“Nobody Knows What Motion Design Is”: An Interview with Keng-Ming Liu

Keng-Ming Liu

Keng-Ming Liu grew up in Taiwan, but he began his motion design career in New York. After a decade of living and working in Brooklyn, he left his NY life behind and returned to establish his own motion design studio in Taipei. Six years later and Bito is Taiwan’s leading motion design studio.

As founder and creative director of Bito, he has received numerous accolades including a Bronze Cube at the 96th ADC Award in New York for the Golden Pin Design Award 2016 Opening video (watch below). In 2017, again he created the Golden Pin ceremony opening video. Its theme, 匯 Convergence (again, watch below), explored areas of cultural and technological confluence.

Golden Pin Design Award 2016 Opening:

匯 Convergence:

For a third consecutive year, he and his team are creating the Golden Pin Design Award key visual and opening video. Currently, his studio is all hands on deck preparing for the event, which takes place in Taipei on November 29. Lucky for us, he found a moment to break away from his studio’s preparations and discuss his experience in motion design from Brooklyn to Taiwan.

Thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to take a trip down memory lane with us. When you lived in Brooklyn, where did you go to find inspiration?

I used to live in Williamsburg. Around the first stop in Brooklyn. First stop on the L train. Bedford Avenue. At that time, it was the coolest place in New York. At that time, ten years ago. But right now it’s very commercial. Apple stores, J.Crew, Whole Foods. It’s like Soho right now.

It’s gentrified?

Yes. But at that time, the best graffiti artists were there. I mean, I could see Shepard Fairey’s near my house. Right now, all the artists have moved to Bushwick or East Williamsburg. So that’s where I usually go, or Queens. But Queens changed too. Recently, I went to Long Island City where there was a graffiti building. There was a whole building there all filled with graffiti, but it got knocked down in these five years. Right now it’s a chaste building. All the commercial buildings there. All the skyscrapers. It’s crazy. For me, it’s changed in a bad way because I’m an artist, and I feel like artists can’t afford to live in New York anymore.

How would you compare the creative industry in Taiwan to the creative industry in New York?

It’s a totally different planet. One is the universe. One is a planet. The best talent will go to New York. They want to start there from scratch. For nothing. This is New York. In Taiwan everything just started. Design is not art. It solves problems. Right now, I feel that the boundary between art and design is blurry here.

You established Bito six years ago. What challenges have you come up against in these six years?

Overcoming the unknown. Nobody knows what motion design is. Everyone calls it post production. No-one respects this industry. They call animators “users”, and they call animation “labor” (for more background on this topic, read this 2015 interview with Liu at Design Perspectives). In New York, you would be called an artist. For example, if you’re a 3D artist or a designer. If they treat you as a “user” you can’t do any good jobs. You just listen to what the director tells you to do. If they call you an artist then you will be respected as an artist. That’s a different mindset. This is the big issue for me.

Golden Pin Design Award 2018 Key Visual

How would you describe the Golden Pin Design Award 2018 Key Visual in your words?

It’s organic. It’s alive. It’s dynamic. It’s in motion, but still.

About the key visual

The 2018 key visual reimagines the Golden Pin Design Award logo as a euphoric ecosystem of life and death. The theme of the key visual is Nature Knows, inspired by cycles in nature while emphasizing the importance of design for sustainability.

From concept to completion, it took Liu’s team six months to hand draw this year’s award ceremony key visual, creating more than five different editions along the way. In contrast with last year’s key visual, which was dark and futuristic, this year’s key visual is colorful and up lifting.

“The pin represents an organic ecosystem, containing an ocean, tectonic plates, plants to represent birth, and bones to represent death; symbolizing an endless cycle,” says Liu. “Golden lava erupts with inspiration, signifying all the innovative ideas that emerge from the Golden Pin Design Award.”

Daniel Cunningham is the International PR & Marketing Project Manager and the International PR manager of the Golden Pin Design Award