• China4

    Water Calligraphy.

  • China2

    Water Calligraphy.

  • China3

    Outside the Triple Major show.

  • China5

    Beijing Design Week.

  • China6

    Beijing Design Week.

  • China7

    Beijing Design Week.

  • China8

    CAFA at night.

Graphic Design

Zara Arshad: Design China

Posted by Rob Alderson,

The Pet Shop Boys may have implored us all to Go West! but get this – the Pet Shop Boys were wrong. In fact it’s all about the east, and China in particular, but design-wise it remains a world we are still largely grappling to get to grips with. Step forward globetrotting Goldsmiths graduate Zara Arshad whose new China Design blog is sure to be an invaluable resource for anyone seriously interested in the future of design. We caught up with her to find out more.

Born and raised in the UK, Zara also lived in Syria and Indonesia before arriving in China, where she works as a freelance designer, as well as sitting on the organising committee for the Beijing Design Week, held last month. She is a big believer in internationalism and the power of design as a means to achieving socio-polictical ends.

Hi Zara, you seem to have travelled quite a bit. What drew you to China?

I’ve always had a fascination with China – her history, culture and food, and a special admiration for Chinese characters. Paired with whispers of opportunity, China seemed the place to go.

What do you remember best about your time at Goldsmiths? What were the best things you took from your studies there?

Conceptual thinking. Our course (BA Design) didn’t promote one particular field or teach us how to make things look pretty – it was more about the idea behind the design. This has been invaluable – you can always teach yourself new skills – i.e. how to make – but maybe not so much how to think.

Why did you decide to start Design China? What are your hopes for it?

After working on the organising committees for Xin: Icograda World Design Congress Beijing and Beijing Design Week in 2009 and 2011 respectively, and reporting on designers, creatives and social businesses in China for Notes on Design since early 2010, it has become increasingly apparent that so much is happening in the field of design here, yet there is no one place to access the information for it.

Design China aims to fill that gap, ultimately documenting the rapid shift from “Made in China” to “Designed in China”. My initial focus will be to get all the information that I already know up on the website – as everything in China develops at such a rapid pace, this means re-visiting places that I know and meeting other creatives to catch up on their latest work.

At the same time, I hope to meet new designers and provide them with an online platform for communication (of their most recent works). I’ve tried not to overthink the format, intention etc too much, and to just do – I’ve been discussing the idea for more than two years now, but didn’t actually do anything about it until now.

Are there any dominant themes in modern Chinese design?

I’ve seen a lot of instances more recently where designers are using their culture and identity to inform their working process; not in the predictable way of, for example, utilising the colour red because “it is very Chinese to do so,” but looking at old traditions, techniques and even philosophy to shape a design outcome – to create something that is obviously quite contemporary, whilst still managing to infuse or inject an aspect of Chinese culture.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. Main1_10.13.57

    Kit Russell’s Flatland poster isn’t just any old poster, oh no – it’s a poster that can be turned into a sphere. Or a sphere that can be turned into a poster. Recent illustration graduate Kit has also created a poster that morphs into a square, and the pair are an imaginative interaction with Edwin A. Abbott’s 1884 novel Flatland. Subtitled A Romance of Many Dimensions and written under the pseudonym “A Square”, Abbott’s tale is a social satire commenting on the hierarchy of Victorian society. The narrator – a square – lives in a two-dimensional world where he is visited by a sphere and convinced of the existence of another world, a three-dimensional world. Sadly, no-one else in Flatland will believe Spaceland exists and Square is ignobly dunked in the slammer. Lewis Carroll meets M.C. Escher and the Mr Men, if you will.

  2. Feixen-list

    It’s been almost two years since we officially checked in with Swiss poster maestro Felix Pfäffli – although of course we’ve been keeping an eye on a few of his side projects and collaborations with his brother Mathis. As ever he’s kept up with the challenging task of delivering poster after glorious poster for Südpol’s cultural events (every one’s a bloody winner) but he’s also branched out into educational activities in LA and started to experiment with moving type. His recent work for Wired shows his usual bold, graphic language translated into flowing organic forms, maintaining that trademark Feixen feel but through a dynamic moving medium.

  3. Main3

    An old soul such as myself appreciates when modern-day designers and illustrators go out of their way to make something look like it fell out of a cardboard box that hasn’t been opened since 1972. When I first came across SEEN I was convinced it was a whole group of people, but it turns out it’s just one really talented guy called Rob Carmichael. He alone is responsible for creating some of the best album artwork around at the moment.

