Fighting for Taiwan: Designer Johnason Lo
Taking Local Design International
A veteran in his field, notable for designing visual identities for major TV stations worldwide, JL Design founder Johnason Lo has identified a suitable niche for Taiwanese design in the Chinese-speaking world.
Taking Local Design InternationalBy Jennie Lee
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 600 )
Johnason Lo, the 38-year-old founder of JL Design, has designed the identity systems for such internationally notable media channels as Al Jazeera, China’s CCTV, and the Disney Channel. However, most people know him from the Golden Melody Awards (an annual music awards gala in Taiwan similar to the Grammys), where his team’s visual design for two editions of the show impressed TV audiences with its creativity and quality.
Shortly after setting down the weighty duties of the Golden Melody Awards in 2014, Lo found himself taking up the challenges of the Golden Pin Design Award.
For well over 30 years, the Golden Pin Design Award was positioned as a local design award, until the preparatory committee decided in 2014 to expand its scope to encompass the greater Chinese world in order to attract the world’s finest Chinese-speaking designers to enter the competition.
“I happened to have just finished working for the Golden Melody Awards, and had decided not to take on any more awards ceremonies. However, when it comes to design, Taiwan occupies an advantageous niche in the Chinese-speaking world, as we can talk about freedom and democracy – we’re quite diverse.” In Lo’s eyes, the Golden Pin Award could become an occasion where Asian designers converge, and he was compelled by that sense of mission when he took on the task of working for the Golden Pin Design Award.
Considering the Golden Pin Design Award’s repositioning in its first year, Lo asked, “If we are to create a space in Taiwan focused exclusively on design that concerns Chinese-speaking circles, how should we demonstrate our reach? The format would become especially important.” With this in mind, Lo and the preparatory team re-opened discussions on the award’s process. “I had to be on top of every point along the way in order to be able to say that this is an award for the Chinese-speaking world,” he says.
He was thinking about more than awards shows.
In order to show the unique attributes of the Chinese-speaking people, they decided to use Chinese script for the logo. Lo enlisted renowned calligrapher Tong Yang-tze to write the three characters '金點獎' (Jin Dian Jiang, meaning “Golden Pin Award”) and then used the script as the foundation for designing different key visuals for each year’s awards show with varying tone and manner.
On the big day, Lo invited dancer Huang Yi and his robot KUKA to perform live, and famous chef Andre Chiang to come on as a guest presenter, bridging generations of outstanding Taiwanese talent.
Participating designers were clearly impressed with the sincerity and respect evident in the well-thought-out details. According to Steffy Sun, director of the General Promotion Section at the Taiwan Design Center entrusted to organize the awards show, “Designers even sought us out to thank us for putting on such a great party.”
Sun says that Lo acted as a bridge during the planning process, introducing various approaches from abroad from which Taiwan could learn. For Lo, each work is indeed a sort of bridge for a wider audience to see Taiwan’s design talent. “We hope to build different bridges for designers, the way the team of designers behind the Golden Melody Awards achieved visibility so quickly,” he says.
Giving Taiwan an International Stage
The “new and evolved” Golden Pin Design Award successfully forged a different image, yielding significant growth in the number of entries. Compared to around 1,300 entries in previous years, 2014 saw a big jump in entries, touching 2,000, followed by a similar boost to 2,400 in 2015 as the Golden Pin Design Award has steadily become an influential design award for the Chinese-speaking world.
In recent years Lo has taken on a further bridge-building role, namely that of helping Taiwanese designers expand their exposure and reach on the international stage.
JL Design’s Facebook fan page is filled with dynamic visual designs for major Chinese television channels, including CCTV, Shanghai First Financial, and Zhejiang SatTV. JL Design also set up its first overseas base this year in Shanghai.
Why Shanghai? Simply put, because JL Design has an extensive client list in China. However, Lo had a deeper consideration in mind, having found that Taiwan at this juncture finds itself in a bind in which it is unable to provide its most talented individuals with sufficient sustenance. Meanwhile, Shanghai – a cosmopolitan city with a thriving design industry – is an excellent place for designers to hone their skills and gain experience.
“I hope my designers can experience the impact of the market and the climate. Since there is no stage for this in Taiwan, I’ll just have to provide one,” Lo says with determination.
Establishing an international stage for local designers is how Lo has chosen to fight for Taiwan.
Translated from the Chinese article by David Toman