An Insight into Chinese Design Culture with Adam Wong

Editorial | by Sabrina Maerky | 01/4/13 | 

Last summer Base reached out to Adam Wong (黄华清), the founder of ooogo, to gain some insight into the Chinese design industry. Ooogo is a graphic and visual communications firm based in Hong Kong, China. We are excited to share his responses to our questions below.

Base: Adam, what is your background?
Adam: Starting in middle school, I learned Chinese painting for 6 years. I chose graphic design as my major in university. After I graduated, I worked for several companies as a graphic designer. In 2004, I decided to do something by myself. By chance, I started my business in media and publishing, and then set up ooogo in 2007.

Base: What was your objective behind creating ooogo?
Adam: Ooogo’s mission is to organize the world’s professional information about creativity, design, art, advertising, digital, etc. To share with the audience and let them benefit from it.
Publishing is one of sectors of ooogo, the main revenue of ooogo comes from graphic design. Ooogo also has a Chinese website, which is one of the most popular professional websites in China, it has the most resources of creativity, art, design and advertising.

Base: Have you noticed an evolution in creativity and design over the years? Have any agencies maintained themselves as leaders in the design scene? Have you seen anybody new pop into the mainstream?
Adam: With the continuous development of science and technology, the boundary of design fields is more and more fuzzy. The way of working has also become diverse and interesting. I like Moving Brands (UK), SenseTeam (China) and Kashiwa Sato (Japan), they achieved success in the different fields, but they have one thing in common: interesting!

Base: Base has been asked to submit work several times to Chinese publications. What do you think the Chinese like about Base?
Adam: I have asked some Chinese designers, they feel that Base is young and energetic. As they know Base has offices in different countries, they are curious about the culture and way of working at Base.

Base: What does it mean to be a designer in China? Are there cultural restrictions?
Adam: At present, in China, the market of design is chaotic. As a designer here, sometimes you think you are more like a graphics software operator. There is even no culture we can find in the design field.

Base: Ebooks and new technologies undergo a lot of enthusiasm. Does that threaten your work as a book publisher? Can you define the audience for printed books that keeps the demand strong?
Adam: I have discussed this issue with others many times. But I think in five years, it is difficult to replace the professional publications by ebooks in the design field. Many designers like the sense of touch of printed books, especially nicely printed publications.
Of course, there is no doubt that a large part of the printed books will be replaced by ebooks.

Base: Do you take Chinese trends and cultural parameters into account when you select works to publish? Can you describe the Chinese editorial panorama?
Adam: The control of publications by Chinese government is very strict, so we are very stern as a publisher.
We give more consideration to ‘practicality’ when editing a book. Designers buy this book, they can learn from it. We hope that every picture has value to the audience!

Base: Up until now, China has a relatively small heritage in terms of branding and design. CEO’s pay more attention to extending their businesses rather than acknowledging the importance of a strong brand identity. Do these mentalities slowly begin to recognize branding as part the process of growth of a company? Any sector in particular?
Adam: In the field of branding and design, there is a wide gap between the viewpoint of the Chinese and Western entrepreneurs. Chinese entrepreneurs will pay more attention as to how they can make profit quickly, so you cannot find a global brand in China. I think there is still a long way to go to change this status. Like Landor, Interbrand and other well-known companies from the West, the entrepreneurs in China have also limited them.

Base: Can Western design standards apply to China or do they have a different understanding of design? Are there other references Eastern designers should be aware of? Do you have an example of a successful design story in Europe that was a flop in China because of the culture shock?
Adam: I think there should not be boundaries between Western and Eastern designers for good design. Chinese people are open to the Western design, but the governments are not. Some Western brands such as Louis Vuitton and DIESEL, many of their creative advertising and visual design did not broadcast and spread in China.

Base: Imported Western brands with a strong design identity  have experienced huge success. Could the strong brand identity be an explanation as to why Chinese consumers favor Western brands and their value?
Adam: Yes, the strong brand identity attracts the attention of Chinese consumers. Comparing with the local brands, those Western brands have their culture and value. They are doing very well at branding, delivering the message to the consumers that they are leading the trend of fashion, providing products with good design and high quality.

Base: Do you envision a turnover if Chinese companies had stronger identities themselves? Could stronger Chinese identities lead to an invasion of the Western market?
Adam: I think it is difficult, maybe to be achieved in 10 years!

Visit ooogo’s site at

An Insight into Chinese Design Culture with Adam Wong