A while back, I stumbled upon a book called Ilha Formosa* by an extremely talented designer named Tien Min Liao. After “paging” through the book online, I just had to get to know her a bit better and see what inspired her to design it.
*For more of her beautiful illustrations, check out her Ilha Formosa gallery on Behance Net.
About Tien Min
Where are you from in Taiwan? Where are you these days? And what do you do?
I am from Taipei. I lived and studied there for 23 years until I went abroad for advanced study. I studied Advertising in Taiwan. My program focused on advertising planning. After graduating, I wanted to get deeper understand of design, so I decided to go to New York.
The Buzz about Infographics?
Can you tell me a little bit about what infographics are?
“Infographic” is a word that combines “information” and “graphic.” We use graphics instead of words to visualize data and create a story, so the viewers are able to understand the ideas at a glance. Infographics are quite popular these days.
Usually designers use vector images to make infographics. But in this case, I wanted to make the book look more interesting and have a softer feel, so I used paper to build the images.
How did you get into this kind of design specialty?
I actually never did anything like this before. It is my first attempt at infographic design as well as paper-crafted illustration. I would love to try many things that I have never done before.
About the Book
How is your book different from other books about Taiwan?
There are many books about Taiwan on the market, but I found that they all look really similar to each other. Most of them are for tourists, so those books are crammed with information. People may not be interested in reading everything carefully, so I wanted to pull out the most important information and really highlight it.
Who is your audience?
My audience is people who don’t know anything about Taiwan. That is why I didn’t make a Chinese version, and I focused on foreigners.
What is the purpose of the book and what do you hope people get out of it?
When I came to the United States, I was surprised that many people didn’t know my homeland Taiwan. Some people couldn’t even tell the difference between Taiwan and Thailand or the difference between Taiwan and Mainland China. Thus, I wanted to make a book to introduce Taiwan, but I wanted to avoid using stock photos, because I didn’t want it to be boring. I hope that the readers want to read the book page after page, not just browse it. I also hope that the readers are able to get a basic understanding of Taiwan.
How did you create the book?
I made a paper model for each story and took a picture of them. Then, I photoshopped the photos and then used Illustrator to create the layout.
Why did you pick these facts? How did you pick what to write about?
At the beginning, I collected as many facts as I could. I picked some facts that I thought were basic such as the population, information about earthquakes, tea culture, lunchbox culture. I tried to translate these facts into interesting numbers. However, after having this basic information about Taiwan, I felt there was still something missing, so I added a few facts, which may not be as important, but there were interesting and fun—such as the myopia rate.
This project uses public information. Besides the facts that you were able to find, did you do any original research?
No. I didn’t conduct any original research because the project from proposal to completion took me less than two months. Also, had I used original research, there would have been a risk of committing statistical errors.
How long did the book take to put together? What part of the process took the most time?
Deciding what kind of book to do (because the project was to create a book) took about a week including making decisions about style and direction.
Data collection and sketches took a little more than a week.
Production took a relatively long time — about 4 or 5 weeks. This part included constructing the paper models, the photography, writing, editing, etc all while doing the layout.
The last stage, “surface finishing” took about one to two weeks.
What was the most difficult and what was the easiest part to implement in the project?
The most difficult part was probably figuring out what kind of data to include in the book. A lot of information is really boring.
I also had some problems translating the data into English. For example: “每日有2-3個有感地震” (Roughly: each day you can feel/ experience 2 to 3 earthquakes) is common in Chinese, but it was difficult to translate “有感地震” (“feel an earthquake”) into English. I checked the Central Weather Bureau and looked for a number of scientific sources explaining earthquakes to American students, in the hopes that this would be easier to understand since their knowledge of earthquakes would be less complex. However, I still didn’t understand what was discussed with the students. So I wrote in a non-academic style so that ordinary people would understand the concept of experiencing 2 to 3 earthquakes per day.
The easiest part to implement was probably creating the paper sculptures and sketches. When the draft was completed, it made the follow up work a lot easier.
If this project is published, what kind of school subject would you like to see the book used in?
I never thought about that. I suppose you could use it in a “Human Geography” class.
Now that the project is finished, is there anything about it that is different from the original concept?
There should have been more illustrations, but time did not permit. The original plan was to have more than 13 illustrations. I wanted to do 20 or more, but I couldn’t because of lack of time.
If someone is interested in buying a copy of your book, where can they go to find/ buy it?
I would really like to share the book with more people. But there are currently only a few copies in print.
Wow! Here’s to hoping Tien Min is able to make the book available to all of us someday soon!