“I wish the books designed by me can enjoy solitude in a book store. This resembles Chinese painting in art galleries when only one dim light is used to subtly brighten the painting in a dark dusky room. Yet it will still be seen.” Lin Xiao-Yi
Many regard the Taiwanese book designer Lin Xiao-Yi’s works as delicate yet elegant, soft but rich; her works are like poetry, which takes just a short time to finish reading, but has no limit for interpretation.
// After taking a commission work from Ecus Publishing House to redesign Yasunari Kawabata’s collection, she decided to actualize the four seasons as depicted by Kawabata. For Snow Country, The Old Capital and Thousand Cranes, Lin put the first paragraph of the works on the tummy bands. Book covers are made with fabric, book titles sewn to the cover – a presentation of elegance. The fabric she found in Taiwan did not have a good enough density, so she ordered some from the Netherlands, paper was on the other hand ordered from Japan. Snow Country features a greyish off-white fabric covering brownish grey paper, appearing like a scene covered by winter snow. Through the glittering silver white title page, opening the book feels like letting in the cold breeze. The Old Capital adopts a subtly elegant light yellow. Texture of the title page resembles barks of an old tree, which reminds readers of the wooden wall of the historic Kyoto; the colour of gold shines from within the dark green page, this is like putting the restrained splendour of Kyoto on paper. //
The poetic quality in her works is a reward from her accumulated experience.
// Two days before our interview, to help me better grasp the context of the conversation, Lin sent over an organized list of people and things that cast significant influence on her –Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Michelangelo Antonioni, William Chang Suk Ping, Yoji Yamamoto, Shi Jing, calligrapher Huai Su, Architect Junya Ishigami, Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto… Intriguingly, most of the 20 items in the list have little to do with books and graphic design. However, it is their dedication to beauty, the way they formulate and express idea, the attitude towards creation and existence, the manner of creating from nothingness, that constructed the deepest part of Lin’s memory, and in turn became the foundation of Lin’s creativity. //
Collecting memories of beauty is a habit that Lin has developed ever since childhood. Revisiting these memories when making new design allows Lin to discover more directions for creativity.
// Designing La déesse du sommeil for Sotheby’s Hong Kong is an example. Tsuguharu Foujita’s Yuki has pale, plump and flawless skin. Looking at her, she thinks of how Bai Juyi describes Yang Guifei by saying “The smooth waters of the hot and washed over her pale white skin.” in “Chang Hen Ge”. Literal translation of the line actually uses curd of grease as a metaphor of flawlessly smooth skin of female. This imagery is the concept behind using a pure white box of wax as a book cover. She wants readers to feel the smoothness of female body when touching the book. //
OBSCURA Autumn & Winter 2016 presented a 20-page feature on the Taiwanese book designer Lin Xiao-Yi. Even if the feature could run even longer, that still wouldn’t be enough to fully demonstrate the unique depth of Lin.
(Abstract from OBSCURA Autumn & Winter 2016.)