Studio Darius Ou considers “what makes a book?” in its identity for Hong Kong Art Book Fair

The Singapore-based design studio talks us through its latest identity for the only bilingual book fair in the world.

5 March 2020


Studio Darius Ou was faced with one question when designing the identity for the Hong Kong Art Book Fair: what actually makes something a book, zine or publication? The Singapore-based graphic design agency, founded in 2016 by its founding designer of the same name, works predominantly in the arts and with cultural institutions. In the past, the studio has designed publications for Facebook Analog Lab, created the identity for Scopeplus Festival in the UK, not to mention a bunch of other bold creations for print and web.

The identity for the Hong Kong Art Book Fair’s concept boiled down to that single premise addressed at the start: what even makes a book a book? After much deliberation and a fair few drafts, the studio settled on an abstracted shape of a curved motif to represent the cover. The motif was weaved throughout all aspects of the identity, peppered into the fair’s main visuals and importantly, incorporated into both the English and Chinese titles. “We felt the need to highlight Booked’s unique position as one of the only bilingual art fairs in the world,” Darius tells It’s Nice That on the resultant bilingual design for the book fair.

The studio designed the motif to stretch and move across all visual planes. Across print and web, Darius and his team wanted the motif to be versatile and easily changeable to represent the breadth of books that exist today. “This created a very interesting relationship with both the English and Chinese characters in the identity,” continues the designer, something that he, and the client – Tai Kwun Contemporary – connected with immediately. Focusing particular attention on the animated coverage throughout the design process, Studio Darius Ou was conscious of what graphic elements would move; a consistent consideration while designing the kinetic identity system.

The venue also has a five-metre LED feature wall to play with, amongst a number of other digital touchpoints. It offered the small studio the chance to visually push the identity to be as impactful as possible across these array of surfaces. Coupled with a 15-metre wayfinding banner that drapes down through a four-storey stairwell, the designers’ task at hand was no mean feat.

Back when Darius was studying the medium, however, at the very beginning of his graphic design career, he had “no idea what [he] was getting into.” But through “a lot of fumbling and exploration on the internet,” which most frequently took place on Tumblr back then, Darius slowly became more and more attuned to the world of graphic design. “I am an introvert,” says Darius, “thus design, or the idea of ‘visual language’ gave me a new avenue to express myself and form opinions.” In turn, now, the designer is most interested in exploring alternative approaches to graphic design with an emphasis on the relevance of visual culture and critical design.

To this day, he draws the vast majority of his inspiration from the internet, particularly in the communities he follows online. With a constant sense of inquisitiveness, an important aspect of Darius’ practice, he seeks out different creative approaches for each project. It’s something which is translated through either the visual language system or the concept, lending Darius an exciting point of view as a designer.

GalleryStudio Darius Ou: Booked

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Studio Darius Ou: Booked

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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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