We commissioned nine local printing companies to do the exact same project: print the SmartShanghai media kit. Some were good. Some were just OK. Others were straight shameful.
Slim pickings in foreign-language bookstores in Shanghai—here are a few of the city's standouts, from small indie shops and secondhand hole-in-the-walls to the behemoths on Fuzhou Lu.
828 Julu Lu, near Fumin Lu | Full Listing →Dukou is a small bookshop that's popular among the local MUJI, Kinfolk and DIY-loving crowd. Publications here are almost all in Chinese, with the exception of a few shelves dedicated to used foreign-language books and old magazines like Monocle and National Geographic. It's not suitable for those seeking specific titles, but it is good for browsing used books when you're in the Julu Lu area and want to laze away in an indie bookstore. There are some great alternative fashion and design magazines laid out on the table at the entrance, including new-ish indie travel mag LOST, which was written by Shanghai-based creative industry types. Dukou keeps one sample copy out so that you can flip through them. Another bonus: there's patio seating out front, too. Sample costs: Used English-language paperbacks and back-issue magazines (30-45rmb). Closest metro stop: Changshu Road, 15 minute walk
Foreign Language Book Store
390 Fuzhou Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu | Full Listing →Fuzhou Lu is widely known as Shanghai's bookshop center, and the no-nonsense Foreign Language Book Store is the city's closest thing you can find to a Border's/Barnes & Noble/whatever mega bookstore you know from your home country. The entire building is dedicated to English-language books, so they've got everything from business books, classics, romance novels and cookbooks to current bestsellers, test prep books, teen fiction, magazines and textbooks. The first floor is dedicated to fiction and popular contemporary titles, second floor holds test prep books, third floor has art and design books and fourth floor features children’s books. The shop carries all the regular genres, though the placement of books can be somewhat confusing—Foreign Language Book Store's staffers can all speak English, though, and can point you in the right direction. Sample costs: Classic paperbacks range from 100-140rmb; larger coffee table books can go up to 400-700rmb. Closest metro stop: East Nanjing Road, 10 minute walk
325 Changle Lu, near Shaanxi Lu | Full Listing →This has become the go-to bookshop for foreigners in town, largely thanks to its location on a prominent shopping street smack dab in the middle of Xuhui district. It's also thanks to a particularly large selection of books, including books produced by local foreign talent (Shanghai Blink, a photo book of Shanghai's everyday city scenes, is among them). That's one of Garden's shining features, really—being a platform for local writers and artists to sell their work. In addition to that, Garden carries the usual magazines, fiction (even teen fiction), classics, children’s novels, design books, travel guides, postcards, Moleskine notebooks, all that good stuff. There are also small collections of books in other languages too, like Spanish, French and Italian. The in-house café also has a nice place to sit and relax, with coffee, tea, gelato and desserts on offer. Sample costs: Paperbacks in the 100-150rmb range; hardcovers 150-200rmb. Closest metro stop: South Shaanxi Road, 5 minute walk
Shanghai Book Traders Used Books
36 Shanxi Nan Lu, near Fuzhou Lu | Full Listing →This one is in a bit of an obscure spot, but it's still just a stone's throw away from Fuzhou Lu—just two blocks away from the mega bookstores sits this small, shabby shop that buys and resells old books at excellent prices. It looks pretty rundown from the outside, and the people running the place can be pretty curt with you, but don't let all that deter you from the value it offers. You can get dictionaries, interior design books and novels, plus back issues of Vogue, The Economist, TIME, and National Geographic magazines stacked to a human-size height. Note that the books on offer, much like the magazines, scream of a bygone era, like hardcovers from the Sweet Valley High Twins tween series from the 1980s. Some of them even had library stamps inside the jacket. There are some good architectural, interior and graphic design books on offer, though these are also showing dated trends. Sample costs: dictionaries (20-80rmb), paperbacks (15-30rmb), back-issue magazines (8-25rmb), hardcovers (100-120rmb) and coffee table tomes (50-300rmb). Closest metro stop: East Nanjing Road, 5 mins. walk — take Exit 4.
Shanghai Book City
465 Fuzhou Lu, near Fujian Zhong Lu | Full Listing →The seven story "Book City" is supposedly Shanghai's largest bookstore. Most of the publications are in Chinese, though there is a sizable collection of English-language books on the top floor. The fourth floor is dedicated to study aids, which includes English-learning books and tutorials. Book City's selection focuses on popular paperbacks, so expect the classics, plus New York Times' bestseller titles here. One of the highlights in Book City's English language selection is its surprisingly well-picked selection of children's entertainment and educational books—there are beautifully illustrated pop-up books and even "Shakespeare for Kids" sets. Sample costs: Paperbacks in the 100-130rmb range; children's hardcover books in 150-200rmb range. Closest metro stop: People's Square, 10 minute walk *** Photography by Brandon McGhee
CH picks some event venues that are a cut above the rest -- the behemoth that is 800 Show, the techy, geeked out multicultural space at The Nut, the classy quarters over at Metis and so on...
