Last Wednesday Bennett Peji invited me to attend a schmoozefest between a contingent of graphic design practitioners from China who were going to be in town. Last year a number of AIGA San Diego chapter members visited China and this was Bennett’s chance to play host to many of the same people he visited a little over a year ago.
The gathering was at Mark Murphy’s great new studio at the Wonder Bread building in East Village San Diego. So, armed with too few business cards, Brett Oyler and I headed out not quite knowing what to expect. We were about to enter the building when the crush of Chinese visitors arrived too. Fresh in town (from stops in LA, Vegas and New York I was told) we exchanged handshakes — no business cards yet — and warm smiles.
Once inside, Bennett introduced the group and mentioned they represented designers, teachers, design-business owners, students — and others connected to the design profession — from various
cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
As the designer’s work was projected on the wall we all began to commingle and attempt to wrestle with the language barrier. The standard exchange of business cards was a start but I was also lucky enough to talk to some of them through translators. I met Chen Dan, chairman and Group Creative Director of ZhengBang who said he has 200 designers and has designed for companies such as China Telecom, China National Peking Opera, Bank of Beijing and more. ( I know this not because it was translated to me but because he has his clients printed, in English, on his business card! Note to self…) Chen also seemed quite proud when he told me he was hoping to take the company public and had a profit of 70 million yuan last year (Wow. Go ahead, calculate it.)
I also spoke to Bi Xue-feng. We discussed design-related topics such as the universality of misunderstanding of our graphic design profession (both our Moms still have a hard time explaining what we do) and how some media outlets present the belief that China aims to outrival the U.S. I especially like Mr. Bi’s business card; a 6.625″ x 3.375″ piece of bond paper folded in quarters to business card size.
I also met Fu Bing, Lulu Zhao (watch the animation on her site) and a designer whose design studio is called: Day Day Up. But without the help of translators I didn’t get a chance to find out much more about them. Kino Zhou, a young, recent graduate from San Diego State was lucky enough to be there too. She speaks Mandarin and I suspect it was a welcome relief for many who were struggling to communicate in English.
A great afternoon it turned out to be. Now, with luck, IGoogle Translate will provide relatively accurate English to Mandarin translations so I can continue a dialog with some of them. Hopefully, after translating: “are Chinese designers expected to become certified?”, it won’t turn out to be: “bite the wax tadpole” or something like that.