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Visual Communication (MA)

Hairun Li 李海润

In the chilly winter of 2020, I graduated from the University of Minnesota with my dual Bachelor's degrees in Graphic Design BFA and Economics BA. At the age of 26, I pursued further studies at RCA, where I started to shift my understanding of graphic design. I define myself as a 'graphic designer', although my practice involves different forms of expression, including experimental publications, moving images, performance and installation. 'Graphic design' is an inclusive term that encompasses the process of interaction between visual graphics and me. Any material or medium can be a channel for graphics.

I have won many awards in the last two years:

  • The Most-Familiar-Face-At-School Award by my classmates; 
  • The Hardest-Working Award by my friend; 
  • The Not-Being-Home-For-4-Years Award by my parents; 
  • The Most-Dependable Award by my partner; 
  • The Anxiety-Of-Future Award by myself.

All so-called 'awards' may not mean anything. What others can feel from my practice, what I can learn from my practice, that's all that matters.

An experiment publication was put on my arm.

30 suggestions on 'publications':

  • ① The author of a publication can be anyone or no one. 
  • ② The direction of the content of a publication needs to be handled by the author and served to the reader. 
  • ③ The 'death of paper' refers to the decline of paper-based publication as a source of mass information, and they are probably right about that. 
  • ④ Publications can carry mass information, but carrying mass information is not the whole point of publications. 
  • ⑤ Publications are functionally similar to works of art in that they are a medium of communication between the author and the reader. 
  • ⑥ However, unlike works of art, publications need to be 'friendly'. It needs to be more sensitive to the reader's experience. 
  • ⑦ A publication does not have to be printed on paper, it can exist in any form. 
  • ⑧ Experimental publications do not necessarily require words to convey information. The title of the book can be absent if necessary. 
  • ⑨ The integrity of information expression can either be crafted by the author or interpreted by the reader. 
  • ⑩ The point of a publication is how many people will see it, not how many copies will be sold.
  • A mediocre idea cannot be saved by a beautiful execution (Sol LeWitt, 1968). Neither can mediocre writing be saved by beautiful design. 
  • ⑫ A permanently updated publication means a creative publisher. This often means that collaboration is important. 
  • ⑬ Both form and content are important to a publication. But for long-running publications, content is more important. 
  • ⑭ Cost is always a consideration for publications. Design ideas most of the time need to be cost-constrained. 
  • ⑮ Authors do not need to identify themselves in a publication. Anonymity sometimes, especially in political campaigns, makes a publication possible. 
  • ⑯ The definition of publication can easily be applied to other acts with the purpose of communication. And this shift in form is usually the way in which publications experiment. 
  • ⑰ When either the creator, the carrier, the medium of dissemination or the reader is missing, the publication cannot be valid. 
  • ⑱ The way in which a publication is disseminated determines the group of readers. 
  • ⑲ In order to achieve mass distribution, the 'cover' of a publication needs to be eye-catching. 
  • ⑳ Any aspect of a publication that attracts audiences can be considered as a ‘cover’. Its purpose is to give readers the opportunity to learn about the publication. 
  • ㉑ The publisher's intentions determine the content and form of the publication. But he is also responsible for communicating this intention to his readers. 
  • ㉒ A well-designed experimental publication always creates a desire for the reader to 'collect' it. 
  • ㉓ The editor usually plays an important role in the publication of books. 
  • ㉔ When the editor is missing, the designer can take on the obligation of polishing the text. 
  • ㉕ Authors have to be honest with their readers. 
  • ㉖ The limitations of the era can greatly influence the definition of a publication, so the approach to publications is not static. 
  • ㉘ The same publication needs to be presented in different ways in different situations. 
  • ㉗ The prerequisite for breaking the rules of publication is to understand them. 
  • ㉙ Be wary of over-design. 
  • ㉚These suggestions are in no particular order.

White City, London, 2023

In this project, I explore the meaning of leaving the Earth and flying to the Moon.

The final project presentation includes two experimental publications - a ‘Moon Book’ and an ‘Earth Book’ - along with a short film and a research book. The film showcases archive photographs from the Gemini 4, Apollo 8 and 13 missions, with photo sequences played in the rhythm of the original recordings of each mission to enhance the narrative. The research book documents my exploration process and free writings about the Moon. Don't forget to check out our on-site bookshop to get your own copy.

The large-scale Moon Book and the small-scale Earth Book serve as narrative subjects. They contain the stories of two astronauts about the Moon and the Earth.

