UDL studio talks us through its bold and brash identity for menswear brand Mega Suen
Founded by Fang Jianping and Ding Fan, the Beijing and London-based studio has devised the branding for an alternative vision of male fashion.
- Ayla Angelos
- 11 June 2021
“The whole process is our inspiration,” explains Fang Jianping, on the ethos behind his studio UDL, co-founded alongside Ding Fan. Having first met at university a few years back, the pair spent the proceeding two years working at different design studios. Still keeping in touch and making sure to design “something interesting together” in their own time, it wasn’t long until they ventured out on their own. As such, they decided to launch UDL in 2012 – a studio based between London and Beijing – growing rapidly from a two-person team to 20, plus three partners.
These days, UDL can be found working on briefs for both commercial and cultural sectors, adding to its repertoire of branding, art, storytelling, photography, design and publishing. When taking on a new project specifically, the team will make headway first with the cultural background, diving deep into the research and learning all that they can about the client at hand, “finding issues and seeking the solution, and delivering them into the design,” Fang tells It’s Nice That. This can be seen throughout the studio’s entire portfolio, where identities, branding and package design works are sprinkled with storytelling and conscious design decisions. Not to mention through its latest offering for Mega Suen, a menswear brand established in Beijing in 2006 by designer Sun Shuo.
“The brand has been focusing on the subject of masculinity since birth,” adds Fang. Looking at the relationships between people, the brand offers an alternative towards the stereotypical and traditional vision of male fashion, “rather than trying to build a different male image of old fashioned hegemonic masculinity or simply blending femininity into men’s wardrobe to get the neutral outcome.” It’s a modern and relevant approach to dressing and gender, and one that gets Fang thinking about the role of masculinity and what it means in society. “Men themselves present quite a different air of sensitivity and vulnerability by making friendships or intimacy with different people in different scenes. All the changes happen naturally in daily life.” Mega Suen, in this case, aims to tell these stories about gender and pivots its designs and releases around the quote, “Friendship as a way of life”, penned by Michel Foucault in 1981 from Le Gai Pied.
As a result, UDL’s identity for Mega Suen navigates around the pillars of “natural”, “friendship” and “relationship” – the three words that define what the fashion brand is all about. Taking inspiration from these types of words and relationships may at first sound allusive and obsolete, yet once you ponder upon the finalised product it all starts to make more sense; it’s an informal, friendly and highly informative rework of the brand, where return forms, care labels and the company's logo type is presented in an approachable and eye-catching manner. “We always spend a lot of time explaining something to others, like when describing a situation or making a point of view,” says Fang. “However, we find that the design concept for Mega Suen comes from the brand itself; the information is the expression.”
UDL opted for a dramatic visual tone with the project, where all sense of subtleties and minimalist aesthetics are thrown into the background. For example, the logo is bold and brash, displayed almost arrogantly – but utterly effectively – across all of its outlets, be it an envelope housing all of the extra details, an order form or an artful poster. The washing and care instructions, too, are equally as heightened, and “placed on the cover greatly,” says Fang. “It’s a way to describe the property by underlining the content.” This exaggerated language runs throughout the entire branding, meaning that a bold palette of green and orange runs coherently with punchy graphics and legible fonts. The envelope, in particular, channels this tone – but so it should, as it's the first thing a customer will see when they receive a package. “The opening and closing structure of the envelope helps the audience read,” adds Fang, “first you can see the logo and titles on the envelope, and then you can notice the brand introduction inside.”
When it came to the process, UDL kicked off with the sizing by printing out all of the materials and then setting them off against one another. “Then we adjusted the size of the font and the proportions that appear in the image to shape a visual pattern,” Fang explains, stating how it was “attractive, intuitive and cadenced”. It’s normal for the studio to work on typesetting, and when it does, InDesign is usually its first step. “It’s very effective and powerful,” he adds, citing Illustrator and Photoshop as other frequent programmes used in the method. “Of course, hands, pencils and rulers are very important as well.”
The identity for Mega Suen is the pinnacle of the type of work that UDL likes to onboard and will continue to make in the future. In the next few months or so, the team plan to unveil a grocery brand design, a technology company brand design and a project for a homewares brand. It’s a good time to be working in the field of commerce, especially after such the tremulous year we’ve all had. “We believe that the market in China is upgrading,” concludes Fang, “and we look forward to receiving more design works from consumer goods companies. It has become meaningful to use that as our design supports the brand and we create a brilliant purchasing experience.”
GalleryUDL: Mega Suen (Copyright © UDL, 2021)
UDL: Mega Suen (Copyright © UDL, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.