Design Nation 02: China

In this series I take a look at designers and their work from specific countries. By diving into projects found online, we’ll see how culture, geography and politics set trends in these creative communities. This next country is a bit unexpected: China.

China has been on my radar for a long time: as a place to visit, a technology superpower, and as the emerging epicenter of great graphic design. When I started to see some impressive branding come out of places like Shenzhen and Beijing, I immediately jumped into a rabbit hole of the internet to see more design in China.

SATI Hand-Made Soap Branding

SATI is a brand of hand-made soaps based out of Chengdu, Sichuan, and tasked MOJO DESIGN with creating a wholistic look that fit their philosophy of allowing customers to “feel the healing beauty of the nature and enjoy the fun and fineness of face cleaning”. Basically what we have here is a sweet set of soaps in need of a clean identity, and boy did MOJO deliver.

sati soaps

This style kind of follows the trend we saw in the Japan post with light type and airy layouts, but with one major difference: hand-made art. This is totally subjective, but I love stipple artwork ever since I had a professor in college who created this kind of work. For those who don’t know, stipple art is a very time consuming and very precise drawing that uses single dots to form an image. It seems only fitting that the SATI brand should use this type of artwork for their look.

sati stipple art drawings

Because MOJO created something that relies solely on an illustration, you’re able to get some pretty amazing options like deconstructed ingredients to show what’s in the soaps (Lemongrass + Rose).

Sati logo design

The logo itself is nothing spectacular, but that’s okay. It’s a clean serif typeface with plenty of spacing, which fits the airy and fresh feel of the product. Personally, I’m a fan even though we’ve seen this before.

sati brand

Overall this is a great branding that you’d expect from some design firm in Brooklyn or Milwaukee – but this is from China. What’s also interesting is that the logo is only in English. I’ve seen this trend before in other countries where English is not the primary language: the naming, logo, and headlines of products and their supporting materials will use English. The rest of the information (manuals, business cards, booklets – the meat) will be in Chinese, Korean, Japanese or whatever the native language is. It could be to help globalize the brands or it might just be some cool commodity to have an English name. If anyone knows for sure, I’d love to heard what the story is behind that.

Check out the rest of the project on Behance.

CASAHANA 喜月堂

This isn’t for an actual Chinese brand (it’s Malaysian), but the agency that created it (1983ASIA) is based out of Shenzhen, China. CASAHANA is a food manufacturer specializing in pastries for festivals and ceremonies and they wanted to reposition themselves as a younger international brand. The entire look was inspired from the colors and vibrancy of the festivals that CASAHANA’s pastries are often at home in.

casahana logo

I’m not sure what the original identity looked like, but this fantastic combination of colors is definitely going to hit the younger demographic they’re going for. The logo is fresh and has sweet symmetry to it with the triangle “A”s that repeat. And here we have an explanation of why there are both English and Chinese characters used for the name: global scale. They sell all over the world so it makes sense that English would be tied in.

casahana brand

Now for the patterns. Oh the patterns. This is my favorite part of the entire look. There’s representation of so many cultures within these and then to stick with the focus on younger audiences; they introduced space photography. I think this may have been for some ceremonial reasons, but any young person is going to associate this with space cats (ok, maybe that’s just me).

casahana business package

As the project continues we see applications on packaging, bus stops (typical), and clothing – for what I can only imagine are the uniforms. Clearly 1983’s designers had a lot of fun with this. It works though! This is food for festivals and ceremonies, so why not create some awesome apparel. The only thing I’m disappointed with is the vehicle wrap. The patterns and vibrant colors would have been a phenomenal advertisement, but I’m thinking (and this is just a guess) that there may be limitations to how loud you can go with the vehicle wraps in other countries? Or maybe the area that these delivery vans are in would actually stand out more dressed in this simple look so there’s contrast against the busy environment.

casahana vehicle wrap

To see more of this project (and there’s a lot more) check it out here.

ofo Branding

This was a tricky project to figure out exactly what it was for, but once I realized what it was I figured I’d add it to the list. JAN Creation in Beijing redesigned ofo, a city bike brand, to make it more appealing to residents as they expanded across China.

ofo brand

The logo evolved ever-so-slightly to be a simple, single word. I like how the designer took us through the process of evolution, simplifying the logo more and more. To see what I mean you’ll need to check out the full project. The yellow is pretty dominant in everything and it works well – this is a program where you rent city bikes to ride around, so they should definitely be visible.

ofo website

There isn’t a whole lot to talk about other than this is extremely clean and well executed. The “O” is used throughout the materials and mockups (most of which I’m thinking are not actually used, but just for show). The photography is pretty generic but it’s a specific style that plays very nicely with the rest of the brand. Also, I love that the name “ofo” kind of looks like a bike.

ofo billboards

Now, back to China and their design skills as a whole.

You can start to see in these three examples that China is definitely nothing to ignore when it comes to graphic design. They are creating unique brands that, though they follow some prominent design trends, they are able to stand on their own. There’s some seriously powerful creatives in this country and I for one am excited to see what else the spectacular agencies and designers produce in the coming years.

My advice is to pay close attention to the design community in China. What do you think though? Is China seeming like an emerging design power, or has there always been this level of skills and I’m just too ignorant to have noticed earlier?

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