There’s a new kid on the block in the Beijing design scene – and it was started by three teens. Studio Accord is the brainchild of Vivian Zhang, Emily Chung, and Rikki Liu, three soon-to-be juniors at the International School of Beijing. Rikki and Vivian are originally from the US, while Emily is from Canada. Studio Accord is a "non-profit design studio" whose mission is to provide pro bono work to non-profit organizations and commercial work for socially-conscious businesses, with profits to be donated to worthy causes. beijingkids recently spoke to Vivian to find out more about Studio Accord.
How did Studio Accord come about?
This is actually a really long story. Studio Accord is a joint project between all three co-founders. We are all proficient at design, but split roles within the organization to keep things efficient. Emily is the art director; she makes the calls about our own brand identity, color schemes, and graphics. For example, she did the gorgeous splash image on our website. Rikki is the communications director and manages emails with clients, but she’s away at the moment. I manage the website and the business aspect of the organization.
Originally, all three of us were all executives of ISB’ss internal design organization, Draxonic Design Studio (DDS). Gradually with the growth of DDS, outside organizations began approaching us and we were given the option to either focus on school projects or to branch out professionally.
Because it was impossible for DDS to dabble in both options, the three of us were inspired to create an entirely new entity to give us the opportunity to work with real clients and impact the community in a more lasting and profound way.
We all have different goals in creating this organization. I wanted to go through the experience of starting a "business." Emily wanted to create a group that could achieve a higher level of design in terms of communication and impact. Rikki wanted to positively impact the community through art. So we entered the business with trepidation, but also with a certain level of experience.
What’s the process of coming up with a design for a non-profit?
Well, so far we’ve only worked with Bethel China, and it’s been a great pleasure. The first project we received from them was the sponsorship flyer; they provided a few photos and text, and gave us some rough requirements.
You have to understand that design is a visual means of solving a problem. The first thing we did was go on their website and familiarize ourselves with their work and history.
We then asked Chloe Banks (their development manager) numerous questions about the flyer’s purpose and target audience. From this, we tailored the entire design around the needs of the organization. And of course, there were many back-and-forth email exchanges along the way until we achieved a final, satisfactory product.
You also did a design for United Family Healthcare, right?
UFH is starting a new residency and family medicine program, and the logo we created for them is meant to be used as a decorative header for their official documents. We were contacted by Dr. Setsuko Hosoda to create a simple graphic and typography logo to brighten up their documents, and the final concept is very simple: a medical cross that doubles as a stylized "U" and "F" (United Family), featuring two little human figures in the center to represent family and health.
Bethel China is still an ongoing project, and the only graphic that’s been finalized is the sponsorship flyer. However, we’ve recently met with Chloe Banks and we’re working on numerous other projects, including a web infographic, a vision collage, visitor cards, and more. We’re really glad to help out with their rapidly evolving organization, and it’s been really fun so far.
What do you hope to accomplish with Studio Accord?
Our mission is to promote visual design as an important means of communication; we’ve noticed that there is very little emphasis on this in China, especially in non-profits. We’d also like to make a nice contribution to the community and gain some valuable experience in return.
Right now, we’re still in that hectic process of setting up all the infrastructure to operate correctly. Ultimately we’d like to have two aspects of the organization: doing pro bono work for non-profits and doing commissioned work for socially-minded business owners.
However, we’re still trying to navigate various options for the second part of that plan; we’re also trying to gain serious credibility before taking that plunge, so services will likely be "free" (or, in other words, priceless!) until we figure that out.
Do you see this project carrying on past your school years?
Definitely. This really isn’t something meant to just last us through high school- but then, we don’t have any concrete plans as to what we’ll do with it after we graduate yet. We have some pretty lofty visions for it, but let’s just see where this takes us in the next two years.
Studio Accord is currently looking to expand its portfolio by providing free work to non-profits, businesses, and community organizations. To contact the founders or find out more, visit their website.
Visuals courtesy of Studio Accord