It’s always satisfying to discover a commercial project in the graphic design world which feels fresh and modern but also incorporates elements of the past, personal histories or traditional cultures. It can be a fine line to tread – avoiding a twee and ersatz “vintage” feel, whilst making sure the historical element of the design does not become over-commercialised or lost entirely. One young design studio which is hitting the balance with true grace is Reesaw Studio. The team is made up of three core members – co-founders Zhou Xin and Yin Songhua and art director Guo Fapan. Yin Likes to compare the core team to “the NBA Big Three” – like this trio of basketball heroes, Yin says “we share the same values and goals, and this makes our team closer.”
The studio prides itself on making traditional Chinese culture “resonate with younger people” through its designs. The studio’s visual identity for Sea Bar is a lovely example of how it does this. Sea Bar is a restaurant based in Shanghai which specialises in stewed seafood. Yin tells us that the owner was born in the 80s and grew up in a little fishing village by the seaside. “We took the fishing village of the 1980s as the theme,” he continues. Exploring the personal link between the owner’s childhood and the food at the restaurant became a key principle for the visuals. Sifting through “a large number of magazines, textbooks and posters, etc.”, the studio gathered a collection of photographs, objects and design styles that felt uniquely 80s and used these as a guide for the design.
Aiming to achieve a “clever conflict” between tradition and modernity, the studio embellished the food packaging with charming illustrations of crabs and seashells, their simple forms offering a quaint yet modern atmosphere to the design. For the posters, the studio used a vintage photograph of a fisherman which recalls the owner’s childhood memories. The old photograph is contrasted with bold, clean typography. Overall the beautiful designs have the effect of whisking the restaurant punter away from the bustling streets of Shanghai, transporting them to the peaceful 80s seaside town. The pale, delicate colour palette is the cherry on the cake of this whimsical visual identity.