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Olympics display growth of Chinese graphic design.

Byline: Lynne Klaft

FITCHBURG - Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps didn't have trouble finding his way around the different Olympic venues, thanks to the graphic art and designs created by the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing

"This is truly amazing when you understand that the Chinese did not even have a word for graphic design until 30 years ago," said Stephen Goldstein, a professor in the communication media department of Fitchburg State College.

Graphic design historians such as Mr. Goldstein are chronicling China's rapidly evolving efforts, most evident today on the world stage of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Mr. Goldstein and Richard B. Doubleday, Boston University professor of art and graphic design, are collaborating to chronicle China's movement into the world of computers, modern marketing methods and creative graphic design.

Their research led to Min Wang, a Chinese national whose journey as a graphic design artist began in the Cultural Revolution painting portraits of Chairman Mao Tse Tung on rural village walls. He is design director for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Mr. Wang later was educated at Yale University and spent 20 years in the United States and Germany inventing the Mythos font for Adobe, starting his own design studio and eventually answering the call to return to China five years ago as dean of the School of Design at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

Months before the start of the Olympic Games, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Doubleday got a look at the Olympic design elements that were being created by the Chinese, including the signs for tourists to find their way around Olympic sites, the 2008 Olympic Games emblem that is flashed on television screens around the world, and the medals that are handed out at the conclusion of each event.

During a 10-day teaching visit to China more than a year ago, Mr. Doubleday spoke to Mr. Wang about the influence his Western education and European experiences had on the designs that were created under his direction, including the pictograms used to depict the Olympic events.

The pictograms were first invented by Masaru Katzumie, art director of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The first system of pictograms was used for signs for tourists to find their way from one venue to the next.

Those pictograms, among them the international symbols for men and women that are used on many public bathroom doors, are now used worldwide.

Mr. Wang's job was to give those pictograms a look that was uniquely Chinese, but still instantly recognizable to international athletes and visitors.

The solution to the problem: mixing ancient Chinese calligraphy with modern design.

"This effect was achieved by a fine touch of lines, shapes, curves, black-and-white contrasts, and flowing motion of the sports - all elements of modern art Western design ... each uniquely Chinese, but simple, clear and aesthetically appealing to the world audience," said Mr. Wang last year.

The Olympic medals were treated similarly. The fronts of the medals were inscribed with standard patterns and inscriptions required by the International Olympic Committee. However, the backs of the medals are Chinese - an inlaid piece of jade, the Chinese symbol for ability and honor, circles the Beijing 2008 Olympic emblem.

Although the demand for graphic design is great for the many products and marketplaces that China is developing, Mr. Wang noted in an e-mail to the two historians that too many Chinese students graduate without basic skills needed for a graphic design artist's portfolio.

"Although China's culture has the richest art history in the world, their graphic design is chaotic, but we can watch it develop and evolve under Min Wang's direction," said Mr. Goldstein.



CUTLINE: (1) Fitchburg State College professor Stephen Goldstein, left, and Boston University professor Richard B. Doubleday have been communicating with Min Wang, design director of the Olympics. (2) The silver, gold and bronze medals have distinctive designs. (3) Some of the designs for individual Olympic sports.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 22, 2008
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