Nod Young: Khaki Creative & Design

by Kate Andrews | September 8, 2010

Based in Beijing, Khaki Creative & Design co-founder and creative director, Nod Young, is a prolific artist whose passion lies in typography and graphic design. He draws heavily on Chinese culture and tradition to inform his working process, and has continuously pushed the boundaries of creativity in China, a country in which art and design are still in their nascent stages of development. Nod’s hope is to see a world in which every person will appreciate and demand great creativity and design in every aspect of life.

Notes on Design: Where are you originally from?

Nod: I was born and raised in northeast China, but now I live in Beijing. I have been here for about 10 years now, and feel as though I understand Beijing better than any other city. Beijing is both crazy and lazy, ash and snow.

Notes on Design: Why did you choose a career in graphic design/illustration?

Nod: As a child, I loved to draw, and I think the habit just stuck. Art helped me to better understand the world, as the creative way of thinking entails a very different process. Now I use this process to make a living.

Notes on Design: How important has it been to draw on Chinese culture and tradition to inform your design process?

Nod: Chinese culture is very important to me. I derive inspiration from Chinese paper cuts, paintings and characters to inform my design work. They involve simple shapes, but the content is usually very detailed; they look soft, but the spirit is very strong. I like traditional Chinese culture, as tradition symbolizes purity for me. I hate the hypocrisy and excessiveness associated with modern Chinese culture.

Notes on Design: How has this helped to build your graphic identity?

Nod: I would say that I have built a unique graphic identity with a 70% Chinese influence, 20% international style, plus 10% digital.

Notes on Design: Tell us more about your design journey. How did you get to where you are now?

Nod: I have practiced design for over 10 years now, and have completed work for clients from the entertainment sector and sportswear companies, to charitable organisations and NGOs; from very personal projects to huge corporate clients. In China, it is difficult to come across a client who is willing to pay a high commission rate so, when I was starting out, I had to complete as many jobs as possible in order to get by. To date, I have designed over 130 logos!

More recently, however, the situation has changed. With the experience gained over the last few years, I have built a reputation. Now, there is no need to complete so many commissions because clients are aware of my experience and the offers are getting better.

Notes on Design: What advice would you offer other young graphic designers working in China?

Nod: I would say that you are lucky to be a designer in China! But my advice would be to remember to use your head to design, as well as your hands. Many young designers, especially in China, depend on computers; they forget that 80% of good design is idea formulation and the concept behind the design itself.

Notes on Design: What are you working on at the moment?

Nod: I am doing some art direction for a film, including work for the characters, the set and makeup. This is the first time I am doing something like this, so I am very motivated to learn about all the processes involved.

Notes on Design: Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

Nod: I would like to expand and work out of both Beijing and San Francisco.

See more of Nod Youngs work at and on Flickr.


Designer and writer Kate Andrews was the original editor of Notes on Design blog, founded in 2007.


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