Zhijun Wang

On May 4, 2012 by Design China

Dragon Wang (a.k.a. Zhi­jun Wang) is a graphic designer based in Bei­jing. He estab­lished his own stu­dio and brand – ZJ Design – in 2008 after work­ing in adver­tis­ing agen­cies, and clients so far have included NLGX, UNICEF, NeochaEDGE, Sony Eric­s­son and Toy­ota. Since estab­lish­ing him­self as an inde­pen­dent designer, Zhi­jun Wang has main­tained a strong focus on sport­ing cul­ture, as well as tra­di­tional crafts and skills. We caught up with him to find out more.

Where are you orig­i­nally from, and what did you study?

I am a local Bei­jinger, and I went to a school that is now affil­i­ated with Tsinghua Uni­ver­sity. I under­took adver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion design at uni­ver­sity and grad­u­ated in 2005, but taught myself how to use soft­ware such as Adobe Pho­to­shop and Illus­tra­tor. To com­plete the story, I worked at Saatchi & Saatchi China for a num­ber of years before mov­ing to a local com­pany. I didn’t really like it there though so I set up my solo prac­tice in 2008.

Tell us about some of your projects.

My work cov­ers a broad scope, for exam­ple, I com­pleted a project last year with Li Ning on train­ers that were inspired by the ele­ments water and wood. When the Bei­jing Olympics took place, I designed a Peking Opera mask that con­ceals the Chi­nese char­ac­ters for Bei­jing (in the illus­tra­tion). I also looked at whale culling in Japan via one of my projects; how­ever, at the time, I wasn’t work­ing as an inde­pen­dent designer and the com­pany I was with for­bid me to release the project.

Another project I would like to men­tion is the Goals for Girls logo. The client was UNICEF and this was my first attempt at typog­ra­phy. For the final out­come, the Chi­nese char­ac­ter for “girl” (or “nü”) was abstracted to resem­ble a run­ning figure.

Gen­er­ally, you con­cen­trate a lot on sport­ing cul­ture. Can you tell us more about this?

Yes, this reflects my lifestyle. I run marathons myself hav­ing, so far, run the Shang­hai, Taipei and HK marathons. I plan to run the Seoul marathon this year. I’ve always been inter­ested in skate­board­ing too so I helped to design exhi­bi­tion posters for a local skate­board painter. Design for sports is an ener­getic and lively process, which is much more inter­est­ing to me.

How do you per­ceive the Chi­nese design indus­try?

I think the Chi­nese design indus­try can learn a lot from Japan. Many crafts­men are based in Japan. They observe car­pen­try there, for exam­ple, and young peo­ple pre­fer to learn skills. In China, how­ever, the indus­try is a lot more machines-based and the focus is on effi­ciency. I’m try­ing to avoid using machines myself, and prac­tice the “mak­ing” aspect more.

What are you cur­rently work­ing on?

Last year, I com­pleted a project using a local tech­nique called pyrog­ra­phy, which is usu­ally used on fruit and wood, but I wanted to see how it would work on fab­rics and train­ers. Cur­rently, only one pair of shoes from this project exists since I made them myself (a process that took 1 month), so I am now look­ing at ways to expand the project. I want to use more of this tech­nique in other works and expose tra­di­tional crafts­man­ship to a wider audi­ence — to look at the pos­si­bil­ity of pass­ing on these skills to the next gen­er­a­tion in order to revive them. The train­ers are just a medium of delivery.

What are the ben­e­fits of prac­tic­ing as a solo designer?

When I entered the indus­try, I didn’t really know how Chi­nese design­ers work since my work­ing expe­ri­ence was mostly with for­eign clients. How­ever, I have found that I pre­fer to work inde­pen­dently in order to achieve full vision rather than com­pro­mise on style. This is one of the main ben­e­fits of set­ting up your own studio.

How do you mar­ket your­self?

Some of my friends work in mag­a­zines related to sub-cultures such as fash­ion and train­ers, but I really only show mature works to edi­tors. I also have my own website.

Would you rec­om­mend this way of work­ing to oth­ers?

I think it’s nec­es­sary for young design­ers to intern and gain expe­ri­ence first. I would rec­om­mend learn­ing the processes of work­ing before tack­ling large projects as a solo designer. When young peo­ple first start out, they are hun­gry for fame, and it’s eas­ier for them to fall this way. I was like this myself, but then I started to fol­low my inter­ests and this is what got me to where I am today.

Many thanks to Lynn Zhang for interpreting.

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