Finding the sweet spot in between art and design, Jiaxi Wei discusses her type-led practice

The Tokyo-based creative treats Kanji lettering in the same way she would illustrate a character, with the appropriate personality.

17 April 2020

Jiaxi Wei has done it all, and by all, I mean illustration, graphic design and video-film advertising. From China to London, and now living in Tokyo, Jiaxi has moved internationally to achieve her creative goals. “The thing that first attracted me to the creative disciplines is that I can make anything come true that does not exist in reality,” she tells It’s Nice That. With an unbridled sense of imagination, Jiaxi draws on her interdisciplinary training to “find a balance in between art and design.”

Weaving together quirky illustrations with bold typography, she tells a story with distinct style. “Maybe art is more subjective and maybe design is more objective,” she says of the two spectrums that her work goes between, and with each project, she probes further at this space in-between. For Jiaxi, the difference between the art and design can be defined as so: “Art is very personal, whereas design is more for people on the whole,” she explains. With this in mind, she hopes to fill a unique space somewhere between the two, going on to say, “I want to be the designer for the people.”

As a child, she loved anime, particularly the characters with a hint of magic about them. It was one of the reasons she wanted to study illustration in the first place, but as time went on, it had an unexpected effect on the rest of her practice. As Jiaxi became more interested in graphic design and in turn, typography, she looked to the discipline in the same way that she would an illustration, transforming Kanji characters into something visually suitable, similar to how she would illustrate an anime figure according to their personality.


Jiaxi Wei

It’s a process demonstrated in her recent project titled Transformation Spells or 変身呪文集. The project started out as a response to the Japanese character, 変, meaning ‘unusual’ or ‘change’ in English. Jiaxi interpreted it in a nostalgic sense, creating a book about transformation spells lifted directly from Japanese anime. “I used typography to express the effects of spells, which female characters then use to transform themselves into another character,” she adds on the type-led project.

This project marked the first time Jiaxi used typography in an official sense. Before, her work was predominantly defined by illustrations and geometric figures, so this introduction added a new dimension to the multi-disciplinary creative’s work. “Typography is still more difficult for me than illustration,” says of this development, “because Kanji characters are more abstract than drawings.” In spite of this, she has merged the two in an interesting way. Her type subtly intertwines with the rest of the illustrative composition, finding a common ground between an accurate depiction of the words, as well as its abstract meaning.

This symbiotic relationship between text and image is explored through many of Jiaxi’s other works. In zines, comics and digital artworks, it’s a link she hopes to carry through her practice from now onwards. As for the future in other regards, Jiaxi is planning to create a line of products that she will sell through an online store through her social channels. She’s also looking to start a job in her new home of Tokyo as soon as she can, and keep working on a medley of goodies that we can’t wait to keep up with.

GalleryJiaxi Wei

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Jiaxi Wei

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.

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