Biaugust founders Cloud Lu and Owen Chuang say that huaren (Chinese-speaking) designers have the advantage of being able to blend the East and the West, and as such they have a richer design vocabulary than designers from Europe or North America. However, they also believe that huaren designers will struggle for visibility internationally if they do not learn to work together. “Korean design emerged at almost the same time as huaren design,” they say, “but Korean designers were better at joining forces on the international stage. This led to much better visibility for them. We need to learn from this.”
Founded in 2005, Biaugust has grown steadily over the past decade under the leadership of founders Cloud Lu and Owen Chuang. The company’s services include graphic design, product design, and curation, and the work has attracted high-profile clients including Hermés, TenRen, Starbucks, the National Theater and Concert Hall, and Japanese fast-fashion brand GU. In 2011, it was named one of Taiwan’s top 100 designers by the IDA Design Congress, and it was voted Taiwan’s most popular emerging designer in a Commonwealth magazine survey. Biaugust currently owns two brands, Biaugust DECO and HAO Life. It is one of Taiwan’s most successful young design micro-firms.
Lu and Chuang both studied design in Japan, and the two freely admit that their work is heavily inspired by Japanese style. “This has driven us to think about a very important question as Taiwanese people: What really represents Taiwan, if we eliminate traditional Chinese elements?” This question led them to found the HAO Life brand in 2014. In contrast to the opulent and decorative style of Biaugust DECO, HAO Life is a practical lifestyle brand, like a Taiwanese version of Muji. The brand is most notable for the Taiwan-inspired elements that can be seen throughout its products.
“Huaren design doesn’t necessarily need to be all about ink painting, paper cut, and decorative window designs. Huaren design can be very modern,” says Lu. HAO Life’s products are proof of this. The River Basin tea set, for example, is inspired by Taiwan’s geography: “the river refers to the Zhuoshui River. The yellow color at the bottom of the teapot is the sandy riverbed. The ‘mountain’ on the lid is the Central Mountain Range. The spout symbolizes the river’s mouth.” The Corner of Taiwan notebook uses imagery of Taiwan’s landscapes and food, such as Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, tangyuan, and red bean cakes. Views Through a Screen is inspired by the widespread use of screen windows in Taiwan to keep bugs out, transforming Taiwan’s unique geography and customs into a modern design vocabulary.
In addition to authentic Taiwanese elements, traditional Chinese culture is another influence behind Biaugust’s designs. In 2014, the firm was commissioned by the National Theater and Concert Hall to create an installation of an enormous moose sitting on a seesaw. Lu and Chuang decided to make the moose red. “Red is the color most associated with huaren culture. You see it in during Chinese New Year, in weddings, on lanterns. It’s also the least objectionable color for huaren audiences. You may not love it, but you won’t hate it either,” says Lu. In 2012, the firm was commissioned by Artilize to design a set of china based on blue-and-white porcelain. They were inspired by Wang Wei’s famous poem Tao Yuan Xing (Song of the Peach Spring), creating a paradise in which humans and nature live in harmony. Their work earned widespread praise and won a 2012 Creative Expo Award. Biaugust believes that there are many treasures hidden in the cultures of Taiwan and greater China, ready to be discovered and used by huaren designers.
Biaugust’s work has been exhibited all over the world in the past decades–in cities Paris, London, Tokyo, and San Francisco, and in Switzerland. Lu and Chuang feel that there are causes for both optimism and pessimism for the future of huaren design. On the bright side, the rapidly emerging huaren market has become a prime target for companies worldwide, giving huaren design an increasingly large presence on the world stage. However, their exhibition experience showed them that huaren design still has a low international profile. “Outside of Asia, good huaren design is often thought to be from Japan,” they note. “When Westerners talk about Asian design, they still think of Japan first and Korea second.”
They observe that Korean design emerged at about the same time as Taiwanese design–around a decade ago. However, with the Korean government investing money and human resources into promoting local design plus a willingness to work together among designers, Korean design has gained a much higher profile internationally than huaren design. “We have the talent. We can combine the best of the East and the West, and we have a richer design vocabulary than many European and North American designers. But we’re not working toward a common goal. Everyone’s off doing their own thing. Huaren designers need to learn to work together and pool their resources in order for great designs to gain international visibility,” Lu and Chuang conclude.
About Cloud Lu and Owen Chuang
Both born in August, Cloud Lu and Owen Chuang founded Biaugust in Taiwan in 2005 after receiving degrees in design in Japan. “Life and emotion” is the core value for Biaugust’s design team; the firm provides graphic, product, and interior design, and has also created installation art and curated exhibitions. Over the past decade, Biaugust has created two brands, Biaugust DECO and HAO Life. Its clients have included Hermés, Tenren, Starbucks, the National Theater and Concert Hall, and GU.
The designers–and their company–have won widespread praise for their work. In 2011, Biaugust was named one of Taiwan’s top 100 design firms by the IDA Design Congress, and it was voted Taiwan’s most popular emerging design company in a Commonwealth magazine survey. It has also been recognized by many awards, including a silver medal in the 4th Taiwan Ceramics Excellence Award, a Product Design award in the 2008 Taiwan GD-Mark Awards, a Product Design award in the 2012 Creative Expo Awards, and a Best Design trophy in the Golden Pin Design Award 2013. It has curated exhibits including the Around Taiwan Design Week exhibition in 2013 and the Hours and Ages exhibition in 2015 for Horage jewelry and watches.