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  • Writer's pictureHarleen Kaur

Katarina Nguyen-Mai: DTP Logo Design Contest Winner and Vietnamese Lasallian Youth Troop Leader

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

San Jose State University student Katarina Nguyen-Mai won first place in the DTP (Downtown Transportation Project) Logo Design Project. The contest challenged college students to design the best logo for the project, aiming to improve the safety and transportation of Downtown San Jose.

The logo design contest was a way to get the youth involved and interested in the transportation project. Chopsticks Alley is a community partner involved in the DTP to help the Asian community engage and provide feedback for the project.

As the population of San Jose continues to grow, the city wants to implement better and efficient systems for pedestrians, drivers, busses, and all forms of transportation. The city wants to reduce the reliance on cars in order to have better infrastructure for the people living in Downtown San Jose as well as the environment. The plan involves reducing Downtown San Jose’s car access to 15% in 30 years.

Chopsticks Alley was able to sit down with the contest winner Katarina Nguyen-Mai to ask some questions about the logo and the contest.

Can you explain the project you worked on?

The Downtown Transport Project wanted DTP to be the main element. DTP is about transportation and safety in downtown San Jose. I wanted to make a clean logo that embodies safety and clean streets.

Can you explain the design you made?

The main element is DTP and I also added the dashed lines on the letters of DTP to make it look like a road. I put icons of people, a bus, and a biker interacting with the plaza design. After talking with the people in charge of the Downtown Transportation Project, I narrowed down my design to include a person in a wheelchair, a pedestrian, and a bus to keep the design simple. They are all traveling in one place together.

What was your inspiration behind the logo? I was initially planning on making the logo look like a plaza because I thought of this area downtown called San Pedro Square. I got my main inspiration from that. It is a very simplified version of that street that is supposed to look inviting and safe with bright colors.

How did you come to participate in this project?

I am a Graphic Design major at SJSU (San Jose State University). I originally wasn’t planning on participating in this contest in the first place. Then, I thought I might as well try something and see where it goes. I didn’t expect to win or anything.

How did you get into graphic design?

Growing up, I've always been an artistic person. After taking one graphic design class in high school, I decided to major in graphic design as I enjoyed that class a lot. Design is an important form of communication which greatly influences society, and I enjoy figuring out ways to best communicate an idea or message in an aesthetic way.

What inspires your design?

A lot of personal projects I do for fun are inspired by music, whether it be the lyrics or the music video. I love making album covers as they can better help a listener understand the music the cover represents.

I hear that you are a part of VLYT (Vietnamese Lasallian Youth Troupe), can you introduce the group?

We are a Catholic performing arts group, founded in 1990, that helps the Vietnamese youth learn and stay in touch with their culture and their religion through performance. We perform at religious events for the Vietnamese community in San Jose, and we also put on cultural and historical shows with traditional drumming and dance for the Vietnamese New Year.

How did you get into performing with them?

My mother was a leader of the group, and after basically growing up in the group I became a leader as well. I run weekly practices, help organize performances, choreograph pieces, and sometimes I do designs for the group, such as DVD covers and promotional posters for our shows.

How has being a part of VLYT shaped you as a person and a designer?

Growing up in this group really shaped my identity as a Vietnamese American. I was able to learn about my country's history and culture through performances, as well as traveling to Viet Nam frequently, allowing me to be immersed in my culture and understand the importance of staying connected to it. Also, being a part of the Vietnamese Lasallian Youth Troupe allows me to use my design skills to communicate with the Vietnamese community in San Jose.

Why is being a part of VLYT important for you?

Our parents and people in the generation before us had to make many sacrifices and leave their homeland in order to have a better life in the United States. Many have expressed that when they see the next generation of Vietnamese youth actively participating and taking pride in being Vietnamese, it gives them hope that their culture won't be lost in the future. Hearing this and seeing their reactions to our performances motivates me to continue this work and I take pride in being a part of the preservation of my culture in my community.

Check out more performances from VLYT on their YouTube channel.

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Harleen Kaur

Chopsticks Alley Editorial Intern

Harleen is a freshman at Foothill College pursuing her B.A. in philosophy. She ran her high school’s newspaper PHHS The Legend as a managing editor , and was later inducted into the Quill and Scroll Honor Society as a lifetime member. Growing up in San Jose, Harleen hopes to write about and amplify the voices of the Vietnamese and Pinoy community that she is surrounded by. She hopes to attend law school and become a lawyer who will give back to her community.


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