Who Is Doug Chiang? A Celebration Of AAPI Heritage Month
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month so Comic Years is highlighting some of our favorite actors, actresses, writers, and illustrators from the AAPI community (check out our DC Festival of Heroes review, our profile of Gene Luen Yang, and an interview with Kelly Marie Tran via Collider). In today’s post, we’re asking: who is Doug Chiang?
Chiang was born on February 16, 1962, in Taiwan. When he was five, his family moved to Dearborn, Michigan where he stayed until he moved to Detroit to attend the College for Creative Studies. He was inspired by the original Star Wars films and the accompanying art design book, which is how he decided to study industrial design. He later studied film production at UCLA and graduated in 1986, where he worked at various production studios. He eventually joined Industrial Light & Magic as a creative director, where he worked on films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Forrest Gump (1994).
What Is Doug Chiang Known For?
Image via screengrab
Chiang is best known for being part of George Lucas’s entertainment company, Lucasfilm. He currently serves as vice president and executive creative director and oversees designs for the all-new Star Wars franchise developments (films, theme parks, games, and new media). Chiang started at Lucasfilm in 1995, when he was hired to lead Lucasfilm’s art department. He was the design director for Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Episode II – Attack of the Clones. He took some time to focus on personal projects (a sci-fi book called Robota and co-founding Ice Blink Studios, which closed in 2007), but ended up going back to the Star Wars franchise as the concept artist for The Force Awakens as well as production designer for Rogue One. He continues to work at Industrial Light & Magic on Star Wars movies such as Solo and The Rise of Skywalker, and he’s delved into the world of TV series with The Mandalorian.
Check out this behind-the-scenes video where Chiang looks back on his work with George Lucas and the Star Wars franchise:
Doug Chiang On How Cultural Experience Shaped The Star Wars World
The worlds seen in Star Wars are so rich and Chiang says that’s in thanks to his upbringing and Lucas’s vision for diverse representation. In an interview with Starwars.com, he said:
“I remember when I first started working on Star Wars with George Lucas in 1995, one of the biggest lessons that I learned from him was to study history, study other cultures, to design an alternate future. I didn’t expect that. At that time, my only experience with Star Wars was from watching the original trilogy and looking at the Art of books in terms of design aesthetics. When I finally started to work with George, my first intention was to repeat exactly that, and he was the one who said, “No, we’re going to try something new. Let’s look into different cultures. Let’s study history and study other cultures to come up with exotic designs.” It was such an eye-opener because he really encouraged myself and the other artists to look at Japanese culture and Chinese culture for design motifs that we could incorporate. When I heard that from George — to do more of that research, really go in and look into different cultures, obscure cultures, whether it’s costuming or type of weaponry or form language, and bring that into the Star Wars universe. What happens when you design that way, you actually are imbuing a lot of that cultural heritage into the Star Wars designs. It makes it more grounded.”
He went on to say that it’s wonderful to have a diverse workplace and that when he first began, he was one of a few people of color. He realized that he had to speak up, despite being on the more introverted side. He remains hopeful and believes that things are getting better, not only for Asian Americans, but for other marginalized groups:
“I hope the future becomes more embracing of that, understanding, and more inclusive. I definitely see progression in that in terms of diversity within the company diversity within Disney. I am very optimistic with that.”
You can also check out this presentation he gave a Star Wars Celebration, focused on his process for helping to design the look and feel of various elements of the galaxy far, far away. As exciting as it is for Star Wars fans, it’s also a very useful talk for those themselves interested in art and concept design.
We look forward to seeing more of Chiang’s work with Lucasfilm. What are you excited about? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured image via screengrab
Keilin Huang is a freelance writer that likes the Oxford comma, reading from her neverending pile of books from the library, and Reeses peanut butter cups. She thanks her Dad for introducing her to his Superman comics and probably majored in Journalism because of Lois Lane.