Yunyi Dai

Yunyi Dai

(She/Her) • Los Angeles , USA


Yunyi Dai is a Chinese illustrator based in Los Angeles. As a storyteller and a visual solver, Yunyi is passionate about creating Editorial Illustrations, Children’s Book Illustrations, Illustrated Gifs, and 3D Illustrations. Her work is full of witty, whimsical ideas in bright, bold colors. She wants to help people tell their stories through unique conceptual solutions.

Selected clients

NPR Next Generation Radio, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Poetry Foundation, Green American Magazine, Bethesda Magazine, Current Magazine, Fashion Zoo Magazine, Audiation Premium Podcast Production, American University Radio, KUNR Public Radio, Capital Public Radio

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  • 2022 Chosen Winner, American Illustration 41
  • 2022 Winner, Illustration Category, Applied Arts Awards
  • 2022 Winner, Illustration: Professional, Creative Quarterly 69
  • 2022 Honorable Mention, 3×3 International Illustration Show
  • 2022 Finalist, Young Ones ADC Awards
  • 2022 Short List, Hiii Illustration International Competition
  • 2022 Short List, Communication Arts Illustration
  • 2021 Short List, Communication Arts Illustration
  • 2021 Silver Award, 3×3 International Illustration Show
  • 2020 Merit Award, 3×3 International Illustration Show
  • 2019 New Talent Merit Award, iJungle Illustration Awards

Career Milestones

I have traveled across the United States since 2019 with NPR Next Generation Radio. As the Lead Project Illustrator, I created numerous banners, portraits, and editorial illustrations.

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Yunyi Dai

Your Pronouns

Where is home?
I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. I have been living in the United States since I was 14. Over the years, I have lived in Portland, Baltimore, and New York City. I am currently based in Los Angeles. I have always considered Shanghai, Portland, and Baltimore my home where I had many precious memories growing up.

Describe your illustration style in one sentence
I build a world of fantasy with whimsical creatures, landscapes, and interiors, sometimes with a splash of dark humor.

What lights your soul on fire?
I seek inspiration through movies, weekend adventures, food traveling, dreams, museums, and fun everyday conversations with my friends. I have two cats named Cookie and Maki. I observe them for character design ideas. It lights my soul on fire knowing that I can feed my cats through illustration.

What themes do you enjoy exploring in your illustrations?
My love for color has made children, animals, food, nature, health, and lifestyle my favorite themes to illustrate. I have always been a big horror and thriller movie fan. I have been creating illustrations with dark and eerie subject matter every year during the Halloween season.

What techniques do you use?
The main elements in my work are color psychology, shapes, and composition.
I spend a lot of time brainstorming and blocking out shapes and values in grayscale before beginning a project. I embrace a painterly method in the process of illustration. Putting my graphics into motion or building playful scenes in 3D are my favorite techniques to activate the story in the picture.

What do you want to be known for?
I want to be known as a good storyteller in my visual narrative and to be recognized for my unique conceptual solutions. I find it meaningful to help others tell their stories as well as my own.

Which projects excite you most?
I am most excited by projects with unique personal anecdotes and stories with new information to learn about the world. I am the type of artist who cannot decide on a wallpaper for my laptop, so I am always thrilled to take on new challenges and be inspired.

How has your style evolved since you started?
I was a painter before I learned digital illustration. When I started illustrating, I was influenced by artists with beautiful fluid line work. Over time, I have learned to fully embrace the shape language in my work while combining it with vibrant clashing colors.

What do you find most challenging in your practice or in the illustration industry?
The illustration industry is constantly evolving. The biggest challenge in my practice is finding new ways to break new territory in illustration. I try to learn a new skill set every year to expand my portfolio. Last year I learned how to make illustrated GIFs to bring my pictures into motion. This year I learned how to 3D model my concepts and add another dimension to my work. I think it is important to challenge oneself to learn new techniques every year.

Name a tool you can’t live without!
My first art tool was Elmer’s Liquid Glitter Glue. I made a great mess out of it. Nowadays, I cannot live without a pencil, and a notebook — drawing a mind map with doodles for conceptualization before starting a project has been a crucial part of my process.

Tell us about a project you worked on that was meaningful to you as an artist.
“Yes, Mother” was the first series of illustrations I created for myself. In a sparsely lit gothic mansion filled with rooms of strange apparitions and sinister furnishings, a young child tells unsettling stories of her everyday life. Each illustration depicts the psychological traumas and anxieties I experienced as a kid. Growing up is a scary thing. The project was a personal story I brought to the world, hoping to raise awareness for children who experience emotional and physical abuse.

Why do you think art speaks louder than words?
Art is a vulnerable and powerful form of expression. It can instantly capture and elevate the pinnacle of a story before photos and words do.

Illustrating the future

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