Jun Lin on how graphic design brings a physicality to the written word
The Los Angeles-based graphic designer explores Duchamp’s concept of infrathin referring to the minute differences between experience and perception.
- Jyni Ong
- 5 October 2020
It was words not visuals which first sparked an interest in graphic design for Jun Lin. While studying Foreign Languages and Literatures in Taipei, she wrote almost every day. Snippets of loose thoughts jotted down on either laptop or phone peppered those years and she wasn’t sure what to do with the body of work, though she knew she wanted to make something of it. “But then,” she tells us, “I saw people doing zines and poetry chapbooks and it seemed like a nice format to put all those words into, so I started making zines for myself.”
This was just the very beginning of Jun’s creative endeavours. She soon garnered an interest in photography and layout design to complement the words, taking an interest in all aspects of the creative process and printing the zines on the university’s printer. “I liked the way design brought physicality and dimension to words,” she says looking back on this first foray into graphic design. She quickly learnt that each delicate creative decision informs the way words are understood. Realising the power that typography, colour, paper stock, size and so on can have on a work, she began to understand graphic design as a language: “It has tone, emotion, accent – and it allows us to say things in a certain way.”
In turn, this key interpretation spurred on Jun’s developing craft. After completing her languages degree – a deeply cherished period of times which “opened [her] eyes” to a myriad of different people and their histories – Jun embarked on an MFA in graphic design at ArtCenter College of Design. Throughout it all, what she learned during her undergraduate degree prevailed. Looking back on the degree, she explains, “I walked away with the lesson that there are no right or wrong answers but rather possible interpretations, and to accept complexity as part of life and work.” It’s an ethos that’s continued to inform her practice to date, a practice of open mindedness and inclusivity.
Now, her pared back work is imbued with subtle meaning expressed through the layered nuances of words. Using her poetry, writing and more generally, the symbolic meaning of language, as a means of kickstarting her designs, Jun’s graphic design practice is both style and substance. She explores topics of written censorship, speech empowerment and language perception in her thoughtful practice. And more often than not, the result takes the form of effortlessly elegant printed matter or typographic explorations.
In Format, a hypothetical publishing house for example, Jun imagines what experimental and conceptual publishing can be in the digital age. “Publications come out in unconventional formats with the aim to create new reading experiences for the reader while prompting the audience to consider the relationship between form and content,” Jun explains. It started out as an exploration into graphic designer-publishers and a curiosity into what alternative publishing can look like in the future.
She set out to create a fictional publisher that could release both playful and odd publications. Publications such as Paul Soulellis’ Library of the Printed Web, McSweeney’s Quarterly and Dear Lulu by the students and professors at Hochschule Darmstadt served as inspiration. And as a result Jun explores questions such as “What are the differences between reading in print and on the web?” in the wide ranging project. In response to this question, Jun designed The Scroll, a 400 inch long scroll printed on bond paper and also available in web format. It interrogates how print can replicate the experience of reading on the web, an expansion on Duchamp’s concept of infrathin (inframince) which refers to the minute differences between experience and perception.
In turn, in The Scroll, the printed publication replicates the web. By comparing and contrasting the two different scrolls, Jun highlights the margins between experience and perception. The physical scroll for example has a mighty physical presence in its mere length whereas the digital scroll seems more convenient to navigate. All in all, as Jun hinted to previously, the project was not about looking for the right or wrong answers. “It was really just about asking questions and exploring possibilities.”
GalleryAll images copyright © Jun Lin, 2020
About the Author
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.