JL DESIGN Perspective|What defines the key visual? Going back to basics, asking the right question.


Source:Abby Lee, Min Chan Huang

With design gaining recognition and attention in society, we often come across reports and discussions about the “key visual.” But what exactly is the key visual?

Solving Problems with Creativity, Not Design

At JL DESIGN, answering this question requires setting aside the definition of the key visual. Chief Creative Officer Johan Tsai emphasizes, “Instead of focusing on what the key visual should be, we spend more time contemplating why we need a key visual.”

By asking “why,” the team aims to get back to the basics: identifying key problems within the brand’s needs.

During the ideation process of the key visual, the team at JL DESIGN is accustomed to refraining from defining the specific style. Johan explains, “We first explore the values behind the brand, uncovering perspectives and finding appropriate positioning.” This is followed by multidimensional data collection and research, constructing a logical framework and design structure. By exploring various possibilities, the team crafts compelling narratives, allowing the key visual to find its rightful place.

“By creatively connecting elements, we make the visual more cohesive, going beyond the mere display of design techniques,” says JL DESIGN. They enjoy seeking new perspectives and approaches to express the key visual. “The outcome goes beyond just the key visual; brands can see the power of creativity and thinking within it. We employ a pragmatic approach to bring new ideas to life while expanding the brand’s realm of imagination.”


Empowering the Right People in the Right Positions

The design of the key visual is not just about creating a visually appealing image but taking practical actions that align with the brand’s values. The team excels in integrating creativity from various units and resources while maintaining a comprehensive approach to visual production across different fields and media. This ability allows them to undertake numerous large-scale ceremonies. Johan believes that the team’s work process lays a strong foundation for projects, with “integration” being the key focus. He says,“We are open to collide ideas and accustomed to assigning tasks based on individual strengths rather than solely relying on job titles. This approach helps us enhance our judgment when integrating external resources.”

Creative Director Lance Wei, when discussing external integration and interdisciplinary collaborations with directors, new media artists, illustrators, and sound artists, emphasizes the importance of leveraging the strengths of each team member to the fullest. This is the essence of JL DESIGN’s work. Lance states, “When collaborating and co-creating with other teams, we like to have the right people in the right positions because we are creators ourselves. We know how to think outside the box and allow creativity to flourish within limitations.”

Using the 57th Golden Horse Awards project as an example of customized integration thinking, JL DESIGN positioned the event around the theme of “Take one: On the Road to tomorrow” to resonate with the challenging situation of the film industry during the pandemic, which resulted in a drastic reduction in film production. The key visual features a modified version of the Golden Horse 56 logo, with added realistic traces of film set materials, creating a profound sense of documentary realism. The stage with its flowing lights represents the passage of time, while over 7,000 public submissions from the collective creative effort transformed the ceremony into a grand-scale cinematic experience. This concept showcased the moment that called for people to pause, reflect, and reimagine their future.

|Further Reading|

► 57th Golden Horse Awards


The key visual poster for the 57th Golden Horse Awards extends from the logo of the 56th Golden Horse Awards and incorporates public submissions material for a collective appeal.

The project not only connected filmmakers and creatives but also involved the public. Johan explains, “When faced with over 7,000 public submissions, how do we find the storytelling angle? How do we handle different types of materials? For a ceremony that requires extensive production, how do we effectively connect the thinking process? The key is to have a clear core concept, outline resources and limitations, find the most suitable team to execute it, and always stay focused on the core concept. When every detail, from the footage to the stage, seamlessly merges together, the story comes to life in a truly vivid and profound way.”

The collected crowd-sourced video materials, totaling over seven thousand pieces, were translated into various nominated films, transforming the Golden Horse Awards ceremony into a grand film set-like experience.

Johan highlights the impact of building the ceremony brand. As JL DESIGN refines the brand value with new methods, it increases public attention and enhances the market appeal of the ceremony. Consequently, the sponsorship budget for the Golden Horse Awards increased in the following years, and the value of the ceremony could be translated into tangible commercial benefits. Johan explains, “Although this project may seem cultural with many creators involved, we always think about how to connect resources and make the final outcome accessible to the public and how it brings value to commercial brands.”

