Fable&Co. Goes to China - Branding & Design in China & Hong Kong

Fable&Co. Goes East

Fables First Trip to The East

Despite the tremendous excitement of being on my honeymoon and visiting China & Cambodia for the first time, I was just as excited to experience the design customs of the East and what part it plays in commercial Hong Kong. How did branding work, away from the tainted traditions of the West?

I’ve always been inspired by the masterful art form that is Chinese calligraphy, the beautifully executed & highly expressive brush strokes that form these exquisite letterforms. Despite Asian commercialism in central Hong Kong, tradition is a core value for all who live here, and so the traditional art form of calligraphic based design is everywhere, from the market stall artisans skilfully crafting authentic hand made goods to the 24hour backstreet food shacks of downtown Hong Kong.

Neon Lights of Downtown Hong Kong

Designers and creatives alike will quickly notice that the signage here is totally overwhelming. It’s simply awe inspiring! If you’ve ever been to New York or certain areas of London, you’ll know it’s pretty hectic, well Hong Kong steps it up a level. Neon signs as far as the eye can see, not just one street, but street after street.

Downtown Hong Kong Street Sign in The Daytime

With this amount of signage lining the streets, each one fighting for attention, isn’t this defeating the purpose of this form of brand advertising?

Colin Willems

Senior Designer - Fable&Co.
Busy Downtown Hong Kong

The really amazing thing though is the age and the sheer craftsmanship of these signs-neon tubes meticulously manufactured to form these calligraphic shapes that make up the mandarin language. You have to wonder though, with all these signs hanging just above head height and the length of the street, isn’t this defeating the point of this form of brand advertising? There is no focus, no one sign that shouts louder than another, but granted I couldn’t read a single thing on these signs but it didn’t really matter.

Hong Kong Daytime Street Sign
Hong Kong at Night Neon Signs

It only occurred to me recently that maybe the entirety of the iconic neon lights of Hong Kong are such a staple in history that this is a form of advertising in itself, maybe these boutique Chinese brands in downtown Hong Kong rely on the tourist footfall generated by the iconic landscape of the city.

In rural Hong Kong and the surrounding islands ancient calligraphy is still practiced in traditional form. The local name for calligraphy is “Shufa” in China, literally, the way/method/law of writing. In a place where the practices of ancient China are just as alive today as they were thousands of years ago, beautiful Chinese calligraphy is used exclusively. It is appreciated for its aesthetically pleasing appeal, as well as a form of communication.

Ancient Artform of Chinese Calligraphy
Ancient Artform of Chinese Calligraphy
Ancient Artform of Chinese Calligraphy
Hand Drawn Chinese Calligraphy Hong Kong Markets
What can we learn from this beautiful ancient art form?
In this age of technology where it seems to run the show, we must not forget that expression is important. We must not be afraid to experiment, to go back to our roots, the humble beginnings of design, and to understand the fundamentals of great design. We can learn that a great composition, a great logo, some beautifully set type doesn’t have to be this over processed, over-techy application but rather a considered and precisely executed form of creative expression.
Ancient Artform of Chinese Calligraphy

Calligraphy is sheer life experienced through energy in motion that is registered as traces on silk or paper, with time and rhythm in shifting space its main ingredients.


Hand Drawn Ancient Chinese Traditional Calligraphy