Xuan Phan 
/shoo-en fan/

Xuan Phan is a graphic designer and an illustrator based in London, who focuses on graphic design, visual identity, illustration, typography, data visualisation and more.

  1. Karoshi
  2. 502 Bad Gateway
  3. Facebook Good Adds Up
  4. Penia
  5. Cadogan Hoarding
  6. The Art of Ink Painting
  7. Cast from clay
  8. Data Privacy
  9. Indigo Magazine
  10. Grafik Poster
  11. Resettled Spaces


Death by Overwork

Japan has longest working hours in the world, and some young Japanese workers are literally working themselves to death. Nearly a quarter of Japanese companies have employees working more than 80 hours overtime a month, often unpaid. 12% of them work more than 100 hours of overtime each month. In the case of suicide, it could be more than 160 hours of overtime a month. More than 2,000 Japanese killed themselves due to work-related stress in 2016, other victims died from heart attacks, stress, strokes and other conditions on their office desk.

The subject for my final major project is about Karoshi, which literally mean ‘Death by Overwork’. ‘Karoshi- Death by overwork’ is a publication aimed at raising awareness and giving information about the intense working culture in Japan, a culture where instances of employee suicide or heart failure is a common occurrence because of long working hours. The publication features photographs and daily stories of salary men, bringing focus to the importance of work life balance towards reducing Karoshi cases in the future.

I went to Tokyo, Japan, to do primary research on the subject. I read many related Japanese articles, as well as taking street photographs of ‘salary-men’. “A salary man is someone who sacrifices everything as an individual for the sake of the corporation”. The book is divided into 4 chapters with many different formats inside and typographic design style for each section. This approach of creating flexible formats enabled many advantages: Great room for creativity; chances to play around with the typographic layout; greater choice for the texture and material of the paper, as well as resembling the image of a stack of documents on an office desk. These qualities add a greater sense of relatability between the salary man’s life and the audience.

The last chapter consists of photos of suited salary men taken in different business districts in Tokyo. The salary man is a common sight across the city. Early in the morning, late at night, commuting the underground or roaming the streets, salary men can be seen walking with a briefcase on a pedestrian crossing, commuting by train, making phone calls, reading newspaper or smoking, walking around… Even when they are answering to their phones, eating or watching advertising on the billboard, they always appear impeccably dressed in a suit and tie and always busy, like a set of cogs.

Red is for Japan. It also means dead in some occasions. Black and white represents the salary men’s perfect suits. These are the three main colour schemes for the project. You can see how I kept the rhythm of red, black and white by going through the book and the set of 4 posters. Having initially played with a variety of typographic options and abstract layout designs, I came up using Akzidenz Grotesk as the main typeface for the whole project. Akzidenz Grotesk is a sans-serif typeface family, which had become dominant in German printing during the nineteenth century. Its simple, neutral design gives a sense of simplicity and minimalist for the publication. I don’t want the typeface to distract the reader from focusing on the facts and information, or give any unnecessary feeling for the subject.


Book design
Custom size
Section sew binding