*{hyphens: auto;}

Zeng
Fanzhi
Masks

Conceptual book design for contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi and his painting series “Masks,” including slipcase and dust jacket design, interior layout for print, and e-book adaptation.

Zeng
Fanzhi
Masks

Conceptual book design for contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi and his painting series “Masks,” including slipcase and dust jacket design, interior layout for print, and e-book adaptation.

Challenge

A book cover and layout design for the artwork of contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi was the objective of this case study. Both the cover and layout were to evoke and reflect the artist’s iconic work, notably a series of paintings that portrayed masked Chinese men in suits with oversized heads and hands. In order to not distract from the Fanzhi’s art, it was important that the design did neither overshadow the paintings depicted nor modify the artwork excessively. The book cover and layout needed to function in unison and be adaptable to an e-book platform, which would serve as an interactive display of and expansion to the book’s contents.

Challenge

A book cover and layout design for the artwork of contemporary Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi was the objective of this case study. Both the cover and layout were to evoke and reflect the artist’s iconic work, notably a series of paintings that portrayed masked Chinese men in suits with oversized heads and hands. In order to not distract from the Fanzhi’s art, it was important that the design did neither overshadow the paintings depicted nor modify the artwork excessively. The book cover and layout needed to function in unison and be adaptable to an e-book platform, which would serve as an interactive display of and expansion to the book’s contents.

Process

Fanzhi’s work is emotionally direct, demonstrated by his expressionistic technique as well as his content, which negotiates his memories and trauma living in China. His process, which he has described as being anchored in Chinese calligraphic history, begins with a focus on the technique and craft that is produced through his hands. He then applies his craft to a particular concept, originating from his mind. By exploring his mind, Fanzhi becomes empowered to navigate the memories and emotions in his heart.

To reflect this personal and thoughtful approach, the cover design and layout solution needed to build and develop a layered system that was both visual and conceptual. Throughout the solution, the images of his work, the stencil typography, the deliberate colour palette, and the digital space are used to reveal, represent, and navigate Fanzhhi’s process.

Process

Fanzhi’s work is emotionally direct, shown by his expressionistic technique as well as his content, which negotiates his memories and trauma living in China. His process, which he has described as being anchored in Chinese calligraphic history, begins with a focus on the technique and craft that is produced through his hands. He then applies his craft to a particular concept, originating from his mind. By exploring his mind, Fanzhi becomes empowered to navigate the memories and emotions in his heart.

To reflect this personal and thoughtful approach, the cover design and layout solution needed to build and develop a layered system that was both visual and conceptual. Throughout the solution, the images of his work, the stencil typography, the deliberate colour palette, and the digital space are used to reveal, represent, and navigate Fanzhhi’s process.

Solution

The cover design system exists as a metaphysical reflection of Fanzhi’s hand–mind–heart discipline. The slipcase evokes the hand: first, with the die cut characters recto-verso; second, with the string attachment that needs to be untied before exploring the book inside; and third, with the predominant use of white and black, signalling this socio-cultural roots in calligraphy.

Solution

The cover design system exists as a metaphysical reflection of Fanzhi’s hand–mind–heart discipline. The slipcase evokes the hand: first, with the die cut characters recto-verso; second, with the string attachment that needs to be untied before exploring the book inside; and third, with the predominant use of white and black, signalling this socio-cultural roots in calligraphy.

The dust jacket is the second level of the cover design and represents the mind, through the symbolic non-obstruction of the image first glimpsed through the slipcase and through the use of the colour yellow and its semiotic roots in concentration and mental energy. Once the dust jacket is removed, the book cover is revealed as the final and deepest space within the artist’s process: the heart. Here, the image depicted is of the artist, both as a photograph and as a self-illustration. The use of a dark red colour as a background coupled with the black and white depiction of Fanzhi reflects his childhood trauma within post-Mao China.

The print layout within the book is set with tight margins to evoke the emotional unease inherent in the artist’s paintings. Set in a contemporary serif, the text’s moderate line length and generous leading demand a thoughtful consideration of the artist’s work and background.

The digital adaptation of the layout takes the mood and motifs set within the existing layered visual system and provide an interactive construct for further exploration. Full bleed images are revealed behind frames that contain navigational and informational context. At key points within the layout, a digital space can be accessed and additional content can be explored. The symbol that is used to enter and exit this space a graphic device that was extracted from the artwork itself and re-purposed to function as navigation.