How did you discover your interest in typography? My interest in typography started at a very young age. When I was a kid, my family taught me about painting and Chinese calligraphy. But after my academic studies and professional experiences, it was clear that type design was my passion. When you do something in which you are willing to think and create with all your energy, that is passion.
What personal experiences or circumstances have most influenced your approach or style? In China, I had seven years of design education and one year of work experience teaching at a university. So, Oriental design concepts and culture have deeply influenced me and my creations. When I began to pursue my second master’s in graphic design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in Belgium, I also found interesting points of integration between European and Chinese culture. I saw European culture as another perspective, which also affected my design work.
Why did you create Body Experimental Type, your typographic project in which you visualize the abstract body through letterforms, with designer Binyan Wu? How was the project unique? Binyan Wu, who also studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp, is a costume and material designer with an open, multidisciplinary approach. Our collaboration focused on subconsciously digging out more possibilities of the body in the visual dimension. The idea for the project came about after studying and learning about the pioneering artist Oskar Schlemmer from the early Bauhaus, whose sketches of theatrical costume designs gave me a lot of inspiration. His theatrical plot arrangement and costume styles were full of beautiful shapes and graphics. In his period, those shapes and graphics were regarded as a “revolution” of theatrical performance concepts. It was the visualization of abstract body geometry. So, our goal was to make the connection between context transmission and design.
How did body perception and consciousness become the main themes of Body Experimental Type? I think our intuition and mindsets have been flooded with more attractive things. New symbols and figures are popping up and being crammed into our life, but fewer and fewer people care about cultivating body consciousness. However, the body is an important and fundamental dimension of self-identity recognition. And the body as the vessel, which brings the initial perspective of our perception of the world, also shapes our physical and spiritual lives. In other words, the body is the medium of all perception.
What was your process for designing the letterforms for Body Experimental Type? In my creative process, I try to make the movement of the body feel the change of type, and make the body performance pass emotion onto the type. I also try to break the traditional Western concepts of how to construct and design type, find the relationship between the centers of gravity of the body type, and use videos and images to capture the shadow of the body. What’s more, we also try to build the connection between design and context transmission. In my body type project, the letterforms carry the visual symbols of the body’s perception.
How do you use creative typography to break down traditional Western type design constructs in your work? Per my recent designs, I think there are two factors that have influenced my works. The first is my Chinese cultural background. When I am designing, I would think about the intersection of East and West and the expression of culture in different contexts. The second factor is performance art, which has enlightened my design by its ways of information transmission, experimentations and exploration, and the way of its interactive thinking.
What inspires you lately? Graphic designer Karl Nawrot once said in an interview, “I don’t really work conceptually, but I follow an organic way of working instead. That often means I need to build a physical narrative in order to understand what I’m looking for. It’s important for me that the final product is linked to a story, a fiction.” His point of view has deeply influenced my Body Experimental Type design project. I also keep and record a large number of experimental processes, which are part of my narrative and my work. Like Nawrot, I boldly use various media to create works and explore the narrative context.
Which artists have had an impact on your work? Recently my favorite designer collective has been Morph Collective. Their work is full of surrealism and always shocks me. In their work, there are many interesting cross-border combinations, and their concepts are also very interesting.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career? Dare to break the rules and try new ideas, and always keep being curious.