Liam Nguyen Linh Thú – Sacred Animals

  • Tauira / Student
    Liam Nguyen
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Katie Kerr, Tatiana Tavares
Judge's comments:

A beautiful educational take on Vietnamese motifs & storytelling. The ying yang communication for Vietnamese VS English was the perfect design architecture for this project.


"Linh Thú – Sacred Animals" is a research project on Vietnamese architectural decorations and the stories behind them. The project includes a set of illustrated postcards with a corresponding website. Through these mediums, I hoped to showcase the beauty of Vietnamese architecture and culture to a wider audience. Targeting Vietnamese and English speakers who are interested in culture, art, design, the text is written in both English and Vietnamese.

My research focussed on nine animal decoration motifs in traditional Vietnamese architecture: dragon, phoenix, elephant, turtle, tiger, dog, crane, carp and unicorn. Each animal tells a different story of local traditions, philosophies and mindsets; effectively illustrating Vietnamese culture. Vietnam’s architectural decorations vary depending on political and religious eras, but all reflect the importance of animals to society. My research also addressed fading traditions and dying cultures through modernisation, as contemporary buildings gradually replace traditional ones.

Vietnamese began arriving to New Zealand during the 1970s, as a result of the Vietnam War and the fear of the new Communist government. Although only a small community, it is important to communicate Vietnamese existence and culture to New Zealanders.
Postcards are a visual communication tool to deliver cultural messages. Linh Thú – Sacred Animals includes illustrations and stories of the nine sacred animals. The illustrations are designed symmetrically to reflect how animal decorations are placed on temples and the concept of yin-yang (balance). I used a Vietnamese-made typeface, from which I combined head serifs, terminals, strokes and other elements to form stylised illustrations of the sacred animals. Research into Vietnamese culture led to the decision to use two colours for each illustration, selective use of repetitive patterns, lots of curves and thick and thin strokes. Hand-embossed and laser-cut details depict the three-dimensional architectural decorations. The website is an accessible publication that has complimentary information and stories about the animals and the postcards.