Columbia grad and former student, Zhihao Zhang speaking to my Multiplatform Design & Storytelling class this week
Fast Company: one of many western products that inspires the design of Chinese websites and apps.
Zhihao emphasized that there is hardly any distinction in the look & feel of these Chinese media products.

Zhihao Zhang came into my Multiplatform Design & Storytelling class with a passion for journalism, as in the more traditional writing aspects of it.  He left with a knee interest in design.

By the end of the semester he was using terms about the use of typography and color that are usually in the domain of designers.

I am delighted to know that he took everything he learned in the U.S. back to China where he is now a political journalist for Global People magazine, a 100-page feature/profile weekly under People’s Daily.  The design of this magazine is clean and elegant and as well structured as as western magazine. The magazine uses typography, white space and story hierarchy well.

“It’s a fact that Chinese publishers and editors are trying to imitate what those in the west do,” Zhihao told my class.

Zhihao is back in the United States for a brief visit and was gracious to come to speak to my class this week about his experiences since graduating, and about the state of the media in China, dispelling some myths in the process.

To my surprise, Global Magazine, which turns 10 this spring is only available in print, although Zhihao hopes that this is only temporary. “We are striving toward the online world,” he said.

I am delighted to hear that Zhihao has had a hand in the overall design of the magazine. And, he adds, the design issues he and other Chinese designers face are interesting and challenging . "For example, Global People’s cover consists of a close-up portrait with a uniformed color backdrop, making it easier to spot on the newsstand during smog days. This is so delightfully smart and sad at the same time," he said.

“There is no art director at this magazine, so I do get my hands into the design and I try to make it a clean page environment that makes the content easy to read,” he said. “I took one slide from Mario’s class and ran with it.”

Highlights of Zhihao’s talk:

Designing in China: “It is all about compromise between designers and journalists, just like every other place. Unexpected elements that can topple your entire design and make your lives miserable (personal preference, office politics, economics, or even the damn weather). And, how about the postal office and postal regulations?”

The Myths about the press in China: —"To many, the media in China is full of communist zealots. Not true. In fact we have around 51% of all journalists who are below age 40 and have much open mind. However, many senior positions of newspapers are currently held by party members.”-

--Design originality: “Functionality counts more than design. If something works for one website, for example, its template will be copied by everyone else. Again, the point of reference is the west, from Daily Beast to Huffington Post to Fast Company."

TheMarioBlog post # 2098
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