“The combination of designing Chinese and Western languages is innately difficult” explains one-half of A Black Cover Design (ABCD), Nod Young. The Beijing-based graphic design studio is renowned for its crisp and beautifully executed output, an aesthetic that is epitomized in their recent rebrand for Founder Type; the largest supplier of Chinese font products in the world.
Founder Type was the first company to engage in Chinese font development and continues to offer a variety of tonal designs to the Chinese-speaking market. Nod and the other ABCD co-founder Guang Yu have established a long-term relationship with Founder Type, working alongside the foundry on exhibitions, design competitions and now a rebrand to showcase the quality of Founder Type’s designs.
For the rebrand, the main challenge posed to the designers involved in creating a compatible redesign that compliments both the Chinese and English alphabet. Nod comments on how this is “difficult since the two are not so well-matched” but their experience in the bilingual field means “our studio is the most experienced in matching Chinese characters with Western words”, adds Nod.
“Our goal is to control the grayscale, distance, thickness and size between the two languages within a moderate scope”, and they successfully do so through the evidenced business cards and bags that highlights the variety of fonts in color and the type-centric design. “We took the design literally,” says Nod, “regardless of the weight or thickness of the type, you can strike a balanced design, just like a warm cup of water that is neither hot nor cold.”
On the studio’s creative process, Guang gives us a rundown of the designer’s activity. “We selected eight fonts from Founder Type’s Chinese portfolio and matched them against their corresponding Western typefaces that are based on Chinese characteristics, temperaments and brush strokes.” As a result, the rebrand possesses an “international outlook corresponding to the international vision” of Founder Type as well as the ABCD designers.
While business cards and shopping bags are considered as a somewhat insignificant and throwaway object in Western society, for the Chinese, these objects have a greater function. “There may be a disparity between the two business cultures,” says Guang, “For Founder Type, business cards and bags symbolize necessity as well as daily consumables.” Once a company grows to a sizeable scale, these objects come to represent “a sense of belonging and identity” to the proud workers of a company.
“Although individual personality is advocated today, it is undeniable that when an employee holds these materials produced by their company, their confidence and mood is affected.” In fact, once Guang and Nod completed the rebrand, they found that Founder Type’s employees were more inclined to carry around a box of business cards or use a company bag outside of work. Not only do the products act like a physical manifestation of font previews, the products also show how good corporation design can affect a mood or feeling in its employees.