WANG ZHI-HONG — Interview
Wang Zhi-Hong, graphic designer based in Taiwan. AGI member since 2015.
Hello Wang Zhi-Hong, how are you?
Can you introduce yourself?
I am a graphic designer based in Taiwan.
Where does your interest in graphic design come from?
It sprang from that particular moment when I came to realize beyond the realm of painting, there exists something one may call “graphic design”.
How did you come to start up the studio?
Things naturally came together as I started resisting the idea of getting up early to go to work.
Would you like to explain to us one of your projects?
1972 Seishun Gunkanjima.
I first heard about Battleship Island in 2009, when I inadvertently saw a documentary posted on the blog of art-culture critic Chang Shih-lun. I would never have imagined that such a small island could have such a high concentration of modern buildings and I immediately felt drawn to this wasteland of a place. Several years later, after watching the documentary a dozen times or so and even planning to visit the island with architecture critic Hsu Ming-sung (though ultimately that fell through), it became the focus of one of my cover design projects.
Before I started to consider the design, I first decided to use colors and materials related to Battleship Island as a foundation for deciding what paper and print processing methods to use. For example, the architecture of the concrete buildings and coal mine on the island directly corresponded to grey art paper and matte black foil stamping. In addition, the planning of the island’s living quarters appears haphazard, unavoidably bringing to mind illegal structures often seen in older residential areas across Taiwan. I wanted to show this idea through words, but to do so I had to temporarily ignore design rules on font type and limits on number of words. As such, I deliberately used different fonts simultaneously and lowered the standard for layout precision as much as possible, choosing not to rely on guidelines in the hope of imbuing the work with an aesthetic a layman could appreciate. It occurred to me that the use of writing in the daily lives of residents on the island would probably have been quite casual. In other words, their idea of design would not have been the same as ours, so perhaps just explaining things directly would have been sufficient. That was why I used the meaning of the three Chinese characters for “Battleship Island” (Jun Jian Dao) on the cover as pictographs, directly transplanting the hand drawn maps by the author and the dimensions of Battleship Island detailed in the book into words. In this way the “meaning” of the words was transformed into “form.”
Have you a favorite typeface to work with?
Is there any designer you appreciate a lot?
Is there a book or a manifesto which opened your eyes about design?
Josef Müller-Brockmann, Pioneer of Swiss Graphic Design (Lars Müller Publishers).
The last word…
Thank you for the interview.
Interview: Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler — 01.15
Pictures © Wang Zhi-Hong.