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Guang Yu

Born and raised in Beijing, graphic designer Guang Yu graduated from Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 2002. He worked in various design roles and studios, including 1 year as Art Director for Surface China, before co-founding TO MEET YOU studio with fellow graphic designer, Liu Zhizhi, in 2008. I met Guang Yu earlier this month to talk design, discuss 798 and learn more about his journey to date.

How did you develop an interest in design?
I was always drawing when I was young; my family picked up on this talent very quickly as I even drew on pavements with chalk. They enrolled me into art classes straightaway, which I took from junior school level right up to university.

As I grew older, I developed an interest in music records and tapes, which I listened to whilst painting. I eventually developed the urge to evolve beyond painting and became fascinated by typography and the idea of arranging elements on paper.

Tell us a bit about TO MEET YOU studio.
I co-founded TO MEET YOU with Liu Zhizhi in 2004. At that time though, the studio was called MEWE Design Alliance as we had a third founding member who eventually left to study abroad. Now we operate as TO MEET YOU with 5 people working in the studio – 2 managing and 3 independent designers. Each designer works on around 8-9 projects a year. We are currently working on visuals for Shenzhen Center for Design.

Where do you draw your inspiration?
A group of us often get together to draw, share ideas and inspire one another. I am also inspired by Japanese street styles.

Why did you decide to base yourself at 798?
Our first office (as MEWE Design Alliance) was situated in a residential area, but we had to eventually sell it. I was running errands in 798 one day, and saw an advertisement in the window for vacant studio space. I called straight away and the decision was made in a couple of days.

So, what do you actually think of 798?
Our office is tucked away in a corner, so I don’t really interact with the environment much. It’s no secret that 798 has become too commercialised and touristy - it’s a messy place, and I remain in my studio a lot. It’s just convenient to be here as many of our clients are based in 798.

What are your thoughts about the current state of Chinese design?
On a local level, design is still not that widely accepted. If you wander into a local supermarket and observe the products on sale, for example, the design is not so great. When you look at packaging design in markets abroad, however, you can immediately tell that design is appreciated there. Right now, there is not much of a connection between the public and design; design needs to be filtered down to the masses. This is partially a problem with education, however, I also think that design appreciation will develop naturally when there is a need for it, for example, when there is a need to sell more products.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
I don’t really have a clear plan to be honest - I just want to follow my interests!

Thanks to Lynn Zhang for translating.