Dosomething Studio founder, Cowper Wang is a man of many hats; new media artist, creative director, and curator. His highly evocative work has already won numerous accolades in the industry, yet he is always looking to challenge himself and tear traditional frameworks apart to achieve new visual heights.
Last year, he was invited to join in the 11-member branding team for the 2017 Taipei Universiade. He was one of the driving forces behind commissioning a Universiade promotional video from Bito production studio, a video widely credited for reversing the negative public perception of the event.
Wang says that Taiwan has many talented designers, but regrets they are often unable to gain access to mainstream resources. The unfortunate effect is that designers cannot fulfill their benefit to society. He hopes the success of Universiade will become an inspiration for other national-level projects, and spread the power of design across Taiwan.
Earlier this year, Wang was commissioned to create a promotional video for the new HTC U11 cellphone. Instead of using computer-generated imagery, as most videos for tech products do, he proposed a daring live-action film. The finished video is striking and remarkable. Wang explains that the phone is targeted at mid- to high-income women, so the video features softer and more gentle imagery such as flowers, streams, and crystals.
For the shoot, he rented Phantom high-speed cameras, robot arms, and macro lenses. He also enlisted machinery and physics experts to craft special props, such as electronic air valves and magnetorheological fluid, which causes water to perform in supernatural ways. His camera crew was able to capture the flow and spin of the fluid in extreme slow motion.
“Compared to CG, live-action filming is much more difficult and stressful,” says Wang. “It took us six hours just to shoot a single scene. The entire team was in the studio for two straight days, shooting around a dozen scenes. It was very hard work, but it created a visual experience that is impossible to achieve with CG.”
The video was released at the HTC U11 global announcement event in May, and the effect was breathtaking. Once again, the video brought Taiwanese design to the forefront of the global stage.
Wang also created the key visual imagery for the 51st Golden Bell Television Awards last year. The project, entitled Folds of Light, was recognized by the Red Dot Communication Design Awards and Golden Pin Design Awards. It also employs live-action filming techniques. Wang says the concept arose when he, and visual director Joe Fang, began designing the ceremony logo. Thinking of the ceremony stage, they decided to center the design on a metaphor of light.
“Actors are nobodies before they come onstage, but with the help of light, they can take on all kind of different forms and appearances,” says Wang.
Why did they choose live-action filming? Wang says the Golden Bell Awards are regarded as the most conservative of Taiwan’s major entertainment awards, so he wanted to use innovative live-action filming to give the show a new visual identity, recreating the dramatic atmosphere of the ceremony. The filming process again proved challenging. He and his team designed six large-scale interactive lighting systems in the studio, and used various sensors to allow the light to interact with dancers as they moved.
“None of these light systems are available off-the-shelf,” says Wang. “I worked with laser artists and engineers who helped me program them, as well as stage lighting technicians and a director, to integrate the movements of the dancers and the lights. This was an interdisciplinary collaboration, with a team of more than fifty people.”
Wang and his team were also conscious of the growing diversity of marketing channels. Younger generations are turning away from traditional television stations toward online platforms, leading to the rise of Youtube-ers and “we-media”.
This led them to create the online series Good Good Food. Unlike most cooking shows, Good Good Food uses animation to tell the stories behind the dishes featured, then switches to live-action for actual cooking demonstrations. The goal is to be both informative and entertaining in teaching the audience about Chinese cuisine. The visuality of the animation is Eastern-style, but with many influences from youth culture.
“Because the production is entirely in-house, we don’t have to worry about outside influence like with other commercial projects,” says Wang. “We give designers as much free rein to be creative as possible.”
Since March, the team has produced twenty-six episodes of Good Good Food, and the show is streamed on platforms such as LiTV, Choco TV, and Yahoo TV. The show has won praise from online viewers for it’s quality and imagination.
Although Wang’s work seems extremely innovative, a break from tradition, he believes that an Eastern aesthetic can still be found in what he does. Perhaps this can be attributed to his degree in Chinese ink wash painting.
“The HTC and Golden Bell videos are both rooted in Eastern thinking,” says Wang. “Eastern aesthetics focuses on the appreciation of the dark—the shadows, the different shades of ink. Western art prefers the bright, the clean, the translucent. My work is very Western in its form, but its internal philosophy is very much rooted in Eastern aesthetics.”
Wang believes that good huaren design is not about external form, nor is it about forcing huaren cultural elements. He says, “[Huaren design is] something hidden within the object, our common language, which is unique to us. The feeling that I know what you’re saying. To me, that’s something a lot more internalized and interesting.”
Speaking of Taiwan’s design field, Wang feels deeply that Taiwan has many talented designers with good ideas, but unfortunately they do not enjoy the resources and attention they deserve. After he joined the Universiade branding team, he discovered that many national-level mainstream resources are simply inaccessible to designers, meaning that design work can only focus on the small scale.
“Designers are not given an appropriate platform to work on,” says Wang. “Those well-funded, internationally-famous projects are not going to the right designers, they are going to government contract trolls. When that happens, the design industry suffers and designers can’t unleash their power.”
Meanwhile, some designers are scared away after their first government project, due to the convoluted administrative processes and an inflexible bureaucracy. Without true respect for professionalism, good designers are unwilling to work on government projects. He says these are all issues the government must pay attention to and fix before Taiwan’s design industry can find it’s way.
About Cowper Wang
Cowper Wang is Founder and Director of Dosomething Studio, and a new media artist. His artistic works have featured in many solo and joint exhibitions across regions including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Beijing, London, and Finland. As a curator, he worked on MOCA’s “World Is Over?” in 2013, and Syntrend’s “Superfake” digital art show. His work has been recognized by awards including the Red Dot Communication Design Award, the Golden Pin Design Award, and PromaxBDA Asia. He was a member of the branding team for the 2017 Taipei Universiade. He has created promotional videos for the Golden Bell and Golden Horse Awards, and his commercial clients include HTC, ASUS, Gamania, Syntrend, Uni-President, and Fubon group. He is active promoter of Taiwan’s design, art, and multimedia industries.