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Binhua Chen (’22) talks about her thesis story ‘Xu is coming’

Binhua Chen ’22 is a graphic designer and an illustrator. Having graduated with a BFA from South China Normal University in Visual Communication Design, Binhua tends to use posters, paper-cuts, and illustrations to express. We spoke with Binhua about storytelling, the thesis project, and her story mentor.

What is your background in visual communication?
I have finished my undergraduate program in Visual Communication at South China Normal University, China, and I have done work in mascot design, layouts, and paper tapes as a freelancer.

What is the working title for your thesis story and what’s it about? 
My working title is ‘Xu is coming’. It is about Xu, an 18 years old girl who lives in a comic book. She graduates from high school and receives an invitation to move into a chapter called “Independence” where she sets out on a fantastic journey through the comic book by walking past the pages of different people. The experience gives her perspective on the pressure pushed on her by her parents. She learns from the stories of others to tell her own story.


Two pages from Binhua Chen's "Xu is coming" show a girl in a lone panel in the middle of one page talking to the reader while the second page shows 3 rows of 3 panels of a family at a dining table talking.

Two pages from Binhua Chen's "Xu is coming" show Xu overseeing the dialy lives of characters in her chapter. She appearsa girl in a lone panel in the middle of one page talking to the reader while the second page shows 3 rows of 3 panels of a family at a dining table talking.

What medium did you choose to tell your story?
It’s a comic book. I never finished a complete comic story before so that was appealing to me. It is one of the reasons I chose MFA Visual Narrative. I hope to explore different styles, different structures, and different strategies to tell stories.

Why do you feel the desire to tell this story? 
The story is an experiment with my life and career. I want to explore a way to balance my ideal and reality. I am trying to use it to analyze and recognize myself by showing how these stories shaped me. Maybe it will let me conclude who I am, and realize what I want to do, how I want to communicate, and how I can deal with social pressures. I am also utilizing this chance to explore different styles of arts and storytelling strategies to provide a kind of showcase about what I can create as a storyteller and a designer. My plan, which is clearer and clearer during this creative process, is to do completely free visual stories, and to design functional products based on them. I’d like to enjoy the process of storytelling and design together, and then, of course, make my living.

Has ‘Xu is coming’ been a story you’ve wanted to tell for a long time?
That’s a very hard question because I didn’t have the idea before joining the program but the story is exactly what I am obsessed with all the time. I am always sharing the stories about who I admire, the lessons I’ve learned, and trying to persuade people with my own logic. As I start my career, ‘Xu is falling’ is the best opportunity ever for me to systematically analyze and explain the reason why I want to explore these dynamics. I am no longer waiting for this chance to do it. Now I get to do it. It’s the right time, right now.

What is it about your mentor that has you so excited to be mentored by them? 
I am excited to have Cici Suen to be my mentor because of her variable art styles, amazing ways to organize panels, and genius strategies of story telling, which are my expectation of my own story. Because she has taught mini comics class before and she has many works that are telling stories in very limited panels, she is helping me finish my own story, which has many one-page narratives.


What work of theirs would you like to highlight, and why?
The one I want to highlight is called White Flame. I struggled to pick one of Cici’s works because one of the most important reasons I am attracted by Cici is her variable art styles. But waiving the art styles, I want to highlight ‘White Flame’, which is a story about the conversation between two girls, but also self to self that uses many different ways to manage the panels with a fantastic storytelling strategy. It uses the metaphor of taking a glass of boiling water to show the struggling mind of a girl, and implies much more things than the water – like hope, encouragement, and courage. The way she reveals the inner thoughts of the girl is progressive, affecting, accurate, and effective, and this work, of course, shows me more possibilities about my thesis story.

Thank you for speaking to us Binhua. We look forward to enjoying ‘Xu is coming’.

Be sure to follow Binhua on Instagram.

See the full story at our ‘And Then…’ thesis show on July 6th, 2022. Stay tuned!

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