Friday, September 29, 2006

off on hols

How do you boost an economy? By creating new longer holidays so people can go off an spend without the distractions of work. Well, that's what Chinese government did when they instituted the 'Golden Week' holidays of Chinese New Year, May Day and National Day and it's working - these week-long national holidays mean significant sales peaks for many categories. And I'm not complaining either. I'm off for this National Day holiday 'Golden Week' so I won't be posting for a while but back soon, promise.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

getting fitter

The pre-Olympics fitness drive is on. A signpost here from Shanghai's new sports facility.

And there's so much fitness going on, its spilling out onto the pavements outside the complex. Below is a badminton game in progress.

It's common to see impromptu pavement badminton games but when its right outside a purpose built million dollar sports complex it does seem to suggest the facility is only one of many possible venues rather than the definitive. And a reminder that the purpose built isn't always the answer to everything, sometimes the relaxed, expedient or informal is just fine.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


A recently published Chinese guide book to Tibet:

I love the treasure map styling. Don't get me wrong, stumbling off a flight you need your neat and up-to-date list of local hotels from a guide book too but I really like how this design approach makes you feel you are on an adventure.

Also an illustration of (if you excuse the expression) the wanderlust of Chinese youth and increasing curiousity about their own country.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

hard-wired superstition

Street shrine in Hong Kong

Interesting article in the Timesonline about superstitious belief arguing that superstitious belief is a by-product of the intuitive thinking that gave us an evolutionary edge. I'm sure there's also something connected to this concerning brands and how we relate to them but I've got the 'flu today and I'm too feeble to do more than wave limply towards it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

labour margarine

Labour margarine from Singapore. An old style brand identity that would help illiterate customers identify and ask for it easily (I know that would help me as I'm illiterate). Just a great identity, fits perfectly with the world of industrial catering, so much better than some namby-pamby sunflowers.

Monday, September 18, 2006

how d'ya like them apples?

One of my favourite things about Beijing airport are the smiling apples that sit on the security check desks in the domestic terminal:

I asked an officer why they were there and she replied "For the smile". Of course. I don't know why this need 'for a smile' came about but I'm guessing that the brief was to make an official area seem less formal and more welcoming. If I'd had that brief I'm not sure my answer would have involved drawing smiling faces on apples, but that's my lack of imagination for you.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

reincarnation for objects

A chair is recycled as outdoor seating, its back dismantled and wedged into a gap in the wall. It's common to see this sort of adaption or re-assembly here in China.

This chair now has provided seating in two different formats, albeit unintentionally. That could be quite a selling point but how much do manufacturers really think about reassembly or adaptability for their products when developing them? Why isn't that something we think about more? Would we be less inclined to discard things so quickly if we have more opportunity to modify and create something new for ourselves after we tire of the original form?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

sort of safe

This moped rider in Beijing demonstrates that safety is often more notional than concrete. He's wearing a construction hard-hat for protection but I'm not sure it would even stay on his head in an accident, let alone anything else (another favourite is to wear a horse-riding hat). As most Chinese moped riders don't wear any protective clothing it's definitely engaging with the idea of safety, and perhaps makes him feel protected, but not much else beyond that. Paradoxically he is also carrying a load rather haphazardly balanced in front of him, which I'm guessing isn't safe for him or fellow road users. A reminder that safety is a deceptive concept as it seems a nice, universal, absolute quality but it's actually an extremely subjective area.

And yes, he did manage to pull away before that bus flattened him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

book of wisdom

A Thought for the Day from Bu Hua's Book of Wisdom, a series of lessons from the ancient Chinese fable 'Journey to the West'.

Good advice for planners?

Bu Hua is also a Flash animation trail blazer and you can see more of her work here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

maximising space

Small apartments obviously restrict possessions and human occupants alike but residents find ways to maximise space. Grills on windows are designed to provide security but also offer extra storage and space for more recreational purposes:

airing the pet rabbit and cat (not a combination I would try but it seems to work ok here)

and creating a garden.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

relaxing in strange places

Saw this gentleman lying on his bike and reading in Shanghai this last weekend. As it's a gallery/art space area I was a little undecided whether this was studied loucheness or just genuine way to relax, after all, sleeping on your bike is not unusual:

