“Dancing Beijing” is the official logo of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. The emblem stood out from the numerous other designs because of its combination of international and Chinese styles. While the design is seen as a milestone in the Chinese market, Zhang Wu, one of the designers of the iconic emblem, remains modest. Below, Wu talks candidly about designing for the Chinese-speaking market.
Zhang Wu first points out that, in the contemporary environment of openness and interconnection, the essential feature distinguishing the Chinese market from other markets around the world is the particular living habits of Chinese people, which in turn determine spending habits within the market. When a designer produces new ideas for this market, he must consider how function, consumer psychology, and aesthetic value are influenced by the local culture.
Aesthetic value is not simply expressed through the cultural symbols of one’s own nation, but it is also composed of multiple elements such as content, worship, and favor, among other characteristics. To Zhang Wu, a work of design that fits the Chinese market does not have to highlight “Oriental elements.” The proportion in which such elements are applied is subject to the positioning and the target of the project as a whole. Designers should not rigidly apply Chinese elements in design projects simply because they are destined for the Chinese market. The “Dancing Beijing” emblem, for example, did not just highlight the symbolism of a “traditional” Chinese seal, it also incorporated the meaning of the Chinese word jing, which simultaneously references the Games’ host city (Beijing) and the alternative symbolism behind the word, which means hero in English.
Wu notes that the Chinese market is highly valued by international enterprises not only because of the cheap labour or resources it offers them, but also because of the potential opportunity offered by such a large and rapidly developing market. China is also promoting international cooperation between its market and businesses and the rest of the world. The skills of Chinese designers who have an international perspective and a clear understanding of the Chinese market will become highly desirable. However, many Chinese designers lack an “experience of good design,” which becomes most apparent when they compete in markets outside of China. Compared with the West’s century or so of development (in terms of modern design), the Chinese design industry only started developing around thirty years ago. Chinese design still has a long way to go, and local designers have a responsibility to ensure it transforms in the right way.
According to Wu, Chinese design is rapidly changing and progressing. Designers in China are working across disciplines to ensure they can operate easily in increasingly complex business models. In the past, many of the profitable business models in the Chinese market sat close to the bottom of the value chain. Wu views this period as an essential but temporary learning period. During this period, Chinese designers gained numerous valuable experiences that are being used in the future development of skills and aesthetic capabilities. Innovation lies at the heart of a designer’s soul, and innovation in technology is epitome of modern innovation. In the coming age of “Industry 4.0,” the opportunities present in the huge manufacturing hub that is China will produce highly accomplished designers. It will be a time in which designers lead engineers. Designers who are able to interpret and wield advanced technology will create high quality work that lasts. Designers must learn how to integrate their unique regional culture with other cultures around the world.
About Zhang Wu
Zhang Wu is CEO of Armstrong International Corporate Identity Co., Ltd. (AICI). A graduate of the Central Academy of Art and Design (now Academy of Art and Design, Tsinghua University), he is one of the designers of “Dancing Beijing,” the official emblem of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He is a Guest Professor at Minzu University of China and Henan University, a Member of the China Planning Association Experts Committee, Managing Director of the Beijing Advertising Association, and an author of numerous books in Chinese on design and the economy.