ReTypography Series — Taiwan’s National Identity Crisis and Graphic Design


台灣是個國家認同極度混淆的國家:很多群體有各自的明確主張、很多人選擇站在灰色的相對安全區、很多人選擇放棄思考這個問題。這樣的分歧,對展現一個國家形象最重要的平面設計工作者而言,是一個無比艱鉅的挑戰。
Taiwanese are not unanimous when it comes to the national identity. Different groups of people have strong but conflicting standpoints regarding this identity issue, while most people in Taiwan refuse to give a clear answer on questions such as “Who we are?” or “Should we be called Republic of China or Taiwan?”, and many people have never even thought about this question at all. For visual designers who strive to showcase a country’s spirit, the discord presents a tough challenge.
ReTypography Series on Behance

平面設計師最害怕的事之一,可能是替一個沒有原則或理念的企業做品牌設計。面對這種情況,設計師通常有三種選擇。第一,是直接拒絕這個案子、杜絕後患。第二個選擇,是要求客戶先準備好再來談—如果客戶有備而回,就可以試著做看看。如果依舊沒有改善,最後一個選擇則是依照設計師自己的詮釋或想像來完成這個案子。

而台灣就是這樣的客戶。對台灣的平面設計師來說,第一條路很不錯,是很多設計師的唯一方案。第二個選擇是不可能的,我們都知道為什麼。最後一個看起來最不明智又最難的路,似乎卻是我們作為平面設計師唯一可以為這個問題做一點貢獻的辦法。

身分證、護照鈔票國旗郵票,這些許多傑出的平面設計師再設計過的物件,雖然多數都很令人耳目一新,但都會因為其使用的色彩、圖樣、元素或手法引起很多討論跟批評。究竟這些物件上要置放什麼元素,才能取得各個立場最大交集的認同,而且有助於台灣身份認同的釐清呢?這可能不是一個平面設計師可以完成的工作。

To graphic designers, working for a client with no sense of identity and principles is a nightmare. Faced with this issue, designers will probably only have three options. First, is to decline the case instantly, avoiding any possible trouble. Secondly, ask the client to establish their identity and principles. If they did, designers might give it a shot; if not, besides from giving it up, the third choice is to come up with designer’s own interpretation or imagination of this client, and finish the case.

Unfortunately, Taiwan is this type of nation/client. n such circumstance, no one expects our government to present a clear identity, and most designers choose to stay away from cases related to the public service. A lot of designers opt for the third choice, which seems unwise, but it is the only way they can contribute and make impacts.

Many great designers in Taiwan have shown amazing redesign works or ideas of the national ID card, passport, stamp, flag and bills, featuring the designer’s own interpretation of Taiwan’s symbolic image. But for people with different political beliefs, cultures or ethnics, these symbols have barely acquired their collective appreciation - because there hardly exists any symbolic image that these groups all agree on.

What, indeed, is the correct symbol or element to use to gain most recognition, and being able to clarify our confused identity?



有幸參與田修銓設計師為2017年《好漢玩字節》策劃的《人生紀念品》,我重新思考了這個問題。被指派重新設計身分證和駕照這個項目,一開始我是十分恐懼的。因為上述的問題,我認為需要一個完整的團隊進行縝密的計畫後,才能提出有說服力的再設計提案。但轉念一想,既然還無法進行那樣龐大的工作,不如就從最基本的問題著手吧。

This complicated problem came to me months ago when I was assisting designer Neil Tien’s “Souvenirs of Life” project. The project was about redesigning objects of significant life moments, including birth certificate, ID card, wedding booklet and the white envelope representing death.

I was assigned to redesign the ID card and driver license within a month. Faced with the two items related to our national identity, I was mortified because I know how much work needs to go into the preparation — including research, interview and organization — to complete this mission. Of course I could come up with something beautiful on my own, but I didn’t want that. After all, another controversy made over the identity symbols issue and work with no impact is unnecessary. So, I decided to complete this task by avoiding the question “What patterns can symbolize Taiwan?”, but rather focused on the most basic structures of these two items.



Typography.

排版為平面設計最初階也最困難的技術,它能夠影響產品的銷量、選舉的結果、甚至是人命。而對表身份物件、票券或日常表格而言,也有各自的重要性。這份重要性應該受重視的程度,其實是不亞於物件上的附加元素。

以台灣現行的身分證(和研議中的新版身分證)或駕照這類表身份物件為例,楷體大標、中英共用的明體內文、不等比變形的字體或不規則的字距和行距⋯⋯等,都是混亂的。僅僅就排版這個根基而言,代表我擁有台灣人民身份的證件就如此粗魯的框入我的姓名、生日或性別,就已經反映了政府對這個議題的粗暴手段,何況懸浮於排版上更為複雜爭議的圖樣。

Typography is the most elementary yet crucial and difficult part of graphic design. It can affect the sales of a product, an election’s outcome, and even life. For objects like the national identification card, driver’s license or tickets produced by the public sector, the role of typography should gain more attention from the government, designer and people.