The Earth Book tells the story of Edward White. When White did the first space walk in American history, he was mesmerised by the beautiful view of the Earth. Finally, he overstayed his time and was reluctantly coaxed back to the ship. This is the saddest moment of my life, White said in frustration before he returned to the ship. After this flight, White had planned to join the Apollo programme and eventually fly to the Moon. But a month later, during an Apollo test flight, he died in a fire accident.

The Moon Book tells the story of Jim Lovell. He flew to the Moon twice, on Apollo 8 and Apollo 13. In Apollo 8, he and two other astronauts read the first ten lines of Genesis on the broadcast during their flight around the Moon on Christmas Eve. In Apollo 13, Lovell originally planned to land on the Moon. But when the ship malfunctioned, they were forced to give up the landing plan. Fortunately, they eventually made it back to Earth. Jim Lovell is the only person to have been to the Moon twice, but the only one who has never stepped on the Moon. But this is how he describes the Earth: When you’re from the distance of the Moon, you can cover the whole planet with your thumb. All the people you love, the people who love you, your business, and all the things you care about, are all behind your thumb.

The display of the giant Moon Book, haning from the ceiling.
1.1 - The Moon Book - The Physical Installation
The page design of all inner pages of the Moon Book.
Launch Project
1.2 - The Moon Book - Click to Experience the Virtual Setting of the Moon and Earth Books
The display of the small Earth Book, haning from the ceiling also.
1.3 - The Earth Book - The Physical Installation
The page design of all pages of the Earth Book.
1.4 - The Earth Book - The Page Design
The cover and sleeve designs of the research book.
1.5 - The Research Book - The Cover Design and the Sleeve Design
The inner page designs of the research book.
1.6 - The Research Book - The Inner Page Highlights
The inner page designs of the research book.
1.7 - The Research Book - All Pages
A moving image on a CRT TV called 'Voice From Mankind'.
1.8 - Voice From Mankind
1.9 - Voice From Mankind - Full Video

* Click here to access the complete details of the story of the Moon and other projects.

** Please also check the Content-Free for my writing about the Moon.

The physical setting of the project. An external monitor (M.2) and my laptop (M.1) are on a desk.
Launch Project
2.1 - The Physical Setting - Click to See the Demo Video
A close shot of the physical setting of the project.
2.2 - The Physical Setting - Close Shot
The first page of the main website.
Launch Project
2.3 - The Main Website - Click to View
The site map of the main website. Showing how the website works.
2.4 - The Main Website - The Site Map
Screenshot of the external page of my designed website.
Launch Project
2.5 - The External Website - Click to View
Main webiste design hightlights
Main webiste design hightlights
Main webiste design hightlights
2.6 - The Main Website - Highlights
Main webiste design hightlights

When people look up at the sky, what do they really see?

From the clouds drifting across the sky and the birds flying by, to the countless named and ranged stars and galaxies, humans seem to see more and more from the stars. With increasing distance, our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly (Edwin Powell Hubble, 1936). The more we look, the more the profile of the cosmos seems to blur. The cosmos is like a giant mirror in which we seem to see only our own distorted reflections. Faced with the stars, humans are still as ignorant as Homo erectus was hundreds of thousands of years ago.

This project consists of digital publications developed on the basis of HTML. The website roughly describes the history of human stargazing, but its processes and content are structured and recombined to simulate the chaos of human observation of the cosmos, which is both clear and blurred. The different layers of obscuration represent the different levels of information missing when stargazing. The viewer's experience of reading at different levels changes as a result.

* Click here for more details about this project.

All 6 groups of publications in this project.
3.1 - Where We Live
The scan of the publication 'Westfell'.
3.2 - Westfell
The scan of the publication 'Essential Lifestyle'.
3.3 - Essential Lifestyle
The scan of the publication 'Dialogue with Stones'.
3.4 - Dialogue with Stones
The scan of the publication 'Enlighten'.
3.5 - Enlighten
The scan of the publication 'Black Sun'.
3.6 - Black Sun
The scan of the publication 'Me, Me'.
3.7 - Me, Me
Project brief descriptions of all 6 publications.
3.8 - Who We Are

The whole project is a set of self-publishing publications. It consists of six separate and interconnected books.

The whole project is a set of self-publishing publications. It consists of six separate and interconnected books. It is an exploration of the environment I live in and my perception of myself in the past six months. In this exploration, I have tried to appreciate the environment I live in, to change the environment I live in, and to know the meaning of myself.

The whole set of publications is six paragraphs of my record of thoughts. Depending on the content and experience, I have experimented to varying degrees with bookbinding, typography, and paper selections, with the intention of exploring the relationship and boundaries between graphic design, self-reflection, and expression.

* Click here to access comprehensive information regarding the project's publications, videos, and performances. 