OK, we realize "event space" is a pretty broad category. Any random bar or public park can be an event space, right? Yeah. Yeah, we know. Once in awhile, though, you might need to find some space that gives off a certain vibe, whether it be professionalism, or an association with creativity and the arts... or something. And so, some CH picks for solid event space rental options about town.
River South Art Center
1247 Nan Suzhou Lu, near Xinzha Lu | Full Listing →This century-old former warehouse on Suzhou Creek regularly hosts art exhibitions and events. It's best for large-scale events, with three floors available for rent -- roughly 700-square-meters per floor. The building itself is attractive, with wooden floors and pitched roofs, with the added bonus of a bar and optional catering service. Each story is linked by an industrial-chic steel staircase and exposed brick-work landing. An advantage to this one is that it's available at any hours within the 24-hour day, so this is the one to use for late-night shindigs. Sample costs: 40,000rmb for one floor or 60,000rmb for two floors. Cost is per day. Closest metro stop: Hanzhong Lu, 15 minute walk.
800 Changde Lu, near Changping Lu | Full Listing →Located in central Jing'an, 800 Show is a former factory space that was renovated in 2009 by German architectural studio logon. The entire complex consists of a central hall surrounded by offices inhabited by creative-industry businesses. The central hall is a striking, glass-fronted building that's regularly used to host events, exhibitions and fashion shows. The thing is massive -- rent this one if you've got a "go big or go home" approach -- not to mention budget. Sample costs: 110,000rmb for the entire building [Updated]. Cost is per day. Closest metro stop: Changping Lu, 5 minute walk.
162-2 Yongnian Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu | Full Listing →The Nut Lab is a multicultural arts and events space aimed at providing a lively space for the consumption of culture. Since 2009, the team there has been curating a diverse array of interdisciplinary exhibitions. It's a versatile space with specialized tools and equipment (ie, for sound, lighting, visual projections, interactive displays, etc.) to develop unique events and exhibitions. The entire space is 200-square-meters, and thanks to The Nut's own regular art exhibits, screenings and creative conferences, it has a favorable reputation among hip, artsy-creative types as a cool venue with an alternative vibe. Yes, bar service is available. 'Course. Sample costs: 11,000rmb for a full day (10 hours), 7,500rmb for a half day (5 hours). Note, events held on Sundays or public holidays incur an extra 1,000rmb charge, and any overtime hours cost 1,000rmb per hour. Closest metro stop: Madang Lu, 5 minute walk.
789 Shanxi Bei Lu, near Wuding Lu | Full Listing →Metis, a qualitative research and creative branding consultancy, rents out its space for events, conferences, market research and seats for co-working. There are two floors -- the lower floor is ideal for smaller events like screenings, conferences and private parties, while the upper floor is good for renting out work space. The bottom level includes two conference rooms, one of which has a one-way mirror that's used for conducting focus group research. There's an outdoor patio lined with plants, lots of windows that flood the place with natural lighting and classy antique Chinese wooden furniture throughout. A solid choice if you're putting together a one-off event that's looking for a more intimate feel. Sample costs: Variable according to amount of space, length of time, number of attendees, equipment needed, etc. -- contact Metis directly for quotes. Closest metro stop: Changping Lu, 5 minute walk.
Bldg 1, 751 Huangpi Nan Lu, near Jianguo Dong Lu | Full Listing →Central Studios' chief service is offering up its several photo studios up for rent, with an in-house team of pros to consult on shooting, styling and post-production. Thanks to its strong association with fashion, photography and local pop culture, though, it's also become a popular venue pick for private functions and public community gatherings. Since a large portion of Central Studios is open space that's meant to be versatile according to the subjects being shot, the events area can be completely changed to fit the needs of the event -- be it a public fair, a film screening, gallery exhibitions, workshops or even runway shows. The CS staff can also help with the creative marketing and production design for events held there. Sample costs: Variable according to amount of space, length of time, number of attendees, equipment needed, etc. -- contact Central Studios directly for quotes. Closest metro stop: Madang Lu, 5 minute walk. *** Update Dec. 3, 2013: price for 800 Show originally listed as 11,000rmb; correct cost is 110,000rmb. Update Oct. 29, 2014: The Nut is now closed. Photography by Brandon McGhee
Dropbox is great and all, but Chinese versions of the versatile cloud storage platform offer much more space (up to 10TB, even), and most of them are free too.
