Meijun Li is in the business of nostalgia—via food.

"We're always looking for the things we had when we were young," says the 28-year-old founder of design studio Overice. “A lot of my inspiration is based on that theme. If I'm doing a logo for an Italian restaurant, for example, I want to know what area of Italy the restaurant focuses on and how the people there live and what flavor the food has."

Li’s dedication to the way things were has earned her a pretty solid clientele that mostly includes restaurant and food-related businesses but also encompasses beauty and fashion brands. Among her clients: Petite Studio, Madame Vo and Nowon in New York and beer company Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The design studio offers a variety of services that fall within the branding scope, from marketing research and art direction to menu and logo design, website production and merchandise design—an aspect of the business that has been gaining popularity in recent months. 

"It's been a trend since COVID-19 hit," says Li. "Right now, a lot of clients are making their own sauces or coffees so they are looking for packaging design as well." Eric Sze, for example, the chef and owner of Taiwanese restaurant 886 in New York, hired Li to design the label of his hit Sze Daddy Chili Sauce, which happens to exhume the Li aesthetic: colorfully playful, graphic-heavy and busy in the best way possible. 

“The design highlights the homemade nature of this Taiwanese hand bottled chili oil while having a modern and pop style," Li writes on Overice's Instagram account. "We wanted to find a balance between creating an intricate design and coming up with a visual that does not take itself too seriously."

When asked about what makes good restaurant-related merchandise, Li says that simplicity goes a long way. "It has to be aligned with people's lifestyle," she says. "I personally think that good merch is something not complicated and easy to wear. If it's a T-shirt, for example, it should have a simple statement on it."

Among the merch she's worked on: tees for 886, sweatshirts for Montauk-based The Pilates Snob, totes for Nature’s Soy and mugs for Suzhou-based Italian restaurant La Cipolla.

Born in a small town on the North side of China and raised in Shanghai, Li moved to New York around the age of 15 and eventually enrolled in the Parsons School of Design. While studying abroad in Paris back in 2016, she put her graphic design expertise to use by freelancing for a bunch of restaurants all around the world. Upon her return to New York, she decided to open up her own shop although still on the graphic design staff at Estee Lauder. She turned Overice into her full-time gig in September of this year.

As for the name of her company, Li is aware that some might read it as "over ice"—but she doesn’t mind correcting you. “It's actually 'over rice,'" she explains, giggling."I think the double R doesn't look so good. Also, rice is something that connects with my culture and is my favorite food, but goes really well with everything and you now may notice a lot of Western food with rice in it, too. At Overice, we try to design something for you that goes well with everything. It also evokes nostalgia, home and comfort."

That attention to detail and devotion to the things that appeal to all humans are part and parcel of Li and her team's design process (she currently works with two freelance designers and two freelance illustrators). 

After a client reaches out, Li sets up a call to learn more about the business. The onboarding process continues with a questionnaire that the designer sends the client. "I ask them about their company, who their target customer is, where they envision themselves in 5 and 10 years," she explains.

She'll then start her research, which includes work on visual inspirations that will populate a board that will eventually be part of the kickoff file sent to the brand. "In the file, there will be one page for typography, one for color, one for illustration style and then I'll have the client pick: they can circle items they love the most and those they hate the most," she says. "I always really want to know what they hate—so I know what to never use."

As involved as Li is in every aspect of her projects, she is quick to note that clients should learn to do their part as well. "A lot of people think designers are serving their clients but I do think that clients have their responsibilities as well," she says. “That is something that I hope other designers will start doing: to make clients feel responsible for the projects they are bringing. They should know about their customers and spend time preparing the documents and files we need."

She goes on: "We, as designers, promise to deliver our highest quality work creative-wise but I think that, client-wise, they should provide the things we need in the right form." That includes a business' proper name and address, its target demographic and even the ability to send over signed Word docs in a timely fashion. 

She also has advice for would-be designers and potential studio founders. First of all, she says, experience is key. "If you practice many times, you eventually get it," she notes. "If you are not confident, charge a little less until you feel more confident and can charge a fair price." 

Second piece of advice: social media is your friend. "One thing I didn't realize is that we, as artists, are surrounded by other artists but average people out there don't really see or know designers every day,” she says. “You might be the only one they follow so it's important to let the people around you know that this is what you do." After all, not everyone can come up with a memorably unique restaurant logo. And so, as Li says, don’t be shy, designer lovers: tell the world what you’re all about.