Combining technological progress and human ingenuity for great design


The modern-day equivalent of Leonardo da Vinci’s studio is open to all. Technological innovation and the vast array of powerful digital tools available means anyone can dabble in design now. However, the production of masterpieces still requires individuals who have truly mastered the processes needed to piece together creative visions. 

That is why we invest so much in our Design department and their work. As well as preparing the graphics and images included in all our material, they contribute to major client engagements and have a key role in developing new products.

In his 10 years as an industrial designer and then a graphic designer, Yujin Chiang has seen a lot of change, particularly in recent years due to the explosion of AI assets. However, he believes one key thing remains unchanged: exceptional design work should do more than offer visual stimulation; it should convey a deeper meaning and tell a story. 

“Design always has to bring the right information to people,” explains Yujin, who is contributing to the development of a new contractor-facing product. “There’s a lot of empathy in it – you put yourself in the shoes of stakeholders in the whole process, whether they are internal or external, to make sure it’s relevant to them.

Illustration depicts long-term partnership with Hyphen’s contructors

“My job sometimes feels like it is about building bridges or tunnels that connect everyone. Because of those bridges, we – all the different stakeholders and users – can join together and look at a beautiful fountain in the town centre. Design should make it easier to bring different groups together.” 

Finding that spark of ingenuity and originality to create something special can sometimes be a challenge for designers. Digital advances help overcome that to some extent as some aspects of the job that previously took hours can now be completed in minutes. 

It’s all about using that reclaimed time effectively; doing so is what sets great designers – like the ones in our team – and their outputs apart. 

Yujin explains: “The software available now is like an accelerator because you have a machine that helps you do all the monkey jobs. That is a definite merit of technology – it frees up your time to think and collect your thoughts. 

“My design work can at times be quite solitary, particularly when creating images for communications materials, but there are other projects that are much more collaborative. It’s good to have more time to discuss things with people and bounce ideas around. For me, that’s one of the most fun parts of preparing these graphics and doing this kind of work.” 

He adds: “Sometimes it can be quite painful when you get stuck trying to come up with a great idea. Discussing things can really pull you out of that swamp so it’s good having more time to communicate with my colleagues and design peers.” 

The rise of generative AI tools, such as Chat-GPT and DALL-E, has generated headlines around the globe in recent years – and plenty of pieces of content, too. 

These open-access tools have provoked debate, with many stakeholders trying to figure out their place in the modern design ecosystem. 

However, Yujin notes that while digital innovation is racing forward, he and various creative contemporaries are looking backwards and delving into more analogue sources for inspiration.

“In my early days, I tended to take inspiration from the Internet, but now I’m more drawn towards books,” says Yujin, who joined forces a design studio with our Head of Design, Patrick Savolainen, in 2019. “Looking for material solely online can lead to tunnel vision; when you go into a library or a bookstore, there’s so much that can send you towards areas you might not have previously thought of.

“When I talk with other designers, I think more and more people are looking towards books in particular for inspiration now. Technology is great but it’s not something I or anyone else should rely on entirely when there’s so much amazing material around out there.”

In time, Yujin would like to ‘get his hands dirty’ and produce more analogue work – drawing sketches, producing colleagues and printing magazines – away from my day-to-day duties.

He was also last year accepted on to a prestigious postgraduate type design programme at Type West, in San Francisco. His work there – and the more than 100,000 samples of typography – will expand his knowledge and help him in a remarkable personal crusade.

At Hyphen, we have already developed our own typeface and Yujin has plans to develop something of his own: a font family for the Taiwanese language, Tâi-gí. Rejuvenating and celebrating his native tongue, which has not used a modern design approach for more than 60 years, is a labour of love – and highlights the importance of the human element of the design process.

“The course has taught me so much about the history and variety of type design,” he says. “It’s been quite humbling and you pay a lot of respect to just how important language is and also the design of it. Working on this is precious and the language has such a long history; to visualise that in a modern way, I will keep honing my craft.”

He adds: “Working in design incorporates so many things, some of which are opposites – there are collaborations and times you will work alone; it’s analogue and digital; there is cutting-edge technology and huge physical collections. It’s great to learn more about all of these things and use them to create things that people really care about.”