Yeah, we all know and love Dropbox, but our inner cheapskates usually prevent us from forking over the money required for a monthly subscription. The 2GB cap on free storage sucks, though, so here are some Chinese cloud services that offer free storage in the terabytes. One terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes. But you knew that.
Weiyun: up to 10TB
Image courtesy World of NingWeiyun is the cloud service from Tencent, the same tech giant behind QQ instant messenger, WeChat, Weibo, and so on. Initially, Weiyun was only able to store photos, video, and audio, but it's since extended compatibility to websites, documents and entire file folders. You can view, edit, share and download any of this content through your computer and across all mobile platforms. An added feature on Weiyun is the ability to generate a unique QR code for sharing specific files or folders. You have to have a QQ account, or sign up for one, to use it, though. Extra plus for non-Chinese speaking users: it's available in English too.
Kanbox: up to 10TB
Image courtesy Tech in AsiaAs if in response to Tencent upping the cloud storage game, Alibaba (of Taobao, Alipay and Youku fame) acquired Kanbox, offering the same variety of Dropbox-esque services while matching that 10TB of free storage space. This one is only available in Chinese at the moment, so you'll either have to stumble your way through the set-up process or have a Chinese-speaking friend help you with that. After set-up, it's all laid out in a straight-forward enough manner, with lots of icons, so it's fairly easy to navigate from there.
115.com: 15GB to start, plus 1TB/year
Image courtesy Tech in AsiaAha, another one available in English. Yes, the website design looks suspiciously like that of Facebook's, but it's legit. Actually, it used to be one of the leading cloud storage providers in China before it abruptly shut down in August 2012. Since then, it's back up and running, offering new users 15GB of free storage space to start with, which increases by 1TB every year without limit (so they say).
Baidu Cloud: up to 2TB
Image courtesy TechNodeYup, Baidu, China's most popular and widely used search engine website, also hosts a cloud storage platform. It's currently only available in Chinese. There are quite a few steps involved in set-up—you have to download the app, "claim" the free space, and so on—but a kind fellow on the interwebs has created a step-by-step tutorial with screenshots for English speakers. Check it out here. *** There are dozens of other Chinese sites that host similar services, but we've just listed the ones we've had positive experiences with. Got any additional suggestions, or critiques of the services listed above? Let us know in the comments box below.
CH chats with designer Sebastian Wrong about adapting designs to time and production cost restraints, knockoffs and that whole "Made in China" thing.
British designer Sebastian Wrong was in town last week, so we stopped by the HAY showroom on Taikang Lu to chat with him about his goings-on as Design Director of Wrong for HAY, the new-ish joint venture between him and the Danish furniture label. First, some quick background. Wrong trained as a sculptor, gained some cred as the creator of the Spun Light (red dot winner in 2004, now produced by Flos), became a co-founder of design company Established and Sons (from which he resigned in 2012) and launched The Wrong Shop in 2011, a collection of limited edition pieces by himself and famous friends in the design world. Now his focus is on expanding Wrong for HAY, which debuted last year in Fall 2013. OK, on to the juicy bits... How much of your time actually goes into designing, versus the managerial and business development stuff? SW: It’s quite a struggle to find time, or more importantly, to block out time to dedicate to design. I mean, I’ve always multi-tasked. I’ve never had the leisure—and I don’t think I want the opportunity—to be able to sit in a studio from nine ‘til five thinking about my design ideas, because I’d find that a little bit too one-dimensional. So, what I have benefited from is having a great team who have supported me. Who can facilitate the development of my ideas, from a very simple, basic starting point. And, I’ve really learned how to work with a team in this regard and getting good results. You’ve previously described your design process as “very slow”. Which of the WFH pieces took you the longest? SW: In my designs, there’s the Sinker Light. This is something which has been in the kitchen for something like, five years, maybe. I originally designed it for a much, much bigger lighting company, and then it didn’t go in the direction that I wanted it to go, and then the opportunity came here, to slot it into the first lighting collection [for HAY], so it was the perfect situation. It’s very much this slow process of having an idea in the back of your head for many years, and then getting it out into a tangible object for the right price. So, that’s very much the message of what we do in Wrong for HAY—good design at a good price. I think this is another product as well, the Serve Table. It originally started life as a tray, but it was too expensive [to produce] as a tray, but I liked the shape and the form and the geometry of it very much, and then one day, I just thought ‘Oh actually, hold on, why don’t we just put some legs on it’, and then it was a totally new product. Which one was cranked out most quickly? SW: Sometimes, having the pressure to get something out quickly can produce a great result as well. And I would say that a good example of that is this sofa that we’re sitting on right now, the Hackney Sofa. That is something that really came quickly—probably six months—and what I wanted to create here was this informal typology of a classic sofa, with that kind of good tailoring on it, but also—which is really important to this—it’s a