gooood team interviews creative individuals under 35 years old from all over the world, some are pioneering founders, some are clients, some are ordinary practitioners. gooood is trying to record the authentic living and working states of this era. Your recommendations and suggestions are appreciated!
gooood Under 35 NO.28 introduces Song Zhuangzhuang and Li Mingyang, the founders of DDH(Wechat official account: diduhuiBJ); Contact email：[email protected]
出品人：向玲 / Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑：向玲，陈诺嘉，武晨曦，历剑，刘丹阳，李诗蓉，韦紫昭 / Editor: Xiang Ling, Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi, Li Jian, Liu Danyang, Li Shirong, Wei Zizhao
Song Zhuangzhuang: “I have been interested in art and design since I was a child.. I have returned back to my original dream of graphic design by operating DDH.”
Li Mingyang: “ I am fond of collecting maps, and when reading maps, I can immerse myself into the city and this sentiment has been supporting me to study and work.”
Two founders of DDH: Song Zhuangzhuang (right) and Li Mingyang (left)
Song Zhuangzhuang (hereinafter referred as Song): I have been interested in art and design since I was a child, and actually, my dream was to do the graphic design then. But eventually, the relatively good score for my college entrance examination and the lack of systematical knowledge about the art led me to the architecture career. Now, I operate DDH, creating the content, which is to say, I have returned back to the graphic design field to a great extent, realizing my original dream.
I grew up in the Hutong and have never moved. The elders of my family often talked about how our home used to be a few decades ago, which imperceptibly planted a strong sense of belonging to this place in my deep heart. Later, this feeling extended to the whole city, becoming a powerful internal impetus for me to do my current work. I really love this city, leading me to discovery and create constantly.
▼宋壮壮小时候艺术创作相关的活动，art related activities Song Zhungzhuang experienced in his childhood
left: “magic slide” by Song Zhuangzhuang at 6
right: the model of Beijing City presented in a class when Song was a high school student
Li Mingyang (hereinafter referred as Li): Instead of the architecture itself, my interest in the city, especially its traffic, made me choose to study architecture. Sometimes, I think I am a high-functioning autistic, as I am interested in something illustrative and unaesthetic. Since 2000, I have been collecting maps for 19 years, since both functionally and graphically, the maps are the carriers of geographic information, which inspire my interest in the city. Basically, I have lived in the same Beijing compound for more than 20 years. It is highly beneficial to grow love with a place if you can live here for a long time. I am fond of collecting maps, and when reading maps, I can immerse myself into the city with imagination and curiosity, which makes me strongly yearn for building up this city. And this sentiment has been supporting me to study and work so far.
▼李明扬童年开始收藏的地图，the map collection by Li Mingyang since his childhood
DDH: founding and developing
“From a curriculum, to a book, then to an official account, it is an evolutionary process.”
Song: We held a small activity in 2012 which was named as “Let’s talk about the architecture”, bringing the architecture courses into the middle school. During five years, the activity was initially held in the Beijing No.4 High School (BHSF), and then extended to other schools, including the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University and the Tsinghua University High School. We taught senior high school students architecture history, as well as some basic knowledge about the space design and urban planning, providing them with a good opportunity to learn about the history of Beijing city and fundamental principles of the urban planning. Luckily, when it came to the second and third year of this activity, we had achieved something. It happened that China Architecture & Building Press was planning to publish some books which could popularize the architecture-and-city-related knowledge, and luckily, we were chosen to join them.
▼我们聊建筑活动现场照片，activities in “Let’s talk about the architecture”
Two years later, our own book, Visualizing Beijing, came out, indicating the transformation of our work from architecture lectures to the information design. When the book was about to be published, we opened an official account on WeChat to promote its content to more people, giving birth to DDH. After several posts, we realized that there were a lot of things related to Beijing to talk about, so we no longer limited ourselves in the book promotion but treated this official account as an independent medium to spread information. From a curriculum, to a book, then to an official account, it is an evolutionary process.
left: Visualizing Beijing, right: the official account of DDH (diduhuiBJ) which was found to promote Visualizing Beijing. The average page views per post has reached 30-40 thousand
What is DDH doing?
“We introduce ourselves as a information design studio, focusing on the architecture and the city. We expect that our work can integrate into the city, blending all contents related to Beijing in the physical urban space.”
