Showcasing Brand Taiwan —The Power of Design


2017 / August

Liu Yingfeng /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Geof Aberhart

Taipei is about to host the Summer Universiade 2017! As the time of the games draws near, visitors and residents alike may notice the main roads of the city lined with flags and banners promoting the event, while a variety of activities are also being held in the lead-up.

The Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade Organizing Committee (TUOC) has spent more than a year on preparations, from advertising, logistics, and uniforms to preparing venues. The whole event is a showcase for Taiwan’s capabilities in terms of design, goods and services. As TUOC chief executive Su Li-­chiung has remarked, the games will “show Taiwan to the world.”

Following the 2013 Kazan games in Russia and the 2015 Gwangju games in South Korea, the biennial Summer Universiade is now about to bring the spotlight onto its 2017 host, Taipei.

From August 19 through 30, the city will host almost 10,000 competitors and crew members from over 150 countries. Focused, as the name would imply, on student athletes, the Universiade will be the highest-level international sporting event Taiwan has held, with the largest number of participating countries and people.

Through this rare opportunity, says Su Li-­chiung, chief executive of the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade Organizing Committee (TUOC), “Taipei’s hosting of the Universiade will help the world see Taiwan at her best.”

Innovative ideas

To ensure the preparations are perfect, the Taipei City Government and the TUOC have worked together on them for over a year, putting forward a number of refreshingly innovative ideas along the way.

For example, in order to avoid athletes losing equipment and so being unable to compete, the Universiade has for the first time joined forces with local logistics firms to create a “Logistics League” that works with the various teams and athletes to ensure the massive amount of gear arrives in Taiwan without a hitch.

To ensure a unified branding for the games, the TUOC established a Branding Advisory Committee, bringing on board branding, design, and marketing experts to keep a tight rein on things.

Compared with past international sporting events that Taiwan has hosted, the Universiade has stricter rules regarding identity design and usage, as well as being on a larger scale. The hope is that through a coherent visual aesthetic, the event will be able to create a stronger sense of atmosphere for the public.

A young, vibrant Taipei

The uniforms for the Universiade torchbearers, which Su Li-­chiung has called “a showcase for Taiwanese design,” are the work of designer Jasper ­Huang.

Huang, who spent several years in the United States and specializes in incorporating elements of printwork and Eastern design into his works, cleverly transformed the Chinese character (bei), meaning “north”—the second character in the name “Taipei”—into a logo that has a strong visual sense of inkwork. Through a red, white, and blue color scheme, ­Huang has created a visual design that captures the Universiade’s youthfulness, energy, and vibrancy.

Eschewing traditional sportswear, ­Huang’s use of piping and color not only highlights his printwork, but also creates a more delicate cut—a masterful effort. For example, through the use of diagonal cuts, Huang has been able to create a sense of litheness and completely change the look of the female torchbearers’ leggings. The windbreakers, meanwhile, employ a collage effect, while also using Taiwanese firm Sing­tex’s “S.Café” functional fabric for comfort and breathability.

Previous Taiwanese team uniforms, ­Huang says, never quite lived up to expectations. After taking on the task of designing the torchbearers’ uniforms, he was ­determined to use a style unlike those of ­previous ­Universiades. Despite all of this being ­Huang’s first foray into designing sportswear, the final product ended up only about 10% different from the original design and received similarly rave reviews, leaving ­Huang feeling satisfied with his work.

Sparks of tradition and innovation

Next we turn our attention to the 70-centimeter-long, 1.2-kilogram aluminum alloy torch, which, with its flowing lines, also became a showcase for Taiwanese design and manufacturing capabilities.

Creative director of UID Create Jimmy Chang, the designer of the torch, says that “even though Taiwan has hosted international sporting events like the World Games and the Deaflympics, this is the first time we’ve designed our own torch for one.”