flatpack. That means the sides and the back and the other sides are all joined, and there’s a hinge in the back here, which means that you can pull the entire back panel off here at the base, and then fold the back panels around. So, it comes in three boxes, which allows you to get it into small spaces. I live in a typical London house, with quite small staircases going into rooms, so when turning corners—if you’re trying to get a three-seater sofa into these rooms, it’s impossible. Or, you have it get it in through a window. Or, well, just don’t have an object that big. Which pieces in the collection are in your own home, if any? SW: The Pion Lights are in my own home, which I love. The Hackney Sofa will be in my home very soon. I’ve got this, The Wooden Shelf, at home. The Hook. This, Ori, salt and pepper shakers. I have these, the Cork Cone. Quite a lot. How did you choose your current team of designers? SW: I think the underlying principle is, in terms of who we choose to work with and why we choose to work with them, is based on the idea that the design has got to be good. It is not about the name of the designer at all. If there is a name, then great, but if there’s no name, then not a problem. It’s based on the merit, the strength of the object, and of course, whether it’s possible to produce the object for a competitive price in the market, ultimately. It’s extremely easy to make a very beautiful object which is very expensive. It’s much harder to make a very beautiful object for a very good price. And that’s what we are doing in our day-to-day business. That’s my job. Are your products manufactured in China? SW: Yeah, our lighting is produced in China. Our ceramics are produced in China. Have you received any criticism for that? SW: Not at all. I’m very positive about it, doing production in China. I think we’re able to achieve really good quality product, at a great level of pride. And we have an extremely strong relationship with all of our suppliers. It cannot be underestimated how important those relationships are, as a business. And I’m very lucky to have HAY as a business partner, because HAY have got a good, established network of suppliers in China that I’ve been able to utilize for our collection. Can you tell us about a design idea that you or your team at WFH had, that failed? SW: Well you see, what I get better and better at—is editing. So I, me and my team, are able to make a very quick decision on whether we go forward with something or not, based on years of experience in making lots of mistakes. I think one product that we have struggled with—which, actually didn’t fail, it was far from failing—is the Rope Trick Light from Stefan Diez, which has just been shortlisted to join the MOMA’s permanent design collection in New York. This light is a good example of a product that is very innovative, very challenging. And to find a supplier to produce this for us was not easy. And when you decide to pursue a lighting product like this to the end game, which is getting it in a box and selling it to the customer, trying to manage that cost ultimately, to deliver it at a competitive price, that’s hard. So, it hasn’t failed, but it’s a good case study. HAY is always characterized as Danish. Is WFH… British? SW: No, not at all. I guess you can say that it’s British in some way, but it’s quite ballsy. You know, it’s quite unafraid to make a statement, or a gesture. I’m not afraid to do pieces by this designer [Nathalie du Pasquier], who was one of the founders of the Memphis design movement in the ‘80s. Her designs, her textiles are not subtle shades of grey. They’re strong, powerful pieces, and I’d like to think that all the pieces in Wrong for HAY are strong objects, because that’s what interests me. And so you could say there’s an element of Englishness in terms of the creative philosophy behind the brand, and that Englishness, or rather, that London-ness, is an eclectic, multicultural diversity. And really, the kind of clear, clean honesty to what we do, I think that’s so important. So for example, The Wooden Shelf here, by a young Swiss designer that graduated a few years ago—it’s a super simple system, how it’s made. Just based on one joint that allows the shelf and the supports to connect. But it’s a very sweet idea. Super simple, but very nice. Which of these pieces do you think we’ll find knock-offs of first? SW: This [Revolver Stool] might be copied, if not already. Oh, this [The Wooden Shelf] is guaranteed. You know, I was on the jury at an exhibit where this came out, from a student designer, and I knew it was an outstanding design. This was a week after we started Wrong for HAY, and he was approached by a bunch of people for it, but we got it. Anyway, I think the copying business is a dying business. There are just so many people doing it, but fewer people interested in buying their copies. What about the other way around—what do you do if you’ve come up with something that you later discover is too similar to someone else’s work? SW: Oh yeah, it’s terribly disappointing when you’ve been working on something and you see that it’s already out there. It happened quite recently, actually, on a chair base that we were working on. We had drawn up plans for a detail on it, and then saw a large company presented it, exactly the same idea. And totally coincidental. I mean, they do say that you can be sure that at any one time, if you have a good idea, there’s six people in the world who are thinking the same idea. And therefore, you can’t spend too long chewing it over. You have to spit it out, or swallow it. *** Editor's note: This article first appeared on CreativeHunt on August 8, 2014. We're rescuing it from the archives and chucking it back into the rotation because we feel you might find the information interesting and relevant. From the CH vaults, this one's aged like fine wine... Images courtesy of Wrong for HAY