Song: Generally, we introduce ourselves as a studio of the information design, focusing more on the architecture and the city, as well as the related fields. Under normal conditions, we will first organize, edit and re-design the data information, and then express it through a visual way. Most of our work is commissioned, usually accomplished through different carriers including reports and publications. In addition, we have our own official account. Although this account is not a We-Media in the true sense, it is equipped with some certain media functions, and sometimes we even advertise on it. In the future, we expect to produce some substantial outcomes that can be held in the hand, which is also the reason why we enjoy compiling books in particular. Besides, we expect that our work can integrate into the city, blending all contents related to Beijing in the physical urban space.
▼帝都绘的部分非商业作品，part of the non-commercial projects by DDH
Li: It is not our original intention to start up a business, so there has not been a perfectly sound business chain till now. Currently, we focus on two areas, one of which is the graphic design that is commissioned by diverse clients; the other is the business cooperation including the advertising based on the official account. By the way, for this kind of cooperation, we have a really strict standard to filter the advertisement content, selecting clients whose products are related to the city and highly matched to our work to collaborate with.
▼帝都绘的部分商业作品，part of the commercial projects by DDH
宋壮壮：“我们的工作可以用三个动词概括，‘发现’，‘理解’ 和 ‘培育’。”
Song Zhuangzhuang: ”Our work can be summarized in three verbs: ‘discovering”,‘understanding’ and ‘cultivating’.”
Song: Our concept has not changed much since our first article. To make everyone fall in love with Beijing, which is one of our missions, has been our key focus till now. Our work can be summarized in three verbs, first of which is the “discovering”. Most of the work we are doing now is to re-discover Beijing, finding new things such as graffiti and school uniforms and then spreading them. The second verb is the “understanding”. We expect that there will be more people understanding this city through the discovering, and furthermore, being more inclusive and evoking more positive emotions towards it based on the understanding. The third verb is the “cultivating”. At this point, we expect to be more forwardly to cultivate the culture of this city. It is our hope that based on the discoveries, we can develop some new culture that not only roots in the contemporary Beijing, but also can represent this city through cultivating some certain groups.
Li Mingyang: “The culture cultivation is a process to build up a cultural system that belongs to Beijing. There are many objects that can be culturalized.”
Li: Actually, the culture cultivation is a process to build up a cultural system that belongs to the Beijing, or in other words, the new Beijingers. It seems like a broad topic, but actually, it is pretty common. It is inevitable to establish cultural centers in Beijing, but the issue is that we still have a relatively limited understanding about the culture, which is to say, the culture should be beyond the tangible cultural heritage such as the Great Wall, the Palace Museum and the quadrangle dwellings, and the intangible cultural heritage such as traditional culture including Peking Opera and traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, there are many objects that can be culturalized. In my view, the Beijing city of the new era should extract its cultural elements from various aspects, and every beauty in our daily life can be endowed with some cultural meanings. For instance, the transportation we rely on to commute can become a kind of transportation culture; the natural landscape we see every day can become a kind of culture; even, our daily behaviors, or the images of people from different regions, can also be culturalized. These should be the real culture recognized by contemporary Beijing, also, the ideal culture we expect to discover and cultivate.
▼培育 – （左）《我们的街道和街道上的我们》，交通工具文化；（右）《一叶知秋，也知冬》，自然文化（点击这里查看公众号原文） Cultivating – (left) Our street and ourselves on the street, culture of transportation (right) Detect Autumn and Winter from leaves, culture of nature (click HERE to view the WeChat article)
Content and creations
How to select a topic and the three standards for content
Song: There are many ways to select topics, one of which is the open discussion. Our team will regularly hold discussions, usually generating some new ideas. Or if somebody really expects to work on a topic all of a sudden and can put forward a relatively feasible plan, we can have a try to propel it. Another way is to combine with the current hot issues, giving rise to some topics. After confirming the topic, we are supposed to collect some useful information, thinking about how to make them visualization. It is really important to determine the expression form at the beginning, since it can do a great deal of benefit to the following developments and deepening processes.
DDH discussing to select the topic for their new project
Li: For us, there are three important standards to judge the content: firstly, the content should be creative and unique; secondly, the content itself should be attractive and novel; thirdly, it would be best if the content could have some practical purposes. There is a small change between pre-production and post-production, as in the pre-production stage, we tend to focus more on the content, while in the post-production stage, we pay more attention to the means of expression, expecting to find the best way to convey the information to our readers and help them understand our concept. Compared with the drawings and images that are the features of our work, audiences are better at reading texts, requiring us to concentrate our efforts on the transformation from images to texts.
