【HKDI訪問】 愛書造書 承傳文化

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文字無價,說來動聽。在講求包裝的年代,利用書籍設計將文本商業化。吸引讀者購買,是否貶低了文字的價值呢? 本地書籍設計師陳曦成坦言,書本是商品,當書本被買回去閱讀,其價值才得以發揮,但書本不只是商品, 更是「文化的傳承,知識的載體。」

在大學時期,就讀視覺傳達設計的曦成,已經視當時的天窗出版社美術總監孫浚良為偶像,幾經努力後獲得以自由身的身份,為該出版社設計書籍,可惜其時孫浚良已離開天窗,但幸得總編輯為曦成穿針引線,促成他與偶像合作。總編輯將由孫浚良擔任設計總監、湯禎兆著的《整形日本》交由他設計。曦成指是次經驗令他獲益良多,「我覺得好amazing(了不起)!孫浚良的設計完全打破印刷業的routine(常規),讓我發現其實書可以有無限可能性。」

設計藝術 也可互相融和

工作不久後,曦成決心要成為一名專攻書籍設計的設計師,外人覺得他局限了自己,但他卻認為,書籍設計還有無窮無盡的探索價值。

零七年,曦成到英國進修書籍藝術碩士課程,學習用不同結構、方式和材料立體呈現「書」。「『造書』與雕塑、繪畫等藝術形式沒太大分別,都是藝術家對世界感知轉化而成的藝術品,只是載體不一樣。」 曦成從此多了一個書籍藝術家的身份,深入研究和發掘更多書的可能性。

對於被問及藝術家與書籍設計師之別,曦成認為前者的創作空間相對較大,由構思到完成過程,均一手包辦,後者則較為被動,需要配合作者、編輯及出版商的要求。

曦成曾在著作《英倫書藝之旅》提問:「設計與藝術之間的界線,真的要畫得這麼清楚嗎?」在接觸和發掘愈多後,他發現兩者雖有不同,卻可互相融和,以大眾藝術作為書的表現媒界,透過美學,將文本的主題更立體地延伸。

精心設計 提升文本價值

曦成認為「做靚本書」是設計師的基本責任,「但更重要的是,要透過書籍設計為文本add value(提升價值)。」 曦成習慣先消化整本書的文字,然後萃取最重要的部份,再構思最合適的方式表達,而非單單為書籍「包裝扮靚」。

榮獲HKDA「環球設計大獎2013」優異獎的《老舍之死:口述實錄》是曦成設計過最滿意的商業作品。此書透過訪問老舍身邊的人,口述老舍於太平湖自盡一事,從而探索其心路歷程。作品以黑白灰作主調,並透過視覺歷程帶領讀者進入老舍一生的傷感情懷,「書的首頁是太平湖的黑白照,湖的景象在接下來的三個對版逐頁收窄,將老舍由眼望太平湖到逐漸閉眼,至跳進湖中的過程影像,呈現在讀者眼前;續以相片鋪陳出他臨終前大量flashback(回閃影像),包括出生、結婚、生兒育女、與藝文好友相聚等;繼而一片嫣紅,代表死亡, 然後才進入十五萬字的訪談。」

以身作則 推動書籍設計

曦成在籌備《台北書藝之旅》的過程中,專訪了多位台灣的書籍設計和書藝達人。他坦言,香港書籍設計的美感質素比台灣的落後,加上書籍設計在本港相對「較難搵食」,未必吸引到精英入行,形成一個惡性循環,因此激發起曦成的使命感,盼望一點一滴改變現況。「首先當然要做好自己,提升自己的設計質素,最重要是鍾意,鍾意就自然做得好,做得好就自然『搵到食』啦!」

另外,曦成也花一半時間做教育推廣的工作,透過教學與講座,讓更多人了解書籍設計和書籍藝術。曦成在香港各大院校教授書籍設計課程和書籍裝訂工作坊,學生作品時常為他帶來驚喜,「當中不乏一些奇形怪狀的設計,不斷刺激大家的思維。」他享受教學的過程,「因為這不單是技巧與知識傳授,更是與學生共同探索書的價值的好機會。」

在網絡發達、資訊爆炸的年代,電子書發展熾熱,然而實體書仍能屹立不倒,因為書本並非單一的平面,而是實在、立體、有深度的載體,可以釋放無限想像、無限可能性。

Book Design Intelligence in Cultural Inheritance

Words are priceless. How true is this from the reality? We live in an era that outer-beauty always comes first. There is no exception when it comes to books. Using book design to attract consumers is said to be a commercialisation of books. Does this degrade the value of words? Local book designer Chan Hei-shing believes the value of words can only be recognised when a book, as a commodity for sale, was read. However, he uttered, “a book is not only a commodity but cultural inheritance and a medium for knowledge.”

