Rivers Yang’s 100 Shapes Project is a personal puzzle for the designer

Grown from a love of abstract drawing as a child, the Taiwanese designer proves that practice not only makes perfect but leads to further experimentation.

12 November 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read


At the age of 12 (12!) Taipei-based creative Rivers Yang attempted to build her first website. Always enthusiastic about drawing, it was the merging of creativity and purpose that led Rivers to realise: “I am interested in making something that could be both creative and logical at the same time,” she tells It’s Nice That. “That was my first ever experience in design.”

After finding the medium of graphic design in high school, and deciding “that this is what I wanted to explore for the rest of my life,” Rivers began a career working on packaging projects, branding, editorial design, and all that the practice has to offer. On the side however, the designer was developing a graphic approach built from her longstanding love for illustrating abstract shapes, setting himself the task of creating reels and reels of illustrated components in her 100 Shapes Project.

Creating a series of abstract design pieces where shapes squeeze in amongst one another with artistic ease, Rivers’ 100 Shapes Project is an ongoing experiment in design. “To me, what I do through assembling and arranging these various shapes is to create all kinds of dream-like, open-interpreted and imaginative scenes,” she explains. In turn, the act of placing these drawn shapes together is a personal puzzle for the designer, where she tries “to deal with subtle and sensitive relationships and boundaries between a large number of components.”

Beginning simply out of a want to draw, and a process where the “shapes, lines and colours come to me,” Rivers explains his approach to creating is like letting everything that’s gathered in her mind fall out on to the page, “and my job is to select and collage,” as he puts it. Although led from her personal point of view, and often many of the shapes revert back to those old drawings the designer made as a child, the result is purposefully abstract to be left open for interpretation. “Each work can be read as a messy space; an ambiguous poem; a brisk melody; an interrupted dream, or any other thing that the audience received from my work.”


Rivers Yang: 100 Shapes Project (Shapes Experiment) (Copyright © Rivers Yang, 2020)

With this in mind, the designer points out that there is no special formula or magic in her approach, she simply just keeps “drawing, and by doing so, enhances my ability of using shape and colour.” An example of how often practice really does make perfect, in improving her abilities through repetition Rivers also has a large back catalogue to play with too. Creating many colour blocks at once, “I have created my own database of shapes, so the ones I don’t include this time can still be saved for later use”. The same goes for his many swatch libraries, a collection he’s made over many years. “I care very much on maintaining a level of balance among all the vivid colours I choose to use,” she explains.

This balance is also achieved by Rivers preferring “to mix organic shapes and geometric shapes that are often used in graphic design in my work,” she describes. The result are pieces which are undeniably busy in their aesthetic, but don’t feel overpowering or ever stressful. “It may look like there are many components in my work, and I do put a lot of effort into dealing with the relations between each component,” he adds. “By creating boundaries of various shapes, I learn to face all kinds of relationships and environments, and find my place in these twisted frames and spatial proportions.”

Planning to always continue the project, “as I consider it as a creative practice apart from the projects I do at work,” Rivers has big plans for how it could grow. “After accumulating more works, I hope to establish my own design brand in the future,” she tells us. “The 100 Shapes Project should not only be shown graphically, but also turned into products, perhaps fabric, building blocks, and even programmed games. Through the use of different materials and media, it allows me to experiment my project with more interesting possibilities.”

GalleryRivers Yang: 100 Shapes Project (Copyright © Rivers Yang, 2020)

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Rivers Yang: 100 Shapes Project

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.


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