Last year, we published an article named “the concubines in the imperial harem”. The topic is not so important as we think, but it is still a part of this city exactly. On the content level, everything is important; while on the work level, two things are important: first of all, your work should be about recompiling and spreading information, making people learn more about Beijing at the knowledge level; in addition, you need to make sure that audiences can understand well the articles you publish.
Song Zhuangzhuang: “We are not really willing to merely produce contents in a popular style.”
Li Mingyang: “We expect that the content we produce can not only be accepted by industry insiders, but also develop the public’s aesthetics.”
Song: Some time ago, a previous article talking about why Beijing snacks were unpalatable, which was overwhelming two years ago, resurfaced again. Actually, we are not really willing to produce so many such contents, although they can reach more people, as our original intent is to present the diversity of the city to the public. Last year, we published an article about the fonts used in the street. We know that many people think there are something wrong with the streets of Beijing, thus, we started with our own view, re-interpreting this issue. For me, this kind of content complements some urban public issues, leaving more social implications.
Li: Actually, we don’t have a particular artistic style, and most of the work is based on the principle of form ever following function. Our symbolic character icons were created out of the functional demands from the very beginning, because we needed something that could pose various postures with high flexibility. On the one hand, we expect that the content we produce can not only be accepted by industry insiders, but also develop the public’s aesthetics; on the other hand, we expect our content to be accessible and understandable.
Song: To some extent, the style of DDH relates to our organization. We work as a team with a high mobility, contributing to a situation where it is difficult to unify the style since there are so many different people drawing for a single article, so the only way to keep going is to be standardized. In this process, the artistic style has become less obvious, making its function become its symbol.
Style follows function – Buildings of Beijing Office, which uses architectural facade drawings to show different appearances of buildings (click HERE to view the WeChat article)
Style follows function – What mould the center of the universe? The rich image comes from the metaphor of universe center
The most impressing works
Song: The article with the topic of “renovating skylines” impresses me most for its short-lived life and tremendous reactions. Like howling winds and driving rains, from 8:00 am around to 3:00 pm around, we received more than one million views and thousands of comments, and then, this article disappeared. The people who commented were of all sorts, for example, some of them were from the official competent departments, while some were from the groups that we had never touched. For me, this article has broken the boundaries of professions and educational level.
Renovating the skyline, which triggered wide discussion
Li: I focus more on the innovation of the form and the exploration of the content. We have ever published an article named “Structured Beijing”, studying the differences of the street distributions in Beijing from those in other cities. In this article, I participated in some technical statistics work relating to something new, requiring me to do more research about it.
Besides, the article with the topic of “the Internet Celebrated Architecture” we have ever published led us to a new field that no one had ever touched. We selected several buildings, studying the reasons why they could become the Internet celebrity, and producing a simple report. For me, all of the above are about the innovation of the content, which leave me a profound impression.
Influences on the city of DDH’s works
Li: I believe that we have brought some indirect effects actually. I was not sure whether this phenomenon owed to us, however, the fact was that our government started to pay attention to this social issue and make some corresponding adjustments. Later, this content became part of the political exam of the senior high schools in the Haidian District, being talked about by tens of thousands of students. A little interesting and significant, right? As well, we cooperate with some relevant departments for some topics such as the bicycle freeway. Even though it was not our idea, we were pleased to see that there were more and more people knowing and talking about it after we published this information.
Song: We have ever published an article named “One hundred people who live in Beijing”, which sets off an upsurge of similar contents that almost every metropolis possesses its own articles: one hundred people who live in Shanghai, one hundred people who live in Chongqing, one hundred people who live in Urumchi, etc. Some of them seem like the duplications of our article with the replacement of the data. In my view, this article has aroused an extensive discussion, contributing to a good result that gives each city its own data of the population composition. To some extent, I think these “One Hundred” articles have realized the aim of “cultivating” that we mentioned above at an informal level.
Gaining and Perceiving
Gains from working in DDH
Song Zhuangzhuang: “The greatest meaning working in the DDH is that I can keep creating for Beijing without any stop and I could have deeper understanding about Beijing.”
