This is my thesis project that I finished recently. My thesis explores how graphic design plays a role in the construction of a virtual world. I developed a contemporary graphic language to reimagine an ancient Chinese mythology, The Netherworld.
I started researching about graphic props in films and animation scenes, and realized the importance and power of them. Even though most of the time they were in background, and hardly noticed by the viewer, with all the design decisions being made, the color palette, the typeface, the material, the graphic… the pieces were brought to life, and built a bridge between the reality and the virtual world.
Due to my great interest in mythology, I decided to borrow the Netherworld as my creative theme. I was able to collect extensive historical references, materials, and stories about the afterlife world in China, that further helped with content creation and experimentation. Instead of giving it a traditional look, I would like to challenge the consistent impression of ancient mythology, and redefine it with a more contemporary form. By thinking critically, I want to challenge the boundaries between old and new, traditional and contemporary, as well as eastern and western.
I am also aware of individual cultural background as a premise of understanding metaphor, humor, historical reference, and puns in design works. While facing audience from a different cultural background, It is challenging for me to to think about and how to translate metaphors across culture, how to arouse sympathy, how to create the storytelling experience that encourages them to interactive, and makes them feel connected.
Black and White Impermanence - Three Spirits and Seven Senses
Black and White Impermanence(黑白无常)", are two deities in Chinese folk religionin charge of escorting the spirits of the dead to the Underworld. As their names suggest, they are dressed in black and white respectively. They are the subordinates of Yama, the ruler of the Underworld in Chinese mythology.
Spirits(魂) and Senses(魄) are types of souls in Chinese philosophy and traditional religion. Within this ancient soul dualism tradition, every living human has both a 魂 spiritual, ethereal, yang soul which leaves the body after death (the mental astral body), and also a 魄 corporeal, substantive, yin soul which is eternal and is the soul astral body. Three Spirits: 天(heaven), 地(earth), 命(Life). Seven Senses: 尸狗，伏矢，雀阴，吞贼，非毒，除秽，臭肺.
Yama - The Book of the Dead
In East Asian and Buddhist mythology, Yama(阎王) is a wrathful god said to judge the dead and preside over the hells and the cycle of afterlife samsāra. In Chinese mythology, Yama is the god of death and the ruler of the hell.
The Book of the Dead(生死簿) records everyone's life expectancy. When a person's death is close, Yama will send the Black and White Impermanence to catch the person’s spirits and senses.
Granny Meng - Tea of Forgetfulness
Granny Meng(孟婆) is the Lady of Forgetfulness in Chinese mythology. It is her task to ensure that souls who are ready to be reincarnated do not remember their previous life or their time in hell.
Tea of Forgetfulness(孟婆汤) with eight different kind of tears: sadness, happiness, love-sickness, hate, birth, death, and illness. This is given to each soul to drink before they leave the hell. The brew induces instant and permanent amnesia, and all memory of other lives is lost. Having been purged of all previous sins and knowledge, the dead spirit is sent to be reborn in a new earthly incarnation, and the cycle begins again.
Ksitigarbha - Samsāra
Ksitigarbha(地藏王菩萨) is a bodhisattva primarily revered in East Asian Buddhism and usually depicted as a Buddhist monk. His name may be translated as "Earth Treasury" or "Earth Store". Ksitigarbha is known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds between the death of Gautama Buddha and the rise of Maitreya, as well as his vow not to achieve Buddhahood until all hells are emptied.
Samsāra(轮回) is the cycle of death and rebirth. Samsāra is referred to with terms or phrases such as transmigration, karmic cycle, reincarnation, and "cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence". In Buddhist traditions, Samsāra cosmology consisted of six realms through which wheel of existence recycled. This included hellish, ghosts, animals, humans, heavenly, and asuras.