Develop a revitalization campaign for a San Francisco neighborhood selected at random. After researching the area’s residents and visitors, design a solution that expresses the essence of that district. Reveal a problem specific to the area and design a poster to raise awareness among the local population and the city at large.
CHINATOWN is a retail re-branding program to aid economic revitalization and community pride.
Identity + Mark | Illustration | Photography | Packaging | Copy Writing + Editing
Chinatown is like a phoenix, reborn from the ashes of the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Completely destroyed in the disaster, it was rebuilt during the 1920s and 1930s as a Hollywood homage to Orientalism. Absolutely nothing about the neighborhood’s architecture is authentic--it’s all a Western fantasy. Yet the Chinese that live and work there regard it with pride as their own authentic Asian community.
My approach was to draw on the stereotypes that both Asians and Westerners find familiar: the bright neon signs and decorative lanterns that adorn the streetlights. I used photographs of residents from the pre-quake era as a foundation underneath the various collateral elements. The design includes a montage of architectural samples from around the neighborhood. I cut them out and arranged them in a manner that suggests the façade reality of Chinatown. The roofline motif was based on a physical model I built for my moodboard study out of styrofoam cups in a nod to the area’s many take-out eateries.
My final mark for Chinatown suggests the kitschy quality of the 1930s and 1940s neon that, although mostly dormant, dots the landscape of neighborhood. I drew custom letters based on period display specimens. The characters are a colloquial translation of the Chinese name for the area.
The lantern design is based on the large street lamps which were installed along Grant Avenue during the 1930s for tourists.
One of Chinatown's pressing problem is many people who own businesses there actually live in other parts of San Francisco. As a result, they tend to spend their money elsewhere; it's a form of local capital flight.
The custom neon lettering of the Chinatown mark is based on a composite I traced from numerous 1930s and 1940s sans display faces. Friedrich Karl Sallwey’s Present nods to Asian brush calligraphy without being heavy-handed, so I employed it for the neighborhood tagline on all materials.
I rarely use Frutiger’s work, yet Avenir worked well as a bold geometric sans that contrasted with the retro sensibility of the Chinatown mark. Present, a script from the early 1970s, rounded out the package for the tagline.
The browns and tans I chose reflect the original Chinatown’s forgotten pre-earthquake history. For the mark, I needed to convey both a classical Chinese look and the garishness of the neighborhood’s 1930s and 1940s neon signage (some of which remains to this day). My solution was to contrast a dark red with a greenish jade, which are both very traditionally Chinese. I then lightened the jade to give it a more retro sensibility.