Li Mingyang: “The greatest gain is at the internal level, since working in DDH is a process to realize myself. ”
Song: For me, the greatest meaning working in the DDH is that I can keep creating for Beijing without any stop, not to mention that I can have my creation seen by others. Of course, the architectural design is a process of creation, but it requires a much longer feedback time. Frankly speaking, working in DDH, I can’t get as much sense of achievement as building up a building, however, I can have a stimulus that drives me to create continuously and to make people think about Beijing city from diverse levels, which thrill me a lot. On the other hand, working in DDH, I have a deeper and deeper understanding about Beijing, one of my favorite cities. My work, as well as the communication with team members and our readers, progressively deepens my comprehension towards our topics, giving a great joy to me. Our content is relatively open and diverse, which means we can cooperate with different groups, communicate with different people living in this city every day, and that is another exciting thing for me.
Li: For me, the greatest gain is at the internal level, since working in DDH is a process to realize myself. I can obtain a great sense of satisfaction when sharing and resonating with others. Working in DDH, I find that everyone has his own unique feature, meaning that I can meet a large number of people with select tastes and talk about some topics that are meaningless in others’ eyes. In March 2016, I gave a public lecture as one of the founders of DDH, and that was the first time that we presented our work to the public. Fortunately, the lecture got a good response, helping us establish the connection with important people in the industry, which left a profound impact on DDH.
left: discussion with young Great Wall experts, right: lecture in Forestry University
Changes of perspective
Song Zhuangzhuang: “I am more and more inclusive of this city. The only way to improve the situation is to change it in the process of learning.”
Li Mingyang: “We found that there were no radical conflicts. Most problems were caused by the various ways in realizing the final goal and the misunderstanding during the communication.”
Song: I am more and more inclusive of this city. I can understand some issues and why they exist. Some people would think lowly of a city once they see something different from their views or imaginations. However, the more we know, the more rational and inclusive we will be. It is really difficult for us to accept the diversity of a city, therefore, the only way to improve this situation is to change it in the process of learning.
Li: We find that masters tend to hold an open and gentle attitude because of their extensive knowledge and their understanding of the complexity of any issue. Unlike other media, we don’t want to express ourselves, or even somewhat try to avoid doing so. After several articles, we found that there were no radical conflicts at all among different groups, which meant the divergence were derived from the various ways to realize the final goal and the misunderstanding during the communication. Therefore, it is essential to clarify an issue clearly and accurately.
Most Attractive aspects of Beijing
Song: I prefer the area with a high density of population, such as Wudaokou that is occupied with a lot of universities. There, you can see young people wandering in the street, doing some interesting things and interacting with each other, which fascinate me a lot. Our work builds up a bridge between us and other groups in this city. For instance, after we published the article with the topic of “The Graffiti”, we got in touch with some graffiti writers, leading us to learn more about this group, which I think is a pleasing character of this city.
Li: What attracts me most is always the things I haven’t known before. In every city, I would like to go to places I have never been to, and explore areas I have never explored before. The unknown is always the most attractive. I still work in the planning institute now, participating in an urban planning project of part of Beijing now. Any existence has its reasons, and no matter how ridiculous these reasons are, there will definitely be an integrated logic behind them. Generally speaking, Beijing is developing better and better, and as an architect, I will strive to realize this mission.
A perception on public media
▼帝都绘新书《长城绘》，Visualizing the Great Wall, the latest book by DDH
Song: Will “the general public” be touched in the real sense? We usually refer to the word of “the general public”, however, we have distinguished the professionals and the general public in the initial stage to some extent, which is to say, most of our readers are professional groups with higher educational background and cultural level, being skilled in reading graphics and inclusive. In our early phase, we declared to spread information to the general public, which we realize how impossible it is now, and this fact leads us to care less about the views.
Li: All media workers would like to find a balance between the general public and themselves. Personally, it is not a good choice to cater to the public deliberately if you have already known that something ongoing is not pleasingly acceptable by the majority. In the work, we pay more attention to the knowledge delivery, as it is journalists’ professional integrity to speak based on the fact. We expect to build up a good and equal communication relationship with the public, making them reflect and think deeper after reading our articles.
▼宋壮壮（左）和李明扬（右），Song Zhuangzhuang (left) and Li Mingyang (right)