Through the use of neon signs, Mehmet Gözetlik, Istanbul-based art director of Antrepo design agency, demonstrated how 20 of the best-known Western brands might be translated into Chinese.
In an interview with the International Business Times, Gözetlik pointed out that China is now the world’s largest economy and has a current population of 1.35 billion people. Yet, he adds, foreign companies take a literal and phonetic approach to presenting their brand, instead of considering how the logo translates visually and culturally. “Most of today’s Western brand identities are created by Western design companies, based on Western culture. It means we have two separated worlds, because of our DNA. So, there is more misunderstanding than we thought. We don’t actually understand many things we assume that are understood. We are like a person who misses the view while reading on the train. We are not aware of where we are coming from, going to or passing by,” Gözetlik said. Read More »
In the realm of classic comic book heroes, there is Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, the Green Lantern …and Tintin the baby-faced boy reporter. A comic strip introduced in 1929 by Belgian cartoonist Herge (Georges Prosper Remi), “The Adventures of Tintin” relates tales of a Belgian teenager with a round head and a dorky quiff hairstyle who is dispatched by a youth newspaper called Le Petit Vingtieme (the Little Twentieth) to file investigative reports from hot spots around the world. Unassuming and good-natured, Tintin gamely goes wherever he is assigned, taking his little fox terrier, Snowy, with him. His travels often put him in the midst of political upheaval in the land of the Soviets, the Belgian Congo, China, Chicago, Latin America and elsewhere, and in trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, he is forced to deal with ruthless special agents, diamond smugglers, Al Capone gangsters and other villains who want to run him over, shoot him, torture him, kidnap him and feed him to crocodiles.Tintin and Snowy deal with each encounter without fear and get themselves out of each jam through quick-thinking action and sometimes through sheer dumb luck. What has kept Tintin so beloved over the decades is that he isn’t presented as an egotistical super human like Spiderman and Wonder Woman, but as an average young man who doesn’t seek out danger but doesn’t run from it either. In Brussels, Tintin and Snowy are honored with a life-size bronze statue, and they are even commemorated on a euro coin, which is legal tender in Belgium. An unlikely action hero, Tintin is probably the most admired fictional Belgian in recent history.
In some ways, these fanciful bus stop shelters in Krumbach, a tiny village in Austria’s Bregenzerwald (hunchbacked world) region, look like an architect’s idea of three-dimensional doodling, but they have managed to make the town a tourist attraction by boasting the world’s most unusual bus stops. Krumbach, which has a population of about 1,000 people spread across acres of scenic farmland, recently formed an association to promote itself as a cultural destination. To foster an international exchange of ideas, it unabashedly invited seven world-renowned architects from Japan, China, Norway, Spain, Belgium, Chile and Russia to each design one bus stop in the village.
“The aim of this project is to link design achievements of international architecture with the know-how and skills of local handcraft-based businesses in Bregenzerwald,” one organizer explained. “This is made possible by involving regional architects as a kind of mediator between foreign creative work and the abilities of our craftspeople.” Although the selected architects were used to being commissioned to design mega-million dollar buildings with doors and windows, they accepted the humble assignment. In lieu of money, the architects were offered a free holiday in Krumbach’s 11th century castle-turned-hotel. The bus shelters were unveiled to the public last May. Without doubt, they put Krumbach on the cultural map. Finding Krumbach’s newest art installations is easy; just hop a bus and get off at the stop.
It’s not always as simple as applying a single set of graphic standards across the board when a brand expands into foreign markets. In some cases, the brand name may be difficult to pronounce in the native language or the letters may translate into a word that is negative or obscene. Or the graphic mark may include a detail that may be perceived as insulting or culturally taboo. The challenge for brand designers is to adapt the logo to the region, while preserving enough elements to make it recognizable in every part of the world. Ideally, travelers to a foreign country will recognize the brand identity on sight even if the letters or image differ from what they are used to in their own culture. See if you can name these brands. (Answers after the jump.)
Argentine architect Andrea Stinga and Colombian graphic designer Federico Gonzalez put together this animated video of globally renowned architects and their most notable work. The minute-and-a-half long video manages to squeeze in a lot of information, including architects and landmarks from around the world. Still, art director Gonzalez apologizes that some legends had to be left out because they only needed one architect per letter of the alphabet. Stinga is a principal in Ombu Architecture, based in Barcelona, Spain. The music soundtrack is “The Butterfly” by Eugene C. Rose and George Ruble.
Those who really want to get into religion may want to check out the Son of Heaven Hotel, better known in China as the Tianzi Garden Hotel. Located in the little town of Langfang, Hebei Province, near Beijing, the hotel is constructed in the likeness of three traditional Chinese gods — (left to right) Shou, the god of longevity; Fu, the god of fortune, and Lu, the god of prosperity.
