Vivien Chan is a design historian, educator, writer, and imagemaker based in the UK.


I research, write, and teach about space. I think about materials, relationships, and how people connect in space.

I completed my PhD in 2024 and my thesis is titled “A Colony of Shopkeepers”: Spaces of Consumption in New Towns public housing estates, Hong Kong, 1954-1989. My research was part of the Cultures of Occupation in Twentieth-century Asia project (COTCA) led by Dr. Jeremy Taylor at University of Nottingham. I completed my MA History of Design thesis Assembling the dai pai dong: Living and Occupying the Street in Hong Kong, 1950s - present at the Royal College of Art/ V&A Museum in 2017.
I’m also interested in multi-disciplinary research methodologies and archives. Moving through space and experiencing it holistically forms my thinking of the research itself. Touching the page, tasting and smelling the market, navigating the landscape, making light or deep conversation, all help to ground myself in the work.


I love to think about and make books.

At the moment I am working on Archiving Archiving, a project on grassroots design archives in Asia started together with Zara Arshad. I was previously an editor on illustrator Flying Pig’s Barter Archive. For me, making books is a collaborative process. The final object can be satisfying but also iterative.
I’m also interested in the digital page, as an editor of writing, as a space for entangling text and image.I am currently an editor for History Workshop Online, and I was previously editorial lead for the 2016-2017 edition of Unmaking Things, an experimental platform for the RCA History of Design programme. 

Polyphonies (2017) a record of design history research, edited by Tanya Bennett, Vivien Chan, Sophie Chatellier, Andrea Foffa, Natalia Goldsteine, Anna Stewart, graphic design and image credits to Dan Kozma and Ariana Tilche

Sooner, or later (2016) a collaborative zine between RCA/V&A History of Design and RCA Visual Communiation,
edited by Vivien Chan, Sophie Chatellier and Andrea Foffa


I draw and print, mostly from life. Drawing is how I learned to move and feel.

I studied Illustration & Animation at Kingston School of Art and previously tried out a career in fashion illustration. Now I make images for myself and independent publishing, as well as teach. I also dabble in other kinds of making, namely textiles and printmaking.
For me, drawing is about texture, bodies, movement. I understand it as a process amd a method. It is itself a trace of my own body and hand, sometimes a machine, often a material. Images can be sensual and sensitive in queer and quiet ways. 


I think collectively and collaboratively. Forming constellations are an important part of my practice.

I am a co-founder of two research collectives, Hong Kong Design History Network; and astra*. Both of these groups were founded on the ethos of criticality and curiousity while prioritising integrity and connection. There is something to be said for slow research - as our everyday becomes more pressing, it is all the more urgent to slow down and be present.

Together with these collectives, I have co-curated exhibitions, made publications, designed and facilitated workshops, and had the opportunity to exchange with people all over the world.

hkdhnet is a design collective focused on the design history and material cultures of Hong Kong. We co-curated the Hong Kong Pavillion at the London Design Biennale in 2021.

astra* is a design constellation with Zara Arshad, engaging in intersections, serendipity, works-in-progress, and intuitive research.

I also think about constellations in terms of research. Here’s how you can make your own research planisphere.

Vivien Chan

Dr., she/they
I am a design historian, educator, writer, and imagemaker based in the UK.I research design history and material culture in Hong Kong with a broad interest in design and the everyday. I teach illustration and design research at Nottingham Trent University and have guest lectured at the Royal College of Art, Kingston School of Art and Academy of Visual Art at Baptist University Hong Kong.I am also a History Workshop Editorial Fellow 2023-2025, and an Honorary Fellow at the Raphael Samuel History Centre, Birkbeck, University of London.

You can find me on the internet
or you can email me at vc[at]

︎ ︎ ︎ ︎
portrait by Rachel Meng Man, 2023

Selected articles I’ve written:
Meritalia Magazine, ‘Decomposure’, ed. by Andrea Foffa and Marta Franceschini, April 2024

CONGEE Zine, ‘Ad Hoc Juk’, August 2023, in collaboration with artist Alastair Kwan and F.A.T. Studio

Fortified Gazette, 13th- 17th September 2022, peeling prawns; repetoires and gifts; here, a Nutrigrain bar; gravy; fervour/flavour

Fortified Issue 003, ‘Sweet treats & school puds’, July 2022

Urban History, April 2022,‘Markets made modular:constructing the modern ‘wet’ market in Hong Kong’s public housing estates’︎ Shortlisted on the Hong Kong Studies IBP 2023

Report, Centre for Global Design History,June 2021, Report- Design Archives in Asia Symposium

Geofictions: Work in Progress,
ed. Zara Arshad, February 2021Interviewing Alvin Li and Junyuan Feng, curators of Liquid Ground

Design History Society, December 2018, Design and Displacement (1)

--, June 2018, Hearing Design History

--, November 2017, Making and Unmaking the Environment (3)

--, August 2017, Thoughts on Three Czech Modernist Villas

daikon* Winter 2018, Issue 4, Across the table: researching identity through food

Riposte (online) 2018, XING: An Interview with Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

Design China, May 2016, More on China Design Centre

You can hear me speak on these podcasts/videos:
The last of Hong Kong’s street food rebels, SCMP 

Reverberations by Zara Arshad

Women read

Recent lectures, conferences and workshops:
Foodscaping Asia panel, ICAS 13 Crossways of Knowledge, Surabaya, Indonesia, July 2024 (forthcoming)

dressing eating living moving workshop (co-convenor), ICAS 13 Crossways of Knowledge, Surabaya, Indonesia, July 2024 (forthcoming)

‘Exhibiting Spatial Histories: Design History and Cross-cultural Spatial Narratives of Hong Kong' panel (co-convenor), Workshop on Hong Kong Cultures, Arts and Languages in the UK, University of Sheffield, June 2024 (forthcoming)

HKSA Annual Conference, University of Sheffield, May 2024(forthcoming)

‘The Pitch and the Module: hawkers and markets in designing post-war Hong Kong's New Towns public housing estates’, Universität Wien, April 2024

‘Hidden Histories’ workshop, University of Nottingham, March 2024

University of Nottingham Humanities delegation, University of Adelaide, November 2023

'Everyday rituals in the British Empire and after' workshop, University of Nottingham, June 2023

Introduction to Girl’s School by Lee Mimi, Queer East, Broadway Cinema, Nottingham, November 2022

Disclosing Architecture, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam,November 2022

‘Archival Interference: Counter-archives and Design History in Asia’, Archival Interactions Symposium, DAS Amsterdam, June 2022