• 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

Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List-ashley-stephenson-new-york-times-its-nice-tha

    Designer Ashley Stephenson seems to be a shy chap, perhaps explaining why he prefers to go by his creative pseudonym G/tr, and why it took a friend of his to get in touch singing his praises. We’re not sure why, as Ashley’s certainly talented: this project was created while interning at the New York Times, and looks to show the publication’s prestigious heritage while also celebrating its move into the digital era. For each of the images, Ashley has imagined what the stars of yesteryear might get up to if they were as preoccupied as we are today with the likes of Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, Periscope, Twitter, Facebook, What’s App, Club Penguin, Habbo Hotel…you get the picture.

  2. Studio_storz_itsnicethat_list

    Berlin-based Studio Storz has a portfolio chock-full of visual identities, editorial design and book design that’s varied in style. What differentiates Studio Storz from other design practices is its collaborative approach to design. As part of Spector Bureau, a collection of designers, artists and publishers, it actively works with other professionals in the field. It sees the role of designers as ever expanding and one that can manifest itself as researcher, engineer, craftsman and communicator; and the studio’s relationship with the Heidelberger Kunstverein has been ongoing since 2012.

  3. Alexandre-pietra-for-noise-festival-its-nice-that-list

    A good identity isn’t necessarily one with a mega logo – though it doesn’t hurt – but one that looks great and is instantly recognisable across any touchpoint, be it a coffee cup or huge stretch of hoardings. When we saw this festival identity looking bloody brilliant on a balloon, we knew it passed the test. This simple blue and white look for French festival For Noise was created by Swiss designer Alexandre Pietra, and aims to convey the festival’s new, less rock-orientated approach. “The concept of this 2015 edition is to let the music speak for itself,” says Alexandre.

  4. Byop_int_list

    Earlier this month, the Serpentine Pavilion opened to the public. The beguiling, multicoloured woven structure designed by Spanish architects SegnasCalgo sits in Hyde Park like a more grown-up version of a fort you might have built when you were a child. Over the last decade and a half the annual architecture commission has become a much-anticipated beacon of design, and to celebrate 15 years of the Summer Pavilion, the Serpentine Galleries have teamed up with Kidesign, Marina Willer and the team at Pentagram to launch a digital platform and national campaign to foster the aspiring young architects of tomorrow.

  5. Lust_typedynamic_itsnicethat_list

    LUST not only has a great name, but is a studio covering a huge range of disciplines in an extraordinary way. Based in The Hague, Netherlands, it’s this project the studio did last year at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam that demonstrates the studio’s unique and varied approach. An interactive installation for the exhibition Type/Dynamics, the show aimed to comment on the work of experimental graphic designer Jurriaan Schrofer.

  6. Song-haein-itsnicethat-list

    I’m just going to come right out and admit that there’s an inherent injustice in trying to explain how beautiful a printed book is through digital images. This is especially true in the case of Haein Song, whose painstakingly bound publications go one step beyond plain old riso-printing and saddle-stitching.

  7. List-its-nice-that-mtv_premium_collage_300dpi_iam

    MTV is launching a new “louder, shorter and hyper-visal” look and feel, incorporating user-generated content for the first time. The positioning has been reworded to “I am my MTV” from its former slogan “I want my MTV,” aiming to celebrate its audience and “bring new video art to audiences worldwide,” according to the brand. MTV says that the new design work was created in house, and it seems very much in the vein of the bright, brash and rather brilliant work of its senior vice president of visual storytelling and deputy editorial director (snappy!) Richard Turley.

  8. Penguin_design_awards_2015_list

    Today Penguin has announced the winning covers for its 2015 Penguin Random House Design Awards. The awards are an opportunity for art and design students to get involved with design for publishing. Entrants are given a detailed brief from the publishing house and are invited to submit designs in one of three categories. This year Scott Kooken’s Freakonomics takes the Adult Non-Fiction category, Kate Gamet wins Adult Fiction with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, and Lucie Williams’ Carrie’s War wins the Children’s category.

  9. List-eric-hu-talk-magazine-its-nice-that-

    We’re longtime, long-distance admirers of the work of Eric Hu, so the news that he’s recently launched a new magazine, Talk, is pretty damn exciting. And from what we’ve seen of the spreads, young Eric’s not disappointed us. The mag is the product of a collaboration with art director and writer Harry Gassel, former art director at The Fader, and is described as “a style-driven magazine on design focused on emerging culture.” And style-driven it damn well is: we’re digging the cover typeface, which seems to be formed of gloomy balloons, while the spreads show some innovative approaches to layout and image size. The first issue features the likes of David Brandon Geeting, Maxime Harvey, Simon Whybray and Raf Rennie, and we’re keen to see how Talk’s dialogue continues in future issues.

  10. Bond_web_moominfont_a_small_optimized-1

    Tove Jansson was a one-woman phenomenon. Last year Finland celebrated the centenary of the much-loved Moomin creator and children’s uberauthor and illustrator, and you might remember we spoke to C-G Hagström for the Autumn issue of Printed Pages about photographing her throughout her life.

  11. Zoo_festival_de_l%e2%80%99histoire_de_l%e2%80%99art_itsnicethat_list

    Paris-based studio Zoo has been featured on the site before for their zesty posters for a music event, and this time they’re back with a beautiful identity for the Festival de l’Histoire de l’Art 2015. Created as part of a proposal for a competition held by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the theme was “Matière de l’œuvre (the matter of the work of art).”

  12. Kino_xenix_it's_nice_that_list

    We all got quite excited about this book of film posters from Kino Xenix, the underground cinema that has become something of a cultural institution in Zurich. Starting as a nomadic student film club back in 1981 with little more than a super 8 film projector, it’s been upheld as a bastion of Zurich’s youth culture since setting up shop in a former school barracks several years later.

  13. Muokkaa_yorokobu_itsnicethat_list

    Showing a bit of love for the humble number is Muokkaa Studio AKA Alex López Becerro, with his series of Memphis-inspired numbers for Spanish magazine Yorokobu and their annual calendar. A fabulous mix of primary shades and pastel hues, these creations are all 3D renders but start as sketches on paper. “Once I have an idea that I think will work, I start working on the computer. For this project I designed shapes, modules and patterns to form the letters – because they have several elements in common, they form a font family of numbers,” Alex explains.