We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative Tairan Hao and Shan Xu ("THASX").
Tairan Hao and Shan Xu are Chinese new media artists and designers in Beijing. Their work questions current nature and technology development, socio-cultural, and gender norms, with a particular emphasis on exploring the relationship between technology and art activism. Naturally drawn to uncovering the nuances and mechanism of the world people live in, they are particularly interested in exploring our daily landscapes and the critical concerns of modern times: the conflicting forces that shape land and humans. Their goal is to recreate spaces that intrigue and encourage the viewer to slow down and indulge in a moment of contemplation and reflection.
Tairan Hao and Shan Xu Designs
We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by Tairan Hao and Shan Xu.
Designer Interview of Tairan Hao and Shan Xu:
DI: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
THASX : Tairan Hao was obsessed with oil painting when he was young, therefore he chose to attend an art school - California College of the Arts where he finished his bachelor of fine arts degree. Shan Xu received an MFA degree in interaction design at California College of the Arts, and a BFA degree in New Media Design at China Central Academy of Fine Art. She is also interested in new media arts, interactive arts. They always consider themselves as both artists and designers since they think arts and designs are reciprocal, connected, and relevant. They always wanted to contribute their creativity to the world and explore the possibilities of life through arts and designs.
DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
THASX : tyshan.studio is our design studio, founded by Tairan Hao and Shan Xu. Our studio focuses on speculative design. We are using design as the medium to engage people to frame our preferable futures together. We aim to help ourselves to successfully manage the disruptive forces of environmental, technological, and cultural changes today and plan our next evolutions.
DI: What is "design" for you?
THASX : To accomplish a particular purpose. The meaning of design is so multifaceted, to the point that you can no longer say if a universal definition is at all possible.
DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
THASX : Tairan Hao and Shan Xu like to make art creation regarding the theme of exploring the connection between virtual and reality, and the concept of gamification. For design, their expertise is to provide the optimal experience to users and deliver products that can solve the users' problems. But Tairan Hao interested in 3D modeling and rendering the most. Shan Xu is professional with new media design and art curation.
DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
THASX : Speculative design is our favorite and common goal. Tairan Hao and Shan Xu speculate possible futures to address unseen challenges and uncover opportunities through designed artifacts, scenario-building, and immersive experiences.
DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
THASX : Tairan Hao and Shan Xu designed a medication delivery drone for a technology company this year under the influence of pandemic.
DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
THASX : Tairan Hao and Shan Xu prefer using different types of technology in our art and design such as a 3D printer, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
DI: When do you feel the most creative?
THASX : During a relaxed time, we would like to browse some interdisciplinary social news and try new creative ideas for our designs.
DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
THASX : Visual communication, it's the first impression of the product and the message we want to share.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
THASX : A little bit scared, excited, and hopeful. This mixed emotion could let me balance a better situation to start the design journey.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
THASX : Relaxing, compelling, delighted and excited.
DI: What makes a design successful?
THASX : The excellent design needs to be able to communicate an idea to people, or presenting a solution to an existing problem.
DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
THASX : Different designs have a diversified background story or concept, so we only think about some if there is design deep meaning worthy of discussing.
DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
THASX : It is generally characterized by attitudes that value justice, equality, participation, sharing, sustainability, and practices that intentionally engage social issues and recognize the consequences of decisions and actions.
DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
THASX : We believe all the design field's evolution depends on the future experience of human lives. The design has the power to change people’s behavior, improve people’s living quality and explore the possibility of life.
DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
THASX : According to the COVID-19, we have canceled some recent off-online exhibitions. Fortunately, we got a new experience with the online exhibition in April in New York for our latest animation design. Our goal is to hold a unique exhibition in the upcoming year.
DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
THASX : We find inspiration in every detail in life. It could be a moment from eating dinner, or it could be seeing an interesting poster.
DI: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
THASX : Speculative design. We want to talk about potential future innovations. Our works expand technologies' possibilities and extrapolate world conditions to forecast plausible futures. We see digital media or technical skills as the main characteristic. Usually, we start with the research and imaging to explore the diverse possibilities.
DI: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
THASX : We are living in Beijing. The design is usually affected by the environment and reflection of our life. There are some fantastic traditional architectures and full of oriental aesthetics atmosphere. We want to catch the culture's essence into our design and avoid having too many of the same elements.
DI: How do you work with companies?
THASX : Collaboration is the key to the design studio to work with companies. It includes production, communication, testing, analytics, support, and updates. Those who realize that a designer is more than just a pencil, end up with a consistent and reliable product instead of a patchwork of narrow tasks.
DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?
THASX : Firstly, we start design through background research and brainstorming or interviews with multiple fields of people. Then we will decide the concept, depends on the data collection.
DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
THASX : Bottles, Knives, Sofa, Wallpapers, and Chairs.
DI: Can you describe a day in your life?
THASX : When people ask me what I do for a living, I show them what I want to do. For me, visual design is about finding the best way to bring ideas to life: posters, film, installation, animation, or even objects. So I wake up with sunshine, sit at the front of my work table to read some news to start my day; by the way, there is a place that has grown of my most inspiration. Then I always talk with my partner and eat some lunch together.
DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
THASX : Diversify your experience. A well-rounded design leader can wear many hats. They collect those hats by taking on responsibilities outside their design "discipline." If you are a Fashion Designer, do not be afraid to take on roles in Graphic Design, POP, Manufacturing, UI/UX, etc.… I have done Video Design, Animation Design, Graphic Design, Package Design, Toy Design, POP, Workshop Facilitation, and Innovation Strategy. Without taking on all these experiences, I do not feel that I would be where I am today.
DI: What skills are most important for a designer?
THASX : Learning and hearing are essential skills for every designer, and we need to learn how to appreciate others' work.
DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
THASX : C4D is the first choice for video-content design; also, we use Maya, ZBrush, and Substance Painter for building 3D objects. We choose Photoshop, AI and XD primarily for 2D visual design.
DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
THASX : I will make a schedule for the program period. Especially, there are always complicated design projects or several programs pushed at the same time. I prefer to set aside three days before the deadline.
DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
THASX : Depending on the different objects' details, most of them will cost more than one month for a simple video. We need to prepare lots of elements, sources, and inspirations.
DI: Who are some of your clients?
THASX : Like some games, technology, or energy companies, most of them are technology startups, who are full of passion and future vision. We have many ideas in common with our clients.
DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
THASX : Usually, we talk with our clients first, then we work as a team to fulfill our client’s needs.
DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
THASX : We are recently designing an animation film for a city's situation under COVID-19, through the abstract virus models as the character to engage people to face and fight the invaders.
DI: How can people contact you?
THASX : Our official email is firstname.lastname@example.org.