  4. List

    I have heard it said that the New York graphic design scene is more splintered and less cohesive than its London counterpart, but the Image of The Studio initiative we covered last year was a fascinating way of bringing together more than 75 NYC studios to compare and contrast the way they each work. It also became a great resource to discover designers we didn’t know that much about, and with each studio commissioned to create something original that reflected their philosophy and aesthetic, it provided a great way into the New York scene.

  5. List

    German design studio Hort prides itself on being an “unconventional working environment” and a “place where work and play can be said in the same sentence.” In this video by Analog Mensch Digital, Hort’s much-loved creator Eike Konig talks about their work and ethos whilst rolling paint and printing a poster. The camera wanders about the studio past leaning bikes and big white desks, scrolling up bookcases and dwelling on the Anthony Burrill posters gracing the walls. Eike is always worth listening to, whether he’s musing on the differences between international and German clients, traditional and digital work and the morals of design. He says: “Visual language is a strong language. We have responsibility in the use of this power.”

  6. List

    It seems that Jacob Klein and Nathan Cowen are incapable of turning out a dud project. From their humble beginnings as a meticulously curated stream of stunning imagery to their present guise as multi-faceted design and art direction agency, the Haw-Lin boys just keep on coming up with the goods. This might not seem surprising to devotees of their original Haw-Lin blog, but it’s surprising how often arbiters of style lack substance. Not so for these boys; their fanatical eye for detail goes beyond simple aesthetic curation, extending into a portfolio of capsule collections for fashion brands, editorial shoots for the most erudite magazines and immaculate lookbooks that manage to add depth and pace to publications that can often be painfully bland.

  7. List

    I always think that creating the identity for a design conference is one of the most thankless commissions around – all those attendees ready, willing and able to offer informed and immediate feedback. So when we see it done well it only seems to right to give credit where it’s due, and Build did a fine job for this year’s TypeCon gathering.

  8. List_copy

    In the introduction to his exceptional new Erik Spiekermann monograph, Johannes Erler sums up “Spiekermann in two sentences” by way of this quotation: “I’m totally chaotic. I’m so untogether, my left leg doesn’t even know what my right leg is doing. I need order. I need systems. I don’t really do anything without a design grid.”

  9. List_2

    Their website is a combination of fluorescent colours, textures, media and effects so hectic that you can’t help but surrender yourself to it, but it’d be foolish to assume The Royal Studio’s design work is as chaotic as it appears. Behind the madness is a method which elevates their vibrant, contemporary design beyond the realms of trendy and into something actually very interesting, whether it’s an Honest Manifesto which claims that “everyone loves titles and captions” but they “don’t give a fuck about content” (repeated to fill) or a very well-executed poster advertising the studio’s 15-day tour around cities including Zagreb, Ljubljana, Dijon and Porto. The fact remains that Portugal-based Royal Studio are taking conventional graphic design and turning it on its head to see what happens, and we’re really enjoying admiring the results.

  10. List

    Of all the design disciplines, typography is almost certainly the least sexy. But Dan Rhatigan is one of the people who is able to talk about type in an engaging, and very human way. Earlier this year the Monotype type director worked with Grey London on Ryman Eco, described as “the world’s most beautiful sustainable font,” as it uses 33% less ink than the likes of Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia and Verdana.

  11. Tumblr_n4iq1a8swj1qdf776o1_1280

    Anyone you know a downright sourpuss? Treat ‘em to a link to work by Hungarian designer Anna Kövecses. Here at It’s Nice That we give high praise to work that is candy-coloured and cute – as long as it never falls under the tasselled umbrella of “twee.” Anna’s work is a perfect example of that as beneath the childish exterior lies a wealth of design knowledge and style.

  12. List

    In the year-and-a-half since we first featured Belgian designer Vincent Vrints on the site his fortunes have risen with the quality of his work. We were always enamoured with his canny ability to create aesthetically astounding imagery and merge it with equally appealing layouts, but he’s refined his process and embraced some new digital techniques resulting in a portfolio that floats between the retro and the ultra futuristic.

  13. Main8

    Google Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and almost every book cover design that appears either depicts someone hitchhiking or it has the aesthetic of a grotty travel diary of someone who’s been “finding themselves” along a motorway for a month or two too long. Kerouac’s novels don’t even need covers, right? They’re stand-alone pieces of literary genius. Big applause is needed then for Copenhagen designer Torsten Lindsø Andersen who has taken the rulebook of second-rate Kerouac book design and thrown it out the train window on to the track where it belongs. These ambient, sterile designs he’s proposed for the author’s back catalogue are the perfect fit to the words within: weird, unpredictable, drunk and unique.