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What not to miss at the Hong Kong International Poster Triennial 2017

See stunning posters created by designers from all over the world up close at this rare exhibition

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

The long-awaited return of the Hong Kong International Poster Triennial is finally over! Held every three years, the event brings together outstanding works by numerous talented designers from all over the world. Taking place at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from now until March 26, see bright new talent and wildly innovative designs in this latest edition.

Posters can be a powerful medium, helping to spread messages, promote new products and encourage viewers to think about issues previously unknown to them – just think of what Shepard Fairey’s iconic ‘hope’ poster did for Barack Obama.

This 2017 
competition invites creative minds to explore the theme of ‘Touch’. There are four categories: Ideology, Promotion of Cultural Events, Commercial and Advertising, and Thematic – “Touching” – which nearly 200 international entries selected, presenting wildly differing interpretations from different perspectives in different artistic styles.

Following careful deliberation by five internationally renowned designers, who acted as judges, the exhibition showcases the best of the bunch as well as masterpieces designed by the judges themselves. Here are some of the highlights from the Triennial to give you a taste of what to expect at this hugely impressive collection at the Heritage Museum.

Highlights from Hong Kong International Poster Triennial 2017

SEEN‧SMOG, Chen Chun-Wei, Taiwan, 2015 (Ideology Category)

Tackling the issue of air pollution in Asia, Taiwanese designer Chen Chun-Wei’s Gold Award-winning posters cleverly use blurry grey tones and out-of-focus X-ray films to demonstrate an all too real threat where smog is slowly blocking everything from sight. Underneath the foggy layer, Chen also touches upon three secondary threats created by air pollution by utilising three simple yet effective icons: a giant panda, symbolising rising animal mortality rates; a person wearing a mask, demonstrating its ineffectiveness; and a historic Chinese building, signifying the deterioration of cultural heritage.

Noise Shooting, A Green Hill, Hong Kong, 2015 (Promotion of Cultural Events Category)

As part of ‘The Portfolios 12’ Annual Members’ Exhibition by the Hong Kong Professional Photographers Network, which has noise as its theme, local design team “A Green Hill” submitted this left-field poster depicting burst shots of a screaming man’s head that forms the figure 12, printed on a sheet of bubble wrap to elevate the noise element of the artwork. As one of the busiest cities in the world, noise is constant and inescapable in Hong Kong and the designers managed to capture sound in an immovable print and snagged the Gold Award in the competition. 


Parco Lily FW14, SS15, M/M (Paris), France, 2014 (Commercial and Advertising Category)

Tasked with reviving Japanese retail brand Parco, French design team “M/M (Paris)” created a collection of posters that pay tribute to the forward-thinking retail concept that Parco has been best known for years. In the hope of producing adventurous images and pushing the boundaries of creativity, the project Parco Lily FW14, SS15 brings together Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen and model Lily McMenamy to create dynamic images centred on facial features and the articulation of a ‘visual symphony’. The resulting posters took home the Gold Award. 

Broke‧Touch – Eye/Ear/Nose/Tongue/Body/Mind, Shi Cheng, Mainland China, 2016 (Thematic – “Touching” Category)

Taking a cue from the Triennial’s theme of ‘Touch’, Shi Cheng’s series of six posters explores the role our five senses, as well as the mind, play in shaping our perception of the outside world. Shi’s abstract series questions how by not using our senses, we detach ourselves from the world and turn inwards with only pure thoughts remaining. Simple, practically minimalist, each Gold Award-winning poster demonstrates one of the senses through abstract designs and a correlating organ.


Building Tails, Justin Wong, Hong Kong, 2014 (Ideology Category)

In these Silver Award-winning posters – there are eight in the series – local artist Justin Wong has connected different organs with various minimalist rooms. For example, Wong has depicted the eye as a series of doors to peer through, and the skin as multiple connecting walls where the exterior can detect temperatures while wires and water pipes in between are like nerves that run through the body. This set of posters also received the Judges Award (Selected by Tommy Li).

#, Liu Yueh-Te, Taiwan, 2016 (Promotion of Cultural Events Category)

Despite what the title suggests, this Silver Award-winning poster is not about social media but a promotion of a drama production of a theatre company in Taiwan. Taiwanese designer Liu Yueh-Te has created a visual allegory of the play using a tin can tower – an object commonly seen in Taiwanese funerals. But instead of tin cans, Liu has replaced it everyday life items to demonstrate the themes of sadness and absurdity from the play. Along with an explosion of graffiti-style and handwritten text, the messy and chaotic-like creation is a breath of fresh air in the world of poster designs. 


KANON PANCAKES, Yuri Sanae, Japan, 2016 (Commercial and Advertising Category)

It’s hard to imagine that pancakes need much advertising but Japanese designer Yuri Sanae has made the popular breakfast food even more attractive and delightful with her butter-yellow posters. In an effort to promote Kanon Pancakes, a pancake café in Sapporo, Sanae’s trio of connecting posters feature giant pancakes in which miniature characters are seen bouncing and performing acrobatics moves across it to convey the products’ fluffiness. Simple yet effective, Sanae received the Silver Award for this salivating design. 

Touch, Kenichi Sato, Japan, 2016 (Thematic – “Touching” Category)

Taking a less serious approach than many of the other entries in the competition, Japanese designer Kenichi Sato decided to make a quirky and funny poster while exploring the theme of touch. Despite the medium being two-dimensional, Sato has managed to challenge the boundaries of a flat image and conveyed the moment where a finger touches a soft object. The poster is also awarded the Silver Award for its innovation. 


Thought, Baking Powder Ltd., Hong Kong, 2016 (Ideology Category)

This poster created by local design company “Baking Powder Ltd.” won them the Bronze Award at this edition’s international poster competition. Deconstructing and separating the Chinese character《念》, meaning thought, into《今》and《心》, meaning today and heart, to signify the importance of taking the time out of the hustle and bustle and to live in the moment. 

Show & Tell Kick Off, Bureau Progressiv, Germany, 2015 (Promotion of Cultural Events Category)

With splashes of bold and vivid colours, illustrations of body parts and giant block texts, this trio of posters are hard to miss. Produced by Germany design studio Bureau Progressiv for a show-and-tell event, these designs highlights the main features and power of the activity – watching, listening and talking. Demonstrating effectively the event and the life of graphic designers, the series received a Bronze Award as a result. 

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