“Music brings us together”: the two friends behind Menslies discuss club design, type and collaboration
Some might steer clear, while others might thrive; designer Haojun Pan and illustrator Yenk reveal what it’s really like working with your closest pal.
- Ayla Angelos
- 28 June 2022
Haojun Pan counts themselves as the lucky type. This is because they were able to transform their hobbies into a career “without much planning”, they say. Having previously studied for a BA in Management at university, Haojun soon decided to apply for work at their favourite magazine, The Outlook Magazine China. And then, they got the job as junior picture editor. “So off we go.”
This was the moment Haojun first dabbled in the basics of design and digital art, and it wasn't long until the freelance requests started pouring in. Marked as the “starting point” of their career, Haojun’s work has been in demand ever since; not only did they take up a role at Zhao Lai Club as part of the visual design team, they also worked full-time at other publications and a production studio, all the while building on their “creator ego”, they say. “As time went on, it seemed more and more rational and emotionally wise to quit the job.” And here they are; Haojun is in their second year as a freelancer, taking on a consistent supply of jobs for exhibition identities, branding, music posters and more. Oh, and they also founded Menslies, a creative pseudonym under which they work with illustrator/best friend Yenk.
GalleryMenslies: Future Airline (Copyright © Menslies, 2022)
When it comes to the work undertaken by this creative duo, Haojun works side-by-side with Yenk at the intersection of electronic music and graphic design. “Electronic music brings us together,” says Haojun. “We have been sharing music with simple design on social media since 2017.” A year later, in fact, the Beijing-based underground music club Zhao Dai reached out to the duo and asked if they wanted to work in-house as part of the team. They were both thrilled, of course. “What I really appreciate is the trust from them,” adds Haojun. “The creative freedom we have is 24k and it’s meaningful to support the community using my strength.” One of Haojun’s favourites from this ongoing partnership is a poster called Zhao Lai On Leave 2022, which was designed for a four-day outdoor festival curated by the club (which was postponed due to Covid-19). The key element that features throughout is a Rubin vase, presented in a blocky, minimalist, pixelated manner. “We wanted some contrast, so I experimented with a metallic style and the result amazed me unexpectedly.”
In another project named Future Airline, Haojun and Yenk were commissioned to design the identity and invitation for Tube Showroom, which opens as part of SS22 Shanghai Fashion Week. The pair forged the idea of referencing a motion sickness pill box, “and it turned out to be lovely”, says Haojun. We obviously agree and quite frankly can’t get enough of the colour palettes, psychedelic patterns and gothic type. This, plus all of their other works for that matter, highlights the importance of collaboration. Some might say you should never work with your best friend, but Haojun and Yenk are certainly proving them wrong.
Menslies: Posters. Residents Night (Copyright © Menslies, 2022)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.