The cover page of the project.
4.1 - New Era
4.2 - Day by Day
The details of the page designs.
4.3 - Fall Asleep

Starting from the entry, everything is new. This is a new era. 

You are walking on the street. You are walking in the game. You are walking on the web. You are walking in the app.

Yes, you are walking inside your room. Day by Day. 

Close to midnight, fall asleep. The street is blurred. You are watched by people. You are riding on a rollercoaster. You are untouchable. 

No, you are walking in your dream. Time by Time. 

The whole project begins with an exploration of the scalability of the path.

In one of my previous projects, I tried to take the life experience in the room as a guide and expand it to other spaces. The results of the experiment were full of surprises. It also helps me to experience the familiar space from different perspectives and discover the unknown. At the same time, this expansibility of space coincides with Metaverse, which is a very popular concept in the venture investment field. In my understanding, The so-called 'Metaverse' is the next generation of the Internet. Different from the traditional Internet, Metaverse can bring us into an immersive 3D world, and we can explore everything inside it. To be honest, I have to admit that Metaverse is a very attractive concept from my perspective. This is opposite to my (or our) situation nowadays. Because of the pandemic, I seem to be constrained in my own space. On the contrary, Metaverse seems to be able to expand your activity space without limit. And you are able to experience almost all the space you can imagine.

However, the infinite possibilities of Metaverse also raise concerns. In my exploration, I also gradually realized that the expansion process is full of unknowns and uncertainties. Without the support of the material world, random errors and bugs will occur, problems in the real world will be amplified, and new problems will appear gradually. This makes me wonder, which world is better? Which world do I belong to?

The whole zine is divided into 3 parts. The first chapter is my novelty about the real world. The new environment always keeps engaging me to explore. The second chapter expresses my confusion about the real world (or my room). Life seems in peace. And I can't help but imagine the feeling of experiencing different environments in the room. Everything looks attractive and wonderful. The third chapter is about my dream. Here, the reality and virtual environment begin to interweave and disorder. This is my reflection and concern about the virtual space (or Metaverse). This may be a process of re-searching myself, examining myself and my life.

* Click here to experience the detour. 


Digital print on paper, Moving image


The preview of the NFT file.
5.1 - NFT Publishing
The designs of inner pages of the NFT publication.
5.2 - Inner Pages

Whose rights were being confirmed by the NFT’s 'right confirmation'?

One of the main features of NFT is that it helps the owner to establish ownership of their digital asset (or 'Right confirmation'). When a book is made as an NFT, digital publishing is tied to its author. The author receives revenue from the initial sale (and each subsequent resale) of their online publication, and can always guarantee the integrity and copyright of their work. The latest agreement in Ethereum (ERC-115) allows for the splitting of an NFT. This can then correspond to the number of copies per distribution of a physical publication. From the Creatokia platform, we can already see what an NFT book Market looks like.

For a while, I thought that NFT publishing could be a perfect substitute for physical publishing in the online world. However, I was alerted to the news that the educational publisher Pearson was planning to publish textbooks as NFT, with the intention of continuing to make a profit from the resales of textbooks. I myself have always been against the monopoly of knowledge resources. I believe that knowledge resources are the common wealth of humanity and should be equally distributed to all qualified educational and research institutions. There has also been a lack of a reasonable charging system in the higher education field. Pearson's actions are likely to make textbook prices even more unaffordable for students from low-income families. We also have to be wary of knowledge resources being occupied by monopolists and then priced out.

For this project, I excerpted paragraphs from Homer's epic poem The Odyssey and generated a set of designs through AI image generation software. I then ended up putting it all together and re-arranging it as a book. After this, I planned to make a digital version of the book as an NFT. In this case, blockchain technology helped me to establish my ownership of this book. But the ownership of the book was already very complex and confusing. So, whose rights were being confirmed by the NFT’s 'right confirmation'?


Digital File


7375 × 7375 px
The cover design of the booklet.
6.1 - Morning
The cover design with the sleeve opened.
The design of the inner pages.
The design of the inner pages.
The design of the inner pages.
The design of the inner pages.
6.2 - Noon
The design of the inner pages.
The design of the back cover.
6.3 - Night

When we look into the sky, what can we see?

Is it the different colours of atmospheric scattering? Or the ingredients of the sky? Does the sky look different when we are in a different position? How exactly do we define the sky?

The sky and the ground are separate, yet unified. The sky as a whole, yet needs to be defined by the ground. When the ground is a sovereign state, the sky is given political attributes. Any aircraft entering the airspace needs to be cleared to avoid unnecessary conflict. The need for people to travel, on the other hand, gives the sky a commercial attribute. The skies over busy cities were always filled with aircraft.


Digital print on paper


7.25 × 7.25 inch

My family