Having handled numerous large-scale projects like this, collaborating with creators from various fields, managing multiple execution points, and dealing with mixed media materials, the team at JL DESIGN continuously practices honing in on the core concept to push creativity to its limits within the framework. For instance, following the 25th, 26th, and 29th Golden Melody Awards, they aimed to create a ceremony that encapsulated both musicality and a sense of classicism. Within a limited timeframe, they successfully produced seventy music documentaries of musicians, allowing the 30th Golden Melody Awards to return to its essence and focus on paying tribute to musicians.

|Further Reading|

► 25th Golden Melody Awards: Graphic Beats

► 26th Golden Melody Awards: Original Soundtrack of Taiwan

► 29th Golden Melody Awards: Manifesto

► 30th Golden Melody Awards: The Era Recalled


For the 30th Golden Melody Awards, nearly 70 influential musicians were invited to share the stories behind each musical note. These stories were compiled into 15 diverse music themes, capturing the unique perspectives and attitudes of the musicians.

Johan explains, “We don’t want the logic of simply ‘commissioning projects’ or ‘finding outsourced freelancers,’ but rather integrating the right creative talents and preserving space for creativity.” The 30th Golden Melody Awards not only touched the hearts of music lovers but also allowed many directors to fully express themselves within the given conditions. Under the creative stage, the entire JL DESIGN team works with precision and rationality, thanks to our flexible approach and the ability to adapt and fill in any gaps in the team structure at any time.


Asking the right questions is crucial in order to provide different answers.

Before actually executing the visual design of the key visual, JL DESIGN invests a significant amount of effort in handling matters beyond design. Asking the right questions, proposing the right methods, and organizing the right people are all done in order to present the right key visual. Even within the context of ceremony projects, there are different questions to be discovered and addressed.

Key Visual for the 17th KKBOX Music Awards

“At the beginning, it’s important to explore the values behind the brand to understand the purpose behind it,” Johan mentioned regarding the 17th KKBOX Music Awards, which required a visually impactful presentation to showcase the brand’s new image. “Our goal was to create visual resonance through ‘clicks’ and allow viewers to feel a connection between the key visual and their daily lives. It didn’t have to become the Golden Horse or Golden Melody Awards; it had its own purpose.” When both the tools and the content they carry can respond to the ultimate message the brand wants to convey, it can be considered a successful key visual design.

|Further Reading|

► 2022 17th KKBOX Music Awards Ceremony: Our  Voice

Breaking the boundaries of the key visual and thinking beyond is a common practice within JL DESIGN. Johan mentioned, “Sometimes what a brand needs is a set of versatile elements or symbols that can be combined, rather than just a single image.” Therefore, when working on the KKBOX Music Awards, a flexible visual element was created through the collage of brand colors, allowing for adaptability and extension to various touchpoints. “To meet the demands of KKBOX in carrying diverse content from different musicians and genres, we designed a flexible visual element that can be applied in various ways on social media. As a result, the brand not only has a key visual but also possesses a flexible visual system.”

Key Visual for the 18th KKBOX Music Awards

Returning to the core of the question and finding the most suitable solution, he said, “The answers we provide for different brands are unique. Some are creative expressions, while others require profound insights. Therefore, we develop different roles and responsibilities based on different needs. Through our accumulated experience and practice, we have become well-versed in quality control, time management, communication, and coordination, enabling us to effectively tackle the challenges of different projects.”

Not seeking standard answers is a characteristic that Johan sees in JL DESIGN. They walk a new path with steady steps, aiming to leave something profound in an era filled with eye-catching visuals. “When everyone is accustomed to beautiful images and presentations, especially in design where self-expression is pursued eagerly, but it may overlook many fundamental aspects. By taking a step back, thinking deeper, and observing more, although the process may be more intricate, it brings clarity.”

“We don’t want to just create a super cool key visual that becomes a reference in the industry but doesn’t address the core questions of the project.” – Chief Creative Officer Johan Tsai


What is a key visual? In an era where AI can generate drawings and graphics with a simple command, obtaining a visually appealing key visual has become effortless. However, JL DESIGN chooses to take a different approach, aiming to go back to basics and ask the right questions.


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