For the base of the torch, ­Chang looked to one of Taiwan’s former leading traditional industries, bamboo, and enlisted the help of Nan­tou craftsman Su Su-jen, who applied a traditional hexagonal woven design. As ­Chang explains, in Chinese art bamboo is one of the “Four Gentlemen” of the plant world (along with plum blossom, orchid and chrysanthemum). It represents the season of summer, and the virtues of modesty, honesty and decency. Through its use, Chang hopes to encourage the athletes to compete with decency regardless how heated the competition gets.

The copper-colored metal body of the torch is sourced from a metal­works in Wuri District, Tai­chung. According to ­­Chang, the aluminum alloy used was much harder to work with than steel—steel is harder and holds its shape better. In the end, he had to rely on the metal­works to deal with the soft, difficult to work alloy.

The burner cone that shrouds the upper part of the torch has an open hexagonal lattice that echoes the bamboo pattern of the base. For this, the design team sought the help of JKE, a precision medical equipment manufacturer based in Tai­chung’s Tai­ping District who used advanced five-axis laser cutters to realize the design.

The torch relay for these games included a trip up Yu­shan, nearly 4000 meters above sea level, where the flame was lit. To solve the problems that come with trying to light a torch at such a high elevation, ­Chang went to Pro-Iroda, a company that produces butane-powered tools, to get a special high-pressure valve designed to address the reduced air pressure that would otherwise make it difficult to ignite the gas.

Chang’s torch design incorporates both tradition and innovation not only in the materials used for the torch body, but also in the use of LED lighting inside the bottom part that echoes the flame atop the torch.

With such a bold, innovative design, says ­Chang, “Taiwan might for the first time be able to set the standard for an international competition and establish an ideal for others to work toward.”

Taiwan’s first “Lego swimming pool”

Taiwan’s display of industrial and design talent isn’t the only thing that has caught international attention, though—there’s also the decision to use the floating “Skypool” system.

“This is the first time that a floating-type prefabricated pool has been used in Taiwan,” says Bobby ­Chung, Taiwan regional manager of Fluidra, the Spanish company that is responsible for making the pool.

However, he continues, while it may be Taiwan’s first time, it’s certainly far from unprecedented internationally.

Prefab pools not only save on the cost of building dedicated venues, but can also help address a lack of construction time, seating, or other issues. However, while the rapid construction and the portability of such pools are strengths, they also come with a particular challenge, ­Chung says, which is whether the ground beneath can carry the load.

Once the outer structure of the pool is assembled, he explains, the pool then needs to be filled with some 2,500 tons of water, with each square meter of ground beneath having to support a load of 500 kg. However, with the chosen venue for the swimming and diving—National Taiwan Sport University’s gymnasium—being many years old, it was difficult to judge whether the ground would hold up. Given this, after taking on the job last year, Fluidra immediately launched a geological survey of the venue, fortunately finding out that there should be no safety concerns.

A further headache is the fact that once the pool is full, the steel plates making up the outer structure will be susceptible to bending outward from the pressure, but the International University Sports Federation, the governing body for the Universiade, has strict regulations regarding the dimensions of the pool, with a tolerance for only 1 cm error in the length of swimmers’ lanes. To address this, Fluidra specially used the floating Skypool system which can be adjusted at any point, helping prevent any divergence in length.

The entire process of constructing the pool was recorded and edited into a short video which, once uploaded to the Internet, attracted the attention of no small number of people. As of writing, the video had racked up 1.5 million hits, 85% from Taiwan and 15% from abroad. “The use of the Skypool system for these games has not only been a milestone for Taiwan, but also, through the resulting video, has successfully promoted the games to the world,” says ­Chung.

The countdown to the start of the 2017 Tai­pei Summer Universiade is underway. What has caught your attention so far? The lovable mascot Bravo the Bear? The fascinating, photorealistic floor decor of the Tai­pei Metro, which gives a sense of really being in a pool? Or is it the fighting spirit of Taiwan’s youthful competitors? Whether you’re a sports fan or not, be sure to join us at the event venues and help cheer on Taiwan’s best!

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