“I don’t want to be forced to walk, I want to go at my own pace”: Ruozhu Li on finding her place in graphic design
Graphic designer Ruozhu Li tells us about her branding projects and the risks you have to take for progress.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 28 May 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Chengdu-born designer Ruozhu Li got her start in graphic design after a brief stint studying and working in advertising in her home country of China. After a year in an advertising agency, she needed a change and applied to do an MA in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, where she is currently a second year student. Following her shift in direction, her interest in “all visual forms” and her desire to “try different approaches” has expanded her creative practice to include type design, web design, illustration, and photography, among others. Though she admits her lack of academic training in illustration and photography means that she does not feel as confident using them in a professional context, her beautiful branding work, which incorporates both, suggests otherwise.
Around the same time she was accepted into the RCA, Ruozhu began work on her first branding project for Chinese skincare brand, Ritari Care. Its target demographic of 18-25 year old women was the main focal point for the design process and heavily informed the brief for Ruozhu, which was to highlight the brand’s “young and fresh spirit”, but also to “maintain a calm and professional image”. After some conflicting ideas about how best to speak to this audience – whether to follow the example of their competitors or to try something new – Ruozhu and the team settled on a design that would reflect the three main ingredient types in the brand’s products: flowers, fruits and plants. Guided by this idea, the designer created a system of patterns for the packaging that correspond to different product lines. Each illustrated pattern ties into the naturally sourced ingredients in the products, emphasising the brand’s organic approach. Reflecting on the challenges of this process, she says “new brands often feel uncertain about the market, but it is the designer's job to balance the aesthetic and the market appeal.”
Following on from this, Ruozhu was presented with another branding project, this time for a Japanese-style whiskey bar in Chengdu called 金きん Bar. The brief from the owner was simple: “A logo and a menu – make it pretty.” Using the interior design of the bar as inspiration for her own designs, she incorporated several colours from the scheme as the main colours for the branding. The printed materials display a refined palette of black, white, blue and gold that reflect the bar’s cool but sophisticated interior. Alongside this is a logo composed of a simple yet elegant character form, and a single pictorial element – a rounded, fleshy figure that gives the branding a human touch. “I tried several versions of the logo, each inspired by traditional Chinese calligraphy, before finally settling on a continuous stroke style,” explains Ruozhu. “The client did not ask for the drink coaster design or any illustration, however I felt inspired and thought it would be a waste not to try.”
Since completing these projects, Ruozhu’s portfolio has grown to include work for The Playhouse, a platform on WeChat and Weibo that offers travel tips and hotel and gallery recommendations, and another branding project for New York and Chengdu-based women's clothing brand Blancore. But Ruozhu’s personal design work has also seen growth. Able to be “bolder and to take risks” in her own work, she has been experimenting with new styles and printing techniques during her studies. This, she hopes, will lead to bigger opportunities and eventually help to inform her direction after graduating. “For me, postgraduate study gave me an excuse to slow down for a couple of years and to figure out what I am good at and what I want to do, instead of only listening to the ideas of my clients,” she says. “The reason I quit my job at the advertising company in Chengdu and began studying abroad is because I don't want to be forced to walk – I want to go at my own pace.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.