Hei-shing, majored in Visual Communication Design at university, has always been regarding Les Suen as his idol. Knowing his idol was the Art Director of Enrich Culture, Hei-shing was dying for a job at the same company and succeeded at last as a freelance book designer for it. Unfortunately, by the time he got in, Les had left the company. The editor-in-chief had been very helpful to give him a chance to design a book called “Shaping Japan” by Tong Ching-siu of which Les was the design director. Hei-shing said he had learnt a lot from the experience, “This is so amazing! Les Suen’s design is a breakthrough from routine and this inspired me that books can have boundless possibilities.”

Integrating book art into design

Shortly after he started working, Hei-shing decided to become a designer specialising in book design. “People thought I have limited myself too soon but I believe that book design is an area which can be explored endlessly.” Hei-shing went all the way to the UK in 2007 for a master programme in book art in which he learnt to use different structures, forms and materials to make books. “There is no difference between books and other art forms such as sculptures and paintings. They are all art pieces created through the sensational experiences of artists. The only difference is the medium.” He has gradually become a book artist and continued to deepen his understanding of book art so as to unearth every possibility. The most common question that goes to Hei-shing is the difference between his two identities. He thinks that book artists have more room for creative ideas as they can involve in the creation process from brainstorming ideas to crafting the actual pieces. Book designers, however, may not enjoy this freedom as they are bounded by the content of books and need to take care of requests from authors, editors and publishers.

In one of Hei-shing’s books “POPUP LONDON: exploring the secret of Book Arts” published in 2009, he mentioned his doubt, “Do we have to draw a clear line between design and art?” As he explores more, he realises book art can be integrated into book design even if there are fundamental differences between the two. Through aesthetic presentation, the book content can be solidly developed and emphasised by pop art, the new medium.

Design to add value

It is a basic responsibility of a book designer to “make books beautiful”. “Yet, most importantly, a book designer should add value to the content.” Hei-shing has developed a habit to digest all the words of a book, extract the essence and find the most suitable way to present the book content. He does more than an ordinary packaging task, which is making the books “pretty”.

Among all his commercial works, The Death of Lao She, awarded Merit (book) in HKDA Global Design Awards in 2013, is Hei-shing’s favourite. It is a book that records the oral history about Lao’s suicide at Taiping Lake, reported by people surrounding him. Through the series of interviews, Lao’s mentality of his last stage of life is explored.

Black, white and grey are used as the main colour tone. Through sequence of paper, he leads readers to the Lao’s sentimental life. “Turning into the first page, it shows a black and white photo of Taiping Lake where Lao committed suicide. By shrinking the pictures of the Lake in the next three folds, visual images from Lao’s perspective of approaching the Lake from closing his eyes to actually jumping in are shown. This is further comprehended by other photos of the famous writer, flashing back his life including birth, marriage, his children and moments with his friends. This introduction is concluded with a red double page spread and the content of interviews follows.”

Role model in promoting book design

During the preparation of “BOOK ARTS TAIPEI”, Hei-shing interviewed many Taiwanese book designers and book artists. He admitted that compared to Taiwan, Hong Kong’s book design is lagging behind. Worse still, potential elites are not attracted to the industry due to the low pay, which developed a vicious cycle. This stimulates Hei-shing’s sense of mission to improve the current situation as he said, “It all starts from myself which I always enhance my own designs. This shows how much I love the industry and when you love what you are doing, you will do a great job.”

Apart from that, Hei-shing also spends half of his time on educating people about book design and book art though lectures and talks. He teaches book design courses and book binding workshops in various local education institutes. The works from his students often surprise him as he said, “Among those, there are unconventional designs that provoke your thought.” He enjoys teaching as he believes it is not only about passing on skills and knowledge but also a good opportunity to explore the value of books with students.

_ Hong Kong Design Institute Interview

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Contributor

Hei Shing
chanheishing@gmail.com

書就是… A Book is…


一片紙不但表現時間,也表現空間。而一片片的紙張組合起來的書就是一個高深的容器,盛滿文字,既能從中不斷汲取智慧,又能裝入無限的智慧。

A piece of paper reflects not only time but also space. Books are formed by binding papers together to become containers of words that serve as a reservoir as well as a spring of wisdom.

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