Chinese Art and Design Research

I have been looking into a wider range of Chinese art and design for this project because I know quite little about it. Admittedly, when I think of Chinese art, I associate it with the styles that decorate Chinese restaurants because this is probably one of the few times we are exposed to Chinese art. However, I was sure this wasnt actually the case so I began a search for a wider range of styles, focusing more on modern art and design. To my understanding, contemporary art wasn’t introduced in China until the end of the last dynasty, when a New Culture Movement began that defied all aspects of traditionalism. It was artist Ong Schan Tchow who first successfully integrated Western art techniques and perspectives into Chinese painting. Unfortunately, this movement didn’t last long as The Communist Party of China took away artists freedom and only allowed work that supported their ideas. It wasnt until recently, in the late 20th century that there was more tolerance by the government of contemporary and controversial pieces.

From top to bottom: Cat by Zhang Yugong, Chinese Landscape Tattoo by Huang YanThe Elegant Gathering by Yun-Fei Ji

The works above are modern versions of more traditional chinese art. I really like the calm colours and the use of inks. The Elegant Gathering would be interesting to use as inspiration for the outer packaging design, as it would it could be made to wrap around the entire box. Lots of chinese art focuses on landscapes, I would like to see how this could be incorporated into my designs, but in a modern way that allows for the use of contemporary typographical styles. I think ink could be quite a difficult medium to work with so I need to explore this further and maybe look for alternatives, perhaps finding a way to produce something like this digitally.

The images above are Chinese graphic design posters by Lu Xun from the 1920s and 30s, I like these for their simple shapes and colours. I like the top design in particular because the figures seem to form a background and if the colours were blue it would remind me of a modern version of The Willow Pattern on china – an idea that has been translated in a more modern approach in the form of these beautifully illustrated bottles below were designed by creative agency Love and illustrated by Chris Martin.

Graphic designer Nod Young, designed a set of these chinese typographic poems (shown above.) I really like the way he’s made chinese writing look modern, the colours are bright and non traditional, and the shapes used are smooth and clean. The white background also really makes the typography stand out so it becomes the main focus. Working with a different language is difficult because it obviously needs to be written correctly, which can be hard with such a complex language, but I would really like to look into ways to incorporate a more modern style of chinese text into my design.

I really like the design of the brand identity for Chinese restaurant  Wo Hing by San Francisco studio Manual. The colours are unexpected when compared to the overuse of red and gold more commonly seen and the overall feel is extremely modern. The experimentation with cooked and uncooked noodles is quite an elegant way of incorporating the ingredients into the design without being in-your-face and creates dynamic, fluid visuals. The design manages to retain some reference to Chinese culture with the use of Chinese writing and the logo takes inspiration from neon signs seen on Chinese street food stalls. Taking inspiration from this, I would like to experiment with the ingredients in Kombucha when creating images for my designs, maybe using visuals that suggest the idea of tea submerging in water or using the ingredients to make up an image relating to the product.

Edit: I have since found out that Kombucha actually looks like this (below) when it is being made and I think the above idea would therefore look quite unappetising!

The redesign of Hong Kong’s Tai Cheong Bakery is both modern and luxurious, the use of gold and the glossy finish of the packaging suggests the product is of a high quality. Chinese writing has been used here, but still feels modern despite being around for a very long time. The logo includes aspects of more tradition Chinese illustration but the single colour and clean lines brings it back up to date. The use of brown suggests the product is made from natural materials. Overall this products highlights the fact that when designing my own packaging, the use of colour and finish is very important in influencing the consumers perspective of the product and including a limited palette can look very effective when done well. In order to use Chinese writing in a modern way, it needs to be very clean and simple, yet can be used together with more tradition visuals to create a slightly more interesting or complex design.

However, there are aspects of the redesign I don’t like quite as much. In my opinion, the design of these bottles are quite dissapointing compared to the packaging above. They’re far less modern and look much less high end. The gold colour is still used but I would have liked to seen more of it and I feel that these and the packaging above are almost recognisable as the same brand; theres very little that ties the two together to maintain a seamless, modern look. This has taught me that in my design, there needs to be visuals on both the outer packaging and the bottle that ties the two together to create an identity that is recognisable to the brand. For example, by continuing the colour palette and typeface throughout.


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