amazing pattern design begged for a collaboration. The perfect opportunity came up when we worked with New York Times contributor Colu Henry on a custom tote to usher in her new cookbook. The result? A farmer’s market tote featuring scarf wrapped handles with a stunning radicchio print designed by Teresa.

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month we visited Teresa at her home in the Berkeley hills to learn more about her creative process, how she stays organized and what it means to her to be Asian American.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you grew up, your background, etc.

I’m a surface designer/Illustrator with a passion for flora and fauna. I grew up in San Francisco as the youngest of three girls, and was a graphic designer for many years before pivoting to surface design. I currently live in the Berkeley Hills surrounded in nature with my husband, two teenagers, a cat named Togy and a barky dog named Max.


How did you start your business?

I was a graphic designer for the tech, medical and food industry. My soul wanted something more creative. I took an online course for surface pattern design, created my first pattern and fell in love. I created a pattern a day and posted it on Instagram. It gained traction and soon enough art directors and licensing agreements came my way.

How was it working on the Radicchio tote? How did the design process come together?

It was amazing and so much fun. We wanted the scarf to be classic with a modern twist. We looked into Colu’s esthetics and I began to work from there. The colors in our initial mood board helped guide the way. Radicchio is fascinating with its dark leaves and white veins.

Which software do you often use the most when working on patterns?

I use primarily Adobe Illustrator. It creates vector based art which allows the design to be sized as large or small depending on the end product.

How do you prepare for a new project you’re taking on?

Starting a new project is always exciting. Through years of working as a graphic designer then a surface designer I understand the front end and back end of getting a product printed. Asking the right questions in the initial call is key. For example, is this going to be screen or digitally printed, does the manufacturer have a template, are you using CMYK or PMS colors. The list goes on.


What’s the phone app you use most?

I use Instagram the most @teresa.chan.graphics

Do you have any tips on staying organized for work?

I think shrinking down your to do list and focusing on the top three items helps. I love using a planner and strive for 0 inbox in my email.

Are you into podcasts? If so, what genres?

I listen to podcasts during my morning run. I love School of Greatness with Lewis Howes, Super Soul, On Purpose with Jay Shetty, and Dear Gabby with Gabby Bernstein.

What does your morning routine look like?

My morning routine is sacred to me. I run with my dog Max, cold plunge and hot tub then look at my planner and write down three items I hope to accomplish for the day. It sets me up for success having that to ground me first thing before the day begins.

What song would be the soundtrack to your life?

Flash Dance––What a Feeling. I love how dramatic it is, so fun!

What does it mean to you to be Asian American?

Depending on the day you ask me, being Asian American is to straddle both worlds and feeling like I don’t belong to either. On the other hand, it’s also having a rich culture and history along with amazing opportunities.

Who or what inspires you? Do you have any AAPI role models?

I get inspired by being with other Asian American women who are challenging the norms and creating what is calling to them.

What do you think we need to do to inspires the next generation of Asian-Americans?

I think we need to level out the playing field and have more Asian American representation not isolated to being in business, medicine, law or the restaurant industry. I want to see Asian Americans have conversations about what feeds their soul. How would our community look like if we were not playing it safe?