Words by Zack Kortright

As a child, drawing created an inner sanctuary for her that quieted any of the outside elements closing around her. When she was 4 or 5 years old, typical of a Chinese education, Yukai was pushed to learn everything: piano, drawing, dance, etc. Her mother found that when Yukai was drawing it calmed her, so the piano and dance gradually fell away yet the drawing stayed. As a teenager, drawing turned into a drive, so she attended a Fine Arts High School where she took technique and drawing classes and rose to the top of her class, received the best mark and, ever ambitious, she went into animation. After high school, she attended university at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts where she studied character design and CG techniques, yet Yukai felt the need to return to her roots. At this pivotal moment, she focused on what she loved and really embraced what she excelled at: drawing. She moved her course of study to book illustration and design and found inspiration and excitement in this new medium and style. Her graduation piece was a black & white hand drawn 2D film called 'Musical Chairs' that was her first exploration into liquid motion and transformations... a spark was created to learn more. She applied to Central Saint Martins and moved to London, where Yukai spent the 2 year program working on her short film 'Way Out' based on her home city Guangzhou. Growing up in one of the biggest cities in China, she saw the shift from writing down everyone's number in her paper phone book to messaging friends on social media with smart phones. 'Way Out' is about the relationship between humans and technology. (A sci-fi fan here!) She found London exciting and refreshing and began to play with color in her work. She found it revelatory that in China her work was primarily black & white with hints of yellow, but 'Way Out' was the first time color was introduced. This ability of  Yukai to look within, recalibrate and reset to really get to the core of her craft is an exciting process. This self-awareness is what propels her work to evolve. Yukai's inspiration for her work lies somewhere in the dichotomy of Impressionism, the dash of lines and layering of dots to create a surface, combined with a love for simplistic and geometric structures of Brutalism. Yukai has also received a few international awards such as 3X3 Illustration Best of Show (Student Show), Adobe Design Award Honourable Mention and a D&AD New Blood Wood Pencil.

Photo by Salvatore De Cicco

“Yukai Du creates vibrant illustrations and animations. Her distinctive work is filled with bold colours and graphic patterns and is equally well suited to the page and the screen.”

Creative Review

“Yukai is an animator and illustrator, but also a translator — she distills complex topics down to their beautiful, swirling core.”


“Animator Yukai Du creates vibrant and intricate illustrated animations for all kinds of stories. Her catalogue of wondrous work for Ted-Ed has seen her bring to life topics ranging from plant communication to self-driving cars.”

It’s Nice That

“From illustrating rocket ships bursting through space to couples wining and dining, whatever topic Yukai Du depicts, it’s immediately recognizable as her work.”


“Yukai Du’s MA graduation film, “Way Out,” is a surreal cautionary tale that hits close to home. Her “nouveau 1990s” stylistic voice is refreshing: especially her use of pattern to support the narrative.”


“Yukai uses colourful illustrations and popping animation to explain concepts such as prime numbers, science and space, in a way that simplifies and demands attention. It’s a unique talent, and one we’re pretty jealous of.”

Digital Arts


Adobe Systems / Apple / The Atlantic / TED Talks / WeTransfer / Facebook / New York Times / BMW / Renault / CNN / BBC / LYFT / LUSH Cosmetics / The Guardian / China Post / Buzzfeed / MTV


'An Anthology Vol.2' - Highly Commended (Experimental), World Illustration Awards 2019, UK

'YORA-What's Your Pet's Global Paw Print?' - Bronze (Animation), ADC Awards 2019, USA

'Night' - Merit (Illustration), ADC Awards 2019, USA

'An Anthology Vol.2' - Selected, Society of Illustrators Illustrator 61, USA

'An Anthology Vol.1' - Shortlisted, World Illustration Awards 2018, UK

'How Small We Are in the Scale of Universe?' - Official Selection (Commissioned Film), Annecy International Film Festival 2017, France

'Can Plants Talk to Each Other?' - Distinguished Merit(Professional), 3x3 Illustration Show No.14, USA

'Can Plants Talk to Each Other?' - Shortlisted, World Illustration Awards 2017, UK

'Can Plants Talk to Each Other?' - Selected, Illustrative 2016, Germany

'The Ethical Dilemma of Self-Driving Cars' - Official Selection (Commissioned Film), Annecy International Film Festival 2016, France

'The History of the Torturous Treadmill' - Official Selection (Commissioned Film), Annecy International Film Festival 2016, France

'Science Society of China' - Shortlisted, World Illustration Awards 2016, UK

'Way Out' - Best of Show (Student), 3x3 Illustration Show No.12, USA

'Digitised Me' - Wood Pencil Winner, D&AD New Blood, UK

'Way Out' - Emerging & Established Award, Cheltenham Illustration Awards, UK

'Adobe CC Illustrations' - Selected, Latin American Ilustración 4, USA

'Way Out' - Official Selection (Graduation Film), Annecy International Film Festival 2015, France

'Way Out' - Honourable Mention (Animation), Adobe Design Achievement Awards 2014, USA


The World Illustration Awards (2019) - Somerset House London, UK

'Character Walk' (2019) - Pictoplasma Berlin, Germany

Illustrator 61 Exhibit: Part One (2019) - Society of Illustrators New York, USA

The World Illustration Awards (2018) - Somerset House London, UK

'Time Off' (2017) - Solo Exhibition,  Atom Gallery London, UK

'SPLINTERS' (2015) - Solo Exhibition, DigitasLBi London, UK


Pictoplasma (2019) - Artist Talk, Berlin, Germany

Today at Apple Art Lab(2019) - Talk & Illustration Workshop, Apple Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

Today at Apple Art Lab(2019) - Talk & Illustration Workshop, Apple Covert Garden, UK

Timberland Studio (2018) - Artist Talk & Craft Workshop, Timberland Covert Garden, London, UK

Playgrounds Blend (2018) - Artist Talk, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Visual Playground (2017) - Artist Talk & Animation Workshop, Bucharest, Romania

Nicer Tuesdays (2017) - Artist Talk, Oval Space, London, UK

See No Evil (2017) - Artist Talk, Cafe 1001, London, UK

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