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The Economic Background of Commercial Design in China

The Economic Background of Commercial Design in China

The Differences in Design Styles of Tier One Cities in China

China, a vast country with a large population, can be divided into seven sub-regions– North China, Northeast China, East China, Central China, South China, Southwest China and Northwest China. China can also be divided into three economic belts based on its economic and social development level – Eastern Economic Belt, Central Economic Belt and Western Economic Belt. With an area of about 9,600,000km2, China is only slightly smaller than Europe. However, differences in various things including economy, culture, language and urbanization between the South and the North as well as the East and the West are even greater than that which obtains between southern and northern Europe.

I. Design is affectedby various factors

The differentiation of design is impacted by the differences in geographic location, economic level, urban development, consumer demand, media buying and other factors.

1. From the perspective of urban development

As first-tier cities and regional economic centers, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen are located in three major economic circles – Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Economic Circle, Yangtze River Delta Economic Circle and Pearl River Delta Economic Circle.

Relying mainly on heavy chemical industry-oriented capital-intensive industries, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Economic Circle is the base of the heavy chemical industry, equipment manufacturing industry and high and new technology industries. Since resources of the whole country flow to the capital due to its unique political culture, Beijing used to outshine others in the past. But now, the whole regional economy is more prominent due to the synchronous development of Beijing and Tianjin.

The secondary industry of Yangtze River Delta Economic Circle is rapidly developing, especially driven by industry. Centered in Shanghai with five sub-centers, the areas of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai are in balanced development. The urbanization level is relatively high. Urban and rural residents are living a rich life. Comprehensive strengths of cities in this area take the lead throughout China.

Pearl River Delta Economic Circle relies mainly on trade-oriented labor-intensive processing industries. Led by the urbanization of villages, the “explosive” urbanization is featured in a special development pattern of urban agglomeration, which is multi-centered, highly intensive and aggregated. The economic development here is much more energetic, but regional economic development is relatively unbalanced.

2. From the perspective of culture and consumer habits

As the political and cultural center of China, Beijing has a more developed culture and media industry, endowing the city with an ideological air. The consumers there prefer perceptual consumption. They pay a lot of attention to brand and product packaging.

Shanghai, the largest economic center of China, has a more advanced finance and insurance industry, but the innovation atmosphere is relatively thin. It is much more conservative with a “practical” air. The consumers there prefer rational consumption. They pursue overseas brands and a delicate lifestyle due to the influence of Shanghai-style culture. They are sensitive to price and visual effects, and attach great importance to environmental protection, the reason why they prefer simple packaging and oppose extravagance and waste.

Shenzhen, the first special economic zone of new China, is not only a window for reform and opening-up policies, but is also “the city of design”. It has a thick innovation atmosphere and strong talent mobility. Young consumers, the main part of consumers in Shenzhen, focus more on individuality and are willing to try new things. The product packaging here is closer to civilians.

For example: According to customers of a colored gemstone brand we once served, for the same experience shop, the flagship store in Shanghai has a lower decoration standard than in Beijing. Shanghai is lower in luxury close rate, while Beijing is higher in the rate of returns. These consumption differences are all caused by the differences in regions and cultures.

3. From the perspective of media launch power

According to relevant data released by China Advertising Association in 2015, the marketing proportions of advertisement in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are in a descending order.

CCTV (China Central Television) is the most authoritative and the very core advertisement launch platform. It occupies a large proportion of the totaladvertisement launches for Beijing, endowing the city with obvious capital effect and strong media radiating capacity.

As the economic center of China, Shanghai plays a leading role in the economic development of Yangtze River Delta and even the whole nation, with a mature business mode and massive advertisement launch power.

Starting late, the advertising business of Shenzhen has been restricted due to themovement of the economic centre to other places, which weakens the advantage of being the first economic zone. The strengths of the advertising business of Shenzhen lie in real estate advertisement and outdoor advertisement, with the total amount of the latter occupying a relatively large proportion of the nationwide total.

4. From the vision of design

Due to the differences in industrial structures, Shenzhen has a large number of excellent local graphic designers, and takes the lead in graphic design in China. As the spearhead of the Chinese advertisement business, the visual presentation of Shanghai’s advertisement business is weaker in individuality but stronger in universality. Internationalization is one of its major pursuits, so it’s hard to tell whether the work there is designed by Chinese local designers or overseas companies.

II. Internationalization has become the mainstream design trend

There is not much differences between the design styles of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where designers from all over China gather together. 

As the saying goes, “go to Xi’an for the past five thousand years of history, go to Beijing for the past one thousand years of history, and go to Shanghai for the past one hundred years of history”. Beijing follows the traditional style of “old Beijing” – Hutong culture. What the movie Mr. Six depicts is just the neighborhood culture of Hutong. Shanghai is an immigrant city developed about a hundred years ago. So-called Shanghai-style culture mainly refers to the glory days of “old Shanghai”. Now, being an international metropolis, Shanghai is more and more internationalized in design style, not only in the pattern of manifestation but also in the language style. As an immigrant city developed by taking full advantage of reform and opening-up policies thirty years ago, Shenzhen is diversified and inclusive in its culture. As a result, this city doesn’t have obvious regional features.

III. The differentiation of design work among different cities

Most of Shenzhen’s design companies are of middle and small size. They are “small and new”, large in quantity, and full of energy. Although they are quite professional, most of them are weak in comprehensive ability. That’s why the Shenzhen Graphic Design Association was established in 1995, leading the prosperous development of graphic design in this city ever since.

Shanghai has large quantities of 4A international advertisement companies. The brand activities of Shanghai Design Week focus on “delicacy”, making the design week much more commercial in nature.

Beijing Design Week is large in scale and has great international influence. The art circle plays an active part in this activity, including rock and other music styles.

IV. Interpretation of Luhua Peanut Oil

Luhua Peanut Oil is a flagship product of Shandong Luhua Group, one of the most famous national brands of China. The promotion of Luhua Peanut Oil in South China stresses on the taste, since consumers in the Guangdong area pay more attention to delicious food and its taste. However, in order to win the trust of consumers in the East China market, we position Luhua Peanut Oil as a healthy product. This enable us to successfully transform local consumers’ dietary habits, which show a preference for blend oil and soybean oil, by a series of brand activities and promotional strategies. In this way, we are able to correct their misunderstanding that peanut oil leads to obesity and unhealthiness, and give them a deep impression that Luhua Peanut Oil is a high-quality product worth of its price.

Therefore, design should not only be differentiated by region, but pay attention to the differences of economic development from southeast to northwest including the consumption differences in cities of different tiers.

Translated by MMF    Written by Chin Yee Lam and others

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