Summer 2008

Nod Young

Who cares about graphic design history?


Nod Young comes from Beijing and graduated from the Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, in 2000.

Q1. What do you think is meant by ‘the canon of graphic design history’? Do you buy design history publications?

A1. I think the canon is a standard, a theory that directs modern design and art. But I live in far-away China and know little about the design history of the West. As a child I was taught under China’s traditional arts education. This has had a great impact on my style and you will often see traces of traditional Chinese art in my work.

That said, I sometimes buy Western font design books for reference – many traditional typefaces are still quite cool.

Q2. Does this kind of design history have relevance to what you do in your design practice?

A2. It does, as I love font design, I often follow traditional English font design rules to create Chinese fonts.

Q3. Where did you learn about design history?

A3. Mostly in font design and pattern books. I did not encounter much to do with design history until eight years ago, when I went to university in Beijing.

Q4. Does history have any relevance to the new technology and techniques you’ve had to master in your work?

A4. Currently, my job has me primarily using a computer to execute my design, but traditional typography techniques are still amazing. Occasionally I am able to incorporate traditional design techniques into my work (mostly vector graphics). Though, still, if I am able to print a poster with my own hand, it is really cool. I find a special inspiration from this kind of experience.

Q5. If you were in charge of a design education programme, what aspects of design history (if any) would you teach to your students?

A5. In China we are often taught to copy the great works of the past, but I believe that being able to understand history is better than just copying it. I’d entitle my first lesson ‘Hi! Story’.

Top: Image from a set of six illustrating the traditional chinese tale Journey to the west. 570 x 840mm. Design: Nod Young, 2005. Personal project.

First published in Eye no. 68 vol. 17 2008

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.