This sort of alternative use for a bike is often through force of circumstance; long hours, chance to rest away from crowded home, passing time while waiting for instructions etc (though here it's more a case of how do you nap and look after your delivery?). But it means that objects have to take on multiple functions for some people. Here a bike becomes a microcosm offering a way to earn, transport, relaxation and right now, safe storage. Russell Davies was talking about how his car was almost real estate as it offered his family extra storage and how utility vehicles such as the Scion are popular as they offer extra living capacity, well, its would seem its already being pioneered here China. Perhaps we are too quick to see 'financially constrained' lifestyles and behaviour as a diametrically opposed to the affluent one? We may have more in common with all sorts of people who are trying to reconcile small crowded homes, long working hours, fewer personal spaces etc than we may have thought. If so, then we have something to learn from people who are used to coping with less by making what they have, do more.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

tough jobs

Beijing, today, 8.55am

As tough jobs go, I think sweeping up dust in the middle of a main road during rush-hour would be up there. But there's also something metaphorical about this solitary, determined, against-the-odds attempt at restoring the environment, especially when considering the impact development is having on the city and on China as a whole.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

40 winks 2

Previously I've mentioned opportunistic napping as seen on Chinese streets. The workplace is also a popular place to catch some sleep, another illustration of the blur between public spaces and private uses. This gentleman is napping in a florist shop (just in case you thought it was an Elton John style front room). I've regularly found myself tip toe-ing round small shops here in China not wanting to wake napping assistants with undue clattering of hangers or stock but I've also noticed offices are also good napping spots. This work and home blur is often down to the fourteen hour days and 6-7 day weeks worked in China, especially in retail. When so much time spent at work there's bound to be some sort of leisure/work time blurring, if only to fill dead time between customers. This leisure time 'creep' can extend to DVD/TV watching, making dinner on a portable stove, hair washing/styling (a restaurant staff fave), washing clothes and, as seen in my local bakery, skipping with a skipping rope in between the bread and cakes aisles. It's interesting that in the west this sort of workplace informality is the preserve of the hip and 'laid-back' creative industry while China has been pioneering it all these years as a standard workplace approach. If you are in a skate-board-down-the-corridors-table-football-and-coffee-lounge type office I recommend you push it further to include hair-cutting, washing clothes, cooking and napping at your desk to see just how laid-back things really are. Of course, long hours aren't the only reason for this, another key reason is that workplaces often offer things that are lacking at home; hot water, space, internet or DVD access and free (to the user) electricity.

Monday, September 04, 2006

pjamas repositioned

A lady in Shanghai off down the shops in her pyjamas (lunchtime).

Pyjamas are popular streetwear this time of year as a loose fitting and cool daytime option. Harks back to traditional costume in many ways but basically just offers a cheap track/leisure suit style comfort. It's one of my favourite things about summer here, you can see people walking dogs, shopping, riding bikes all in their pyjamas. It's all slightly surreal. Once it starts to get cooler the warmer, fleecy PJs will come out but at the moment both men and women are favouring the light cotton, white and blue classic style pyjamas.
It's a great bit of brand stretch, and also an illustration of how the same thing can be consistantly found across markets while also taking on entirely new forms of meaning and use.

washed away 2

Previously I'd posted this picture of a row of houses which had been scheduled for demolition. The developers were good for their word. How the same street looked last weekend:

I've recently heard several people talking about coming back home to see their childhood home before its knocked down. It seems to be an increasingly common rite of passage for 30 somethings and older. What if your childhood neighborhood was flatten for up-market apartments and offices? Would you have a rush of exhilaration? Anger? Or a sense of loss? Or maybe release? Perhaps a conflicting mixture of all? Most of the people discussing this just seem resigned, possible space for sentimentality obliterated along with the old homes in Progressive Redeveloping China.

Shanghai's Biennale and the alternative 'Satellite' exhibition starts next week, the theme to the show is urbanisation so more on this soon but here is a previous post about art and urbanisation in the meantime.

Friday, September 01, 2006

punk restaurant

I wouldn't usually associate a punk spirit attitude and a hotpot restaurant but someone in Shnaghai has. The 'Slow food studio' is a hot bed of attitude:

and sex:

not even the Lonely Planet escapes

strangely Chinese thing to do really, as The Young People here are more likely to be found in cafes and restaurants than bars and pubs a yoof restaurant seems completely appropriate. Also interesting to see a brand here with its own 'tone of voice' with clear values that differentiate rather than replicate.

BTW, the food though isn't meant to be up to much but what do you want? Revolution comes first.

manga fun in Shanghai

Last Sunday, in Shanghai's People's Park, after I past the parents advertising their children I bumped into some Chinese cosplayers:

A Japanese import, cosplay is now cropping up all over the world. The kids here are going for the ol' manga look here while the cosplayers below are straying into Goth Lolita territory, a look that filtered down from Japan a while ago;

Although its an extremely niche activity (especially in 35+ degree heat) it is an illustration that China is part of the ebb and flow of world trends and influences. Chinese cosplayers also post films of themselves on (the Chinese youtube) so wait for it, that means that screen media is taken offline as cosplay then ends up back online as user created content to be shared with other cosplayers and manga fans. Very web 2.0, sweetie.