Yes! Finally the Chinese edition of my book Droom van helderheid : Huisstijlen, ontwerpbureaus en modernisme in Nederland : 1960-1975 (A Clear Dream : Visual Identity, Design Agencies and Modernism in The Netherlands : 1960-1975) is for sale! A large colourful pocket with an interesting print quality to match. Some people asked me, how did that happen, a book in China? Well, with a combination of luck and hard work. Let me explain.
Three years ago the Dutch edition was shown at the Beijing Book Fair among other well designed Dutch books. Here it was seen by a Chinese designer. He emailed me asking whether he might translate the book. He was interested in the subject matter and hoped that it could help China gaining insight in visual identity and Dutch design.
This designer was Mike Liu. He had worked as a graphic designer in Bejing for some time and had recently translated Wally Olins ‘On Brand’. Now he was in for a new challenge, and so was I! There was no English edition to work from. So in the following year I made a translation. Then started the long proces of ensuring that the translation and the layout were correct.
A typical translation problem was that I used several words in my book to indicate concepts such as house style, visual identity, logo, brand. All with their exact meanings as they evolved in time. How to translate this into Chinese which does not know these words and historical concepts?
Also the lack of a shared background in design history between Chinese and Western audiences made it necessary to make some changes. Not many western design (history) books have been translated to Chinese and vice versa. And by that I mean books with text, not design year books.
I approached several parties to obtain funds for the book publication. Unfortunately the NWO had just stopped its translation fund, and for international activities Dutch cultural funds were only interested in current dutch design. In the mean time Mike was busy talking to publishers, eventually finding the Posts & Telecommunications Press.
During the last year we went through 3 redesigns of the book. It was difficult finding the right aesthetic. Although the book is about modernist design and it would be logical to do something like that, it seems that hard edge Swiss style is not always that appreciated in China. Wim Crouwel and Ben Bos are unknown here. Gert Dumbar on the other hand, that is a different story!
Dumbar had been travelling to China since the nineties. Studio Dumbar had an office in Shanghai (now closed). Enough reason to approach Dumbar to ask whether he would be willing to write an introduction. Fortunately Dumbar was very good in Chinese. Combined with a recommendation of a famous Chinese designer this–I am convinced about that–made it easier to find a publisher.
But it all started with the book on the Beijing Book Fair. Some time ago I bumped into an lecturer of the art academy where i studied over 15 years ago. He told me he designed the Dutch part of the Beijing Book Fair. Looking for books to show, he recognised my name from a publishers list and selected my book, the only one he had not seen: it was only published just before the Book Fair. As it later turned out, he had also talked to Mike at the Fair. Such coïncidences!
Now the next step: A two weeks visit to China to give a workshop pictogram design at Tsinghua and a lecture about my book at CAFA!