The ten-story hotel was recognized in 2001 by Guinness World Record for being the “world’s biggest image hotel.” The rooms are said to be “adequate,” but the Son of Heaven Hotel does have two suites — one in the “peach” held in Shou’s hand and a presidential suite on the ninth floor. The windows are camouflaged by the brocade-like pattern. The inconspicuous hotel entrance is on the left, at the bottom of Shou’s long sleeve. It is unclear whether any guestrooms are available in Shou, Fu and Lu’s heads. Although this hotel has not received a prestigious Michelin star rating, if you get to sleep in the hand or belly of a god, it’s bound to be a heavenly experience.
The World Wildlife Fund, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2011, has produced some terrific ads over the years. This is a series that we hadn’t seen, although it was produced by BBH Shanghai in 2008. The ads address the misconception in China that the World Wildlife Fund only protects Giant Pandas that are native to the mountain forests of central China. To raise awareness of WWF’s other conservation activities in the country, this black-and-white print and outdoor ad campaign integrated WWF’s panda logo (and China’s national symbol) into images of antelopes, forests and water.
The must-do gift of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival season, mooncakes have become more luxurious and lavish in their presentation than ever. In China, mooncake gifting is a multi-billion dollar industry. Opulently packaged mooncakes, typically sold in boxes of four, cost upwards of $45, with each cake elegantly displayed or nestled in its own container. As pricy as this is, Chinese social etiquette pretty much demands that everyone give these sweet delicacies to friends, family, co-workers, clients and sometimes even government officials during the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as Moon Festival.
Urban transportation planners everywhere are grappling with the question of how to move traffic faster, cleaner, greener and cheaper. They have urged people to ride bikes, telecommute, buy hybrid vehicles and mini-cars, but here’s a concept from China that is truly original – a super gigantic bus taller than an overpass that straddles the road creating a moving tunnel that regular cars can drive through. Bus passengers board on the upper level from elevated platforms, while smaller vehicles drive under and through the bus. Ultrasonic waves alert trucks too tall to fit to go around the bus on another lane. A stop light activates to stop cars in the tunnel when the bus needs to make a turn.
The “straddling bus” was exhibited at the 13th Beijing International High-Tech Expo in May and a pilot model is being built in Beijing’s Mentougou District by its developer Shenzhen Hashi Future Parking Equipment Co. Powered by electricity and solar energy, the straddling bus can carry between 1,200 and 1,400 passengers at a time and travel at speeds of up to 60 km per hour. Developers claim that it will reduce traffic jams by up to 30% on main roads and can be built in a fraction of the time that would be required to construct a new subway. The bus is also projected to save up to 860 tons of fuel annually, reducing carbon emissions by 2,640 tons. There is also no need to build a parking lot to house buses out of service; they can be left straddling the road.
If you have to take a bathroom break, do it during the program because you won’t want to miss this TV commercial for Sapporo Beer – or “biru” as the Japanese would pronounce it.
Developed by Toronto-based Dentsu Canada, the commercial represents the Japanese beermaker’s first full-scale ad campaign in Canada. Co-directed by Mark Zibert of Sons and Daughters and Gary Thomas of Crush, the film was shot on location in Guangzhou, China over the period of a month.
A mythological tale of how Sapporo beer is crafted, the two-minute film has an other-worldly epic quality like “Lord of the Rings.” It combines photography, animation/CG, and 2D art/matt paintings onto geometry, developed by Crush’s Sean Cochrane. Three dedicated artists were assigned to create each of the transitional rooms, with illustrations by James Zhang guiding the way. The cast too was composed of authentic trained martial artists, taiko drummers, and sumo wrestlers, along with actors playing samurai warriors and geishas. All in all, it’s an elegant departure from the “male-bonding, jock-humor” beer ads shown on American TV.
Editor’s Note: The global marketplace is real. Some brands are as familiar to consumers in Rio de Janeiro and London as they are to shoppers in New York City and Mumbai. That does not mean that the world now speaks a common design language nor approaches design in a universal way. What resonates in one culture may be rejected as odd, irrelevant or ignorantly offensive in another. In some cases, consumers may find the product appropriate, but the sales pitch tone-deaf and riddled with cultural clichés. Designers working across cultures confront the challenge of understanding differences in business and social customs, technologies, and typical design assignments as well as aesthetic preferences.
In the interest of broadening our knowledge, we are launching a “foreign correspondents” feature, beginning with our dear friends, Anita Luu and Sing Lin, two American designers who opened their Affiche International Asia office in Shanghai two years ago. An innocent question about the availability of Chinese typefaces led to a fascinating discussion, which is presented here.