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Posted Aug 7th 2008 by

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Inspiration:

Designed by China

– An extended report on the Chinese design scene.

Chinese inspiration

There’s so much to be excited about when you look at the Chinese Design Industry today. We are truly on the cusp of a design revolution, with cool kids such as Jellymon, rebellious stalwarts Graphic Airlines, legendary veteran designer Han Meilin and a whole host of other plucky expressive individuals and studios bashing out a plethora of stunning work, it would be rude not to see what’s happening out there. So we picked out a selection of our favourite designers to update you on.

Eat as much as you like

We all know about Jamie Hewlett’s work for the BBC, but have you seen FUWA? They are the Official Mascots of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games!! They’re right up our street. As is HAN MEILIN ‚Äì The influential Veteran Chinese artist who was behind them.

GRAPHIC AIRLINES go green with ‚ÄòPlan A‘ as part of the latest Marks and Spencer’s campaign.

JELLYMON keep you out of the rain with their windbreakers. They also did some fabulous work for adidas Sports Culture Spring Summer ’08.

Jamie Hewlett

Jamie Hewlett’s ‘Olympic Monkey’ for the BBC

If you still ain’t seen it yet… why not? JAMIE HEWLETT’S super fantastic animation for the Olympics is still blowing our minds!

Also, don’t forget to download your own desktop monkey to keep you upto date with the latest Olympic events and shenanigans.

And why is it significant?

With political barriers and issues being tussled, freedom of speech growing, the mass reach and power of the internet, and the general exoneration of a country tied down by its central authority, we’re definitely witnessing history as China finds it’s voice, and Chinese designers amplify their intent through whatever is the necessary medium.

Drawing

Live drawing event

It has drawn comparison with the gritty punk years in 70’s England. And what we are likely to see are very experimental pieces that toy and play with the medium of graphic design and illustration, until the support base of education, investment and a more accepting authorative mindset comes into play. In GRAPHIC AIRLINES and other designers involved in THE FEEL GOOD PROJECT (where they mix music and live art to make a difference) you’re likely to see a select few standout individuals who will continue to push back the boundaries and create something new and special. They will be the leaders of a new generation.

Quentin Shih

Quentin Shih advert for Microsoft

However, there is a worry that as Chinese design becomes more exposed to western culture, it doesn’t stamp it’s authority with zips, pins and badges but it becomes over-influenced, saturated and diluted to the point that it lacks originality. There are already a few individuals such as Photographer QUENTIN SHIH who seem to have magnetised east and west, beautifully and seamlessly.

Qian Qian

‘Big Fish’ by Qian Qian

It’s fair to say that what is so striking about the current crop of young blooded Chinese designers such as Qian Qian, and BEIBANG, is that you can see the influence in their work. You really can. Because it’s what they know, it’s what they love, it’s their environment and it’s what surrounds them, yet it’s so different and separate from the western design world. Their inspiration doesn’t necessarily come from pre-determined patterns off istock and pantone swatch palettes, but thousands of years of ancient architecture, rich calligraphy, deep rooted mythology and profound focus. That’s a heck of a lot of spiritual inspiration. In very few regions of the world can you find such tradition and identity.

China’s other face has always obviously been as a manufacturing entity and as it now wants to design AND manufacture, we could yet see its global muscles being flexed, having a huge impact on us all. If China seemingly manages to combine cutting edge design, with the backing of manufacturing and technology on a mass scale, we will undoubtedly witness one of the major industrial revolutions this world has ever seen.

Here’s a few more Chinese-related links which we couldn’t squeeze into the article but you may enjoy… DD4DHowie TsuiStyle VaderAnn XiaoKhaki Creative and Toy2R. Post up any more links you have!

POSTED BY Mike

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(3 Comments) - click to comment/read
  • Great report! Very conclusive and lots of wonderful stuff there!

    China is an interesting place at the moment, for politics, sports, culture and of course art. Not everything is positive about the country, but most of it is fascinating, that’s for sure.

  • A thousand thank yous Ben! I really enjoyed writing it too.
    I think you’re certainly right about it being fascinating…and not necessarily all positive.

    Some fantastic propaganda imagery here:
    http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/

    We should be doing a little bit of a follow up to this article too, so stay tuned!

  • Wowsers – there’s some cool stuff coming out of China right now. It’s strange to think that it’s still a communist country. The prevailing image of Chinese design hangs somewhere between constructivist party propaganda and kitsch baby-faced paintings. It’s cool to see so many different influences being fused with China’s own identity to create some things which are genuinely refreshing.

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