For example, typography on the current(and assessing) national ID card and driver’s license is a total chaos. Everything from typefaces, font-sizes, line-heights, tracking and margins are set without principles; it even deforms the font’s proportion of the person’s name. Before the fight about who or what is qualified to put on these objects to represent all Taiwanese people, I think we really need to pay a serious attention to the typography chaos.

For me, typography not only lays the foundation for graphic design, but also represents the designer’s basic respect to the work and its user. From these cards’ typography, which violently deforms names, birthdates or sexes of the users, I don’t see any respect to people’s identity at all.



容納各式資訊的排版設計對我而言,很大一部分是必須展現包容性的艱難任務。因為當同一個載體必需應對資訊(有邏輯整理過的)的長短、重要性、大小、重量或顏色的變化時,不夠格的設計者只會以最多數的情況作考量,進而設計出具有多數暴力行為的版型,強迫少數的一方做不等比例的壓迫和變形,好被粗魯的框進不合理的架構中。

夠格的、懂的照顧少數的設計者,會謹慎審視資訊並整理過後,打造一套得以容納合理資訊變換的網格系統,以及合乎所有的字型等細節,給予最大的包容和尊重。以功能性的設計而言,我們需要這樣的設計者設計真正為使用者著想的成品,包含易讀的內文、可讀的指標系統或流暢的響應式頁面等規格,讓大眾更方便使用。以證件這類表身份的設計而言,我們需要的不僅是上述的規格,還需要一份被尊重的、有歸屬感的安心。而這些都是一個看似不起眼、好的排版可以做到的。

Faced with an amount of information, a well-designed graphic work must show its willingness to accommodate diversity instead of eliminating differences. But what an unqualified designer would do is to ignore disparities — which could be names longer than the regular three-word length on ID card, addresses longer than 30 words on driver’s license, or additional information on train tickets — and creates a layout that only suit the majorities. The result is a tyranny of the majority layout, which violently and disrespectfully forces minorities to change.

A good designer who cares about every user would take time to review every possible variation of the content meticulously, and then design a proper grid system with decent typesettings to accommodate all distinctions. That attentiveness to detail is essential to do great designs, which could provide comfortable user experience with legible paragraphs, readable sign system or fluid responsive web. In the case of an ID card design, this attentiveness could allow the government to provide people with a sense of belonging and assurance of respect to every individual.

Typography is important. To scrutinize graphic designs from the public sector is not about asking for a clear definition of Taiwan’s national identity or picking up fights, but demanding our government to take this problem seriously. Before people in Taiwan can find our national identity, satisfying typography from the government can at least unite us with respect to every race, sincerity to citizens, and promise of improvement.



從田修銓設計師的《人生紀念品》為契機出發,藉此抒發了以上的想法,也整理了當時挑選的身分證、駕照和火車票再排版作品,重新整理為ReTypography系列。取名為ReTypography而不是ReDesign,因為這些作品完全不做排版之外的視覺考量(當然很多時候這樣就足以成為完整的設計成品了),並且以完全不更動原始版本的資訊(只做合理的適度整理)為前提,只專注於設計的排版上。

做這件事當然是戒慎恐懼的,這些再排版作品也肯定不會是唯一的解答,但我希望能喚起一些對設計排版的關注。這份關注要的不僅是美感上的要求,更重要的是對表面功夫以下的、本質的在乎。

Inspired by “Souvenirs of Life”, I organized my thoughts and designs of ID card, driver’s license and train ticket altogether, naming these series of works as “ReTypography”. Instead of the phrase “redesign” commonly used, I called it “ReTypography” because it only focused on the typography of design. Focusing on typography means two things. First, I didn’t take any element other than typesettings into consideration. No guilloche pattern design, no logo redesign, and no branding concern. Second, the contents and information on the original versions were basically all reserved, only some redundant ones were rearranged or deleted.

I’m not a typography specialist or graphic design expert, publishing these words and works needs extra courage and cautiousness. But I decided to do it anyway. “ReTypography” series does not providing a correct answer to all questions I’ve mentioned above, it’s just my own way to try make this nation better. Of course graphic designs wouldn’t impact people’s life like architecture design or industrial design, but sometimes it is the invisible things that matter most, and typography as the fundamental part of graphic design matters even more. I hope “ReTypography” can gather extra attention to things that are simple yet crucial — simple things that need our effort to do it right. And this is what I, as a graphic designer, can do to help Taiwanese people be united and find our identity.



Copy editor: Litta Lee