Hi there!

My name is Yi Ren (任轶).  I am a UX designer and illustrator in Oakland, California.

Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @madebyyi

My hometown in the winter

I grew up in Harbin, China, which becomes a world of snow and ice in the winter. Working in design or the arts never entered the realm of possibilities. While I was little, I thought for sure I would be a scientist one day. 

The problem was I didn’t like math one bit once I started high school.

I was the fish during math classes

When it was time to choose a major in college, I looked up the requirement of each major, and eliminated the ones involving math, and picked Journalism. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t exactly love it either. 

That being said, the 6 years of going to college and working in Beijing definitely shaped who I am in more ways than I am aware of. I still haven’t found a city where you can find food as amazing, diverse and affordable. Each time I visit home in China, I make sure I spend a couple of days in Beijing, catching up with old friends over food I miss every day.

China Zun is supposed to be the tallest building in Beijing. I had never heard of it until I made this map. There’s so much to explore in the city!

In 2013, I took a leap of faith and decided to switch to a career in design. I moved to Boston, MA for graduate school, and fell in love with the intersection of science and art of UX design. Outside work, I started exploring painting in watercolor but never became any good 😛

I was really lucky that Boston (and Cambridge) was my first landing spot in the US. Before moving to the US, I thought all cities are like NYC because that’s what I saw on TV, and didn’t realize in most of the country you need to know how to drive. I didn’t drive. I still don’t know how to 🙂

After 2 years of graduate school and 2 years of working in Boston/Cambridge, I wondered what it would be like to live in another city. Because I work in tech, the San Francisco Bay Area became the obvious choice.

I became so spoiled by the weather after living in San Francisco for 3 years. How did I live with hot summers and cold winters before?! And finally, getting authentic Chinese food isn’t as difficult as in Boston.  

In 2020, while I was stuck at home, I started making art again as an outlet. I couldn’t go out much in the beginning of COVID and really missed seeing the city, so I made a map of San Francisco reminding myself what makes SF unique. 

And when I moved across the bay to Oakland, I wanted to make a map of Oakland to learn about the new city I now call home. I posted the SF map on Nextdoor as a reference, and asked neighbors for landmark suggestions. I must have gotten more than 100 suggestions.

Neighbors started asking for prints of both maps, so I put them online, and made this little website. From then on, I started illustrating consistently, with illustrated maps being one of my favorite subjects. Because my neighbors helped me finding this passion in illustration, I have been donating at least 20% of what I make from prints back to the community.

Thank you for reading and supporting my art! Get in touch if you’d like to connect.

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