Jan 1, 2010

Talking Design: Featuring the Taiwan Graphic Design Association

AIGA XCD chats with Jason Fan, member of TGDA.

During the AIGA XCD 2009 China Expedition, we caught up with our Taiwanese colleagues at the Icograda Design Congress. Here’s a glimpse of a Designer’s perspective from a country previously known as Asia’s Little Dragon.

editor’s note: images presented below reflect the work of Jason Fan

AIGA XCD: Please describe the activities and mission of the Taiwan Graphic Design Association (TGDA)?

In a few words, our goals are to:

  • Create professional and specialized courses to nurture talents

  • Publish information and literature relevant to design

  • Promote technical cooperation and exchange within the different sectors of design

  • Select outstanding work for exhibitions

  • Promote and publicize domestic designers, their work and relevant agencies within and outside Taiwan

  • Elevate Taiwan’s status to the international level in the domain of design

  • Safeguard domestic designers’ intellectual property rights

Now, allow me to elaborate: The Taiwan Graphic Design Association (TGDA) is defined by “Combined Energy, Multiplied Vigor". The more positive energy the better, and I believe when everyone “resonates” together, our true strength is revealed.

Like most associations, TGDA operates through regular Board Meetings and an annual General Assembly. Basically, our membership is a priceless asset for our association. We draw on the energy of our membership, their radiating virtues and qualities and especially the teamwork and cooperation during our promotional activities. This has translated into social events like the “Energy Bar” and  and day trips to unique architectural and landscape projects like Hwataoyao.

We’ve also have outreach programmes for design students and young professionals such as the “Fresh On the Job-Market, Embrace Your Career”, a promotional road show that toured the entire island four times in twelve months.

In cooperation with the Indigenous Peoples Commission of the Taipei City Government, we hosted the “The Re-Birth of Aboriginal Legendaries in Taiwan” Cultural Innovation and Creativity Exhibition and conducted workshops to highlight the craftmanship and art of Taiwan’s indigenous groups. The support and participation from our members for this project in particular turned out to be beyond imagination, and everyone had the same thought: “it was fun and meaningful, and it just felt good!”. That is the kind of happiness one feels after selflessly helping others, something I treasure deeply.

I believe in encouraging positive energy to the mind, body, and spirit of each designer, which not only allows our creative passions to come into full swing, but also helps us develop tolerance for others.

We also curate exhibitions such as Taiwan International Cultural and Creative Industries Exhibition, and 2010 will be our third year.

Lately, we’re focusing our energy on extending our influence and establishing more connections abroad, with the goal diversifying our sources of inspiration. This inspiration could cover everything from new energy and ideas to new materials and new technology. Accordingly, we helped found the Taiwan Design Alliance, which participated in the 23rd ICOGRADA General Assembly in Beijing. We had the largest group of member delegates.

AIGA XCD: Who are some of the key members of TGDA? Who are your biggest supporters? What is TGDA’s latest achievement?

TGDA: Every board member is a key member! We do not have so-called “key supporters; annual membership dues is the main source of income. Besides that, we occasionally receive funding and sponsorship depending on the project we take on.

Our latest achievement will be co-hosting the Visual Identity design competition of the for both 2011 IDA Design Conference in Taipei and the Taiwan Year of Design.

AIGA XCD: Can you please comment on the latest design trends in Taiwan? What is changing?

There seems to be more emphasis on cultural differences, exploring ways we can differentiate our design sensitivity from other regions, and create added-value to our work. Many of us are committed to building up a strong “Taiwainese identity”, since most cultural roots in Taiwan are related to ancient China. We also acknowledge more and more the cross-disciplinary nature of our work, those vague boundaries between design professions: many graphic designers are joining product design and manufacturing teams.

Some of us are talking about injecting more humour into our work, while other want to support Humanity more. This would mean engaging in design that is Environmentally-friendly, is sensitive to populations in need (senior citizens and the disabled). There are many who promote greater Global engagement among members.

AIGA XCD: How has Taiwan’s history and culture affected “Taiwanese Design”

The history and culture of Taiwan is defined by a mix of five major ethnic groups ― from Southern China, Hakka, Central China, ethnic group indigenous to Taiwan and Japan. Our design has been inevitably affected by these cultures, and successfully applied to certain well known brands, such as Shiatzy Chen in Fashion category, Tittot in Specialty Gifts… the story is a little different for products destined for export, their design obviously has to meet the client’s needs and cultural sensitivities.

AIGA XCD: Do you think Western design philosophy and aesthetics has had a lot of influence on Design in Taiwan?

Of course, it has, since Western Design it is the origin of “Modern Design”, and serve as the foundation for almost every design and art student. Additionally, there are so many Taiwanese designers who’ve trained and finished graduate studies in the West. A lot of them are the leaders in the Taiwanese Design Community and principals in well-known studios. Ultimately, an understanding of Western design philosophy is critical to communicating effectively with the West.

AIGA XCD: What are your thoughts about the future of Design in Taiwan?

I think this question is similar to the question above about design trends in Taiwan. I foresee an emphasis technology on design production, and yet a cherishing of hand-made crafts.


Jason Fan was President of Taiwan Graphic Design Association (TGDA) for 2006-2008. During his term, he not only broadened the interfaces with more cross-disciplinary programs, such as applications of Taiwanese indigenous culture and arts in the design of daily goods, but also created the bi-monthly Energy Bar to connect with experts from different fields, as Jason believed in the importance for designers to appreciate things beyond design prospective. He worked as the CEO of the Cultural & Creative Industries Center at National Taiwan Normal University until August 2009. Jason was dedicated to providing more resources for various Taiwan graphic design communities and related associations, including holding regular meetings to increase understanding between each other and developing the closer integration of the communities. Jason is currently one of the originators and member delegates of Taiwan Design Alliance, a respected multidisciplinary association of Taiwanese designers, one of the partners of the 2011 IDA Congress.  In October 2009, Jason was elected the vice-president of the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (ICOGRADA).
Jason believes that every designer is a power plant, who is willing to make a contribution to our society. Once we are able to resonate with the power of design, the environmentally-friendly and sustainable resource, we can lead the whole world to a more positive direction.

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