When the newly restructured China Telecom finally decided on a new logo in April 2002 after combing through several hundred proposals, it announced it would use it immediately in all of its subsidiaries throughout the country. That news alone was enough to make Chen Dan breath a heavy sigh of relief.
The stalwart, bearded designer of China Telecom's new logo and the founder of Zhengbang Brand Logo & VI Identity Design Co is not exactly a household name, but his company is the force behind many of China's most famous corporate logos, including those of China Netcom, Amoi and Beijing Bank. Chen's designs can be seen everywhere throughout the country.
There is an increasing demand for logos in China from both enterprises and educational institutions. Individuals in both the public and private sector are becoming increasingly aware of how unique and distinct logos can strengthen an organization's identity and image, says Chen, who has been in the business for over 13 years.
Logos convey a visual sense of identity through graphics, words and other characteristics.
"A logo represents a company's soul. It can be simple but still be rich in meaning and significance. Logos give people clues about an organization's management, service and reputation," Chen says.
Unlike many smaller logo design companies employing one designer and a couple of assistants, Zhengbang has a full-time staff of more than 80 people.
"We are a design factory, and handle everything from accounting services to the final design proposal," Chen says.
He is particularly proud of his design team, who are all g raduates of China's best art schools. He believes only academic study can lay a solid foundation for career achievement. Boundless creativity, he adds, can also make up for poor computer skills.
"Unique designs are crucial in our business," he says.
Zhengbang's design team also receives a lot of support from its data collection team. This department collects new logos from across the world on a daily basis. This helps keep designers abreast of the latest international design trends, and ensures that the company's logos are unique.
Chen says that employees on the account service and production teams are also quite talented and experienced.
"Our business is based on human beings, on the minds of individual people. Only top talent can make Zhengbang a success," he says.
Chen started the company in 1992. He regularly used to ride his bicycle across Beijing carrying a large bag of documents and designs. He would tell everyone he encountered what he was doing, but at that time Chinese companies were familiar with brands and trademarks, but knew little about visual identity.
"I approached customers one by one. I firmly believed that if even one out of a hundred clients understood me, my work would be worthwhile," he says.
This passion and determination drove the growth of Chen's business. His first office was in a two-bedroom flat and employed more than 30 people.
"I actually loved the feeling of working there. That flat was like a busy factory, packed with talented designers. All of them were eager to succeed," he says.
Zhengbang reached a turning point in 1997, when it won a logo design bid for Tsinghua Tongfang, one of China's largest information technology companies. Tsinghua Tongfang had just gone public in Shanghai at the time, and its share prices were soaring.
Chen knew his moment had arrived when he discovered the company didn't have a logo. He came up with several proposals and approached the company to ask if it was interested in designing one. Purely by coincidence, Tsinghua Tongfang was about to open bidding for a new logo. Chen knew that the stakes were high; this was his big chance. He came through admirably with more than 100 proposals.
Chen says diligence is what sets winners apart from the masses, a conviction that is evident in all of his projects. For the China Telecom and China Netcom projects, for example, Chen and his team offered several hundred proposals.
"Failure is a valuable learning experience, too," he says.
Chen's next step is to expand the company, even though Zhengbang is already the largest logo design firm in China. He says the company has been talking to a British-based communications enterprise that is interested in acquiring a 51 per cent stake in Zhengbang. Chen refuses to identify the company, but says the two parties have been negotiating for about a year.
"I am happy to see that such a famous company is interested in Zhengbang. It could bring us up to the international stage, but it will be hard to give up my company. I feel we can make it bigger ourselves, although it might take longer."
Chen is ambitious, and hopes to expand his client base to more than 1,000 in the near future. He says China's logo design industry is still developing, and that there are still many opportunities for Zhengbang.
(China Daily 03/13/2006 page9)
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