Objects That Talk! | Wan-Ya (Megan) Chen


Objects that Talk! is a print publication that is dedicated towards re-examining the souvenirs in our lives. How do everyday objects, practices, foods, and rituals become anchors for cultural histories — both personal and shared amongst a collective group of individuals?

By sourcing stories from the community, Objects That Talk! is a publication series that showcases how everyday diasporic objects can be reclaimed in a way to shape alternative ideas of cultural history and authenticity. With each newspaper taking on the form of an individual’s story, audience members are invited to read and collect the stories to take home.

Stories sourced from multiple people in the community. Many thanks to Alex Bloom, Carol Yin, Byron Camacho, Selena Ho, and Pablo Clairmont Salvatierra for taking the time to share their experiences with me!

Scroll down to the very bottom to read each story! 

Final Deliverables: Series of six 22″ x 17″ single sheet newspapers, RISO printed on newsprint and Canson 20lb paper, editions of 100

Creative Direction, Typography, Print & Publication Design, Copy Editing, RISO Print Production, Illustration

This project was awarded the John C. Kerr Chancellor Emeritus Award for Excellence in Design

how can I employ design to share stories about cultural identity in a way that is reflective and representative of their complexity, humanity, and individuality?

Some objects in my life that inspired me to think about the nature behind everyday objects and the stories they tell.

(Left to right) a jar of tiger balm, lucky cat statue, and Taiwan’s famous ChiaTe Pineapple Shortcake

So what? 

Growing up, I remember being constantly annoyed and slightly embarrassed at how “Asian” I was…which led to me spending lots of time pushing away my heritage – so much so that by the time I became interested in reclaiming that part of my identity, I felt a bit hopeless, given the fact that I knew almost nothing about the Taiwanese part of myself. Was it too late? It felt like it was. Years of stubbornly refusing to pay attention in Chinese school had led to broken mandarin, which just widened the communication gap. Years of awkward teen angst also meant not wanting to talk to my parents – much less inquire and listen to their immigration stories. 

Which brings us here today. I was curious about this question of “is it too late? Because, if I’m being honest, it wasn’t like I knew absolutely nothing about my Taiwanese heritage. How had I come to possess these different fragments of my culture? As I began to dive deeper, I thought about how, growing up, and even today, I often associated the “Taiwanese” part of myself with certain practices, rituals, foods, and objects. 

As someone who has come to associate her cultural identity with certain objects and practices, I was curious to see if that was the case for others with hyphenated identities as well.

I also think about what it means to live in a country like Canada that is often touted as a multicultural ideal. While we are lucky in so many ways, it seems like national multiculturalism only values cultures as novelty acts, food in the ethnic aisle, and costumes on holidays, while skipping over the often turbulent history and unresolved narratives of lived experiences. In fact, we don’t often think of personal stories as a part of Canada’s history at all. Although often used as signifiers of our own alienation, perhaps everyday diasporic objects can be reclaimed in a way to shape alternative ideas of cultural history and authenticity.


Large format newspapers gave me room to tell each person’s story (with the depth and detail I wanted), and also allowed for accessibility when it came to reaching a wider audience. By not creating a precious and expensive singular book object and instead opting for a lo-fi mass produced newspaper, I could print out multiple copies on a small budget and distribute them quickly — all without sacrificing any quality, since the RISO inks always turn out pigmented and bright.

Next Steps

Along with the newspapers themselves, I also printed some “extras” that would fold into each story. Below, you can see examples of what I eventually hope to produce for each story: large format reproductions of photos, illustrations, recipes, etc. will act as inserts to bring to life each featured object.

(Below, starting from the top) Illustration of tiger balm for Objects That Talk! Foreword, 8.5″ x 11″ poster

4-colour faux CMYK RISO print of my own family’s restaurant, an insert meant for Issue #5 of Objects That Talk! The Lucky Cat, 8.5″ x 11″

Hello there!

Megan Chen is a Communication Designer & Illustrator currently based in Vancouver, BC.

Her work includes print & publication design, illustration, creative direction, and type design. At the moment, she’s especially fond of collaborative projects that use design as a vehicle to examine cultural identity and social issues. 

She’s worked with The Health Design LabG Day for GirlsLunapadsImagine Create Media, and Contrast Collective.