Leo Lin’s Posters Chronicle Taiwan’s Design Evolution

By: Leo Lin


The Taiwan Poster Design Association (TPDA) was founded in 1991 by five students from the same class in the NTNU Department of Fine Arts with the spirit of ‘loving Taiwan, valuing culture, and caring about design,’ initiating Taiwan’s poster design. As the only design association in Taiwan dedicated to ‘posters,’ the TPDA has seen its mission evolve from ‘loving Taiwan, valuing culture, and caring about design,’ which was aimed at developing local design culture, into adopting a more global perspective, encapsulated as ‘loving Taiwan, valuing tradition, caring about design, and broadening international outlook.’

The fact that the works displayed in the TPDA annual exhibitions have won numerous international awards demonstrates that the TPDA is the first to make Taiwan’s design known to the world. Additionally, not only have world-famous designers been invited to participate in the TPDA annual exhibitions, but the works from the TPDA have also been exhibited in Taiwan, China, Macao, Europe, and the U.S., indicating the TPDA is a highly international design association.

In 2022, I was invited as one TPDA consultant to present my work at the TPDA annual exhibition, which marked the thirtieth anniversary of the association. As one senior member and consultant of the TPDA, I reviewed the development and history of the TPDA over the past thirty years, shaped by the poster creations of every TPDA member during this time. The TPDA members have garnered international awards and attracted global attention through these poster creations.

This work was created with the element of ‘posters,’ with the Arabic numeral 30 used to represent the thirtieth annual exhibition of the TPDA. The straightforward and concise element, displayed with a plastic film visual effect, served as a metaphorical representation of the flow of time, conveying the idea that the thirtieth anniversary was only part of the TPDA’s ongoing progress and advancement.

The Glory of the Centennial of NTNU: A Century of Taiwanese Design History

National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), one of the only four universities in early post-war Taiwan, stands as the top-ranking educational institution for nurturing Taiwan’s professionals in arts and design. Many accomplished and respected figures in the arts and design industry in Taiwan today are graduates of this university. Its forerunner, Taihoku High School, was established in 1922 under Japanese rule as the only elite school in Taiwan whose graduates could be directly admitted to Japan’s prestigious universities and which has become the alma mater for many members of the intellectual elite in academic, literary, political, financial and medical circles in both Taiwan and Japan. Distinguished artists and designers who graduated from NTNU played a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of Taiwan’s design industry and its historical development. Therefore, it could be asserted that NTNU’s century-long design history comprises half of Taiwan’s overall design history.

In 2022, NTNU marked its centennial celebration, during which the exhibition “The Glory of the Centennial of NTNU, A Century of Taiwanese Design History,” planned and organized by the NTNU Department of Design, featured artworks of the NTNU faculty and alumni in arts and design, highlighting the impact of these artworks on the landscape and history of Taiwan’s design over the past one hundred years. This was indeed a once-in-a-century design exhibition.

As a faculty member of the NTNU Department of Design and an NTNU alumnus, I was tasked by the curator with visual design for this exhibition. The initial challenge in poster design was figuring out how to depict a century-long design history on a single sheet of paper. A review of the design literature indicated that title text designs have been created using both manual and digital methods, showcasing the artistic characteristics of different eras. Therefore, I adopted Chinese characters as the prominent design element, and fonts from different historical periods in Taiwan were employed in the exhibition’s title text to symbolize Taiwan’s centennial design history.

The same title text was showcased in two versions within a series. A traditional style was adopted in one version, incorporating certain exhibited artworks to create a visually rich and historically significant image. The other version exclusively featured the title text, adopting a simple and modern visual form that offered a distinct artistic representation of the centennial design history.

To me, this poster was not just a design project but also an endeavor that aided me in gaining a deeper understanding of my school’s history and Taiwan’s design development spanning the past one hundred years. It was by generations of those in design circles that design concepts were passed down, accumulated, and enriched, and such progress and advancement of design concepts have, in turn, contributed to the contemporary era in which various design concepts and works compete against one another!

Leo Lin is a graphic designer, educator, and curator. He was a dean of the College of Arts at the National Taiwan Normal University and the former chairman of the Taiwan Poster Design Association.

He is keen on exploring visual graphic experiments and focuses on the social and cultural exploration of design. Lin’s works have been recognized by leading design organizations and publications worldwide, but his posters have won and were selected by international poster biennales and triennials in countries like Russia, Mexico, Japan, and Poland.

Social: Instagram, Behance

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Author: Graphis