PEOPLEText: Richard B. Doubleday, Stephen Goldstein

What’s the differences in design between China and the United States of America?

This is too big a question to talk about in just a few words. There are not big differences in terms of design disciplines such as color, form, and use of computer technology today, but there are definitely differences in cultural context, content, and comprehension.

Min Wang
U.S.-Korea Trade Relations Conference, Poster 1988

How much were you able to use the language of design, through use of type and image, during the Cultural Revolution in China? Was or has the computer been an integral tool for the cross-pollinization of messages? There was publicly little to no commercial design being generated during that period.

The computer was not available at all in China during the Cultural Revolution period. Commercial design was non-existent. Design then was mostly used as a medium for political posters, books and pamphlets. In fact, the word ‘graphic design’ (ping mian shi ji) was not introduced to China until the early 1980s, together with China’s economic reform and open-door policy to the western influences.

Min Wang
Artists from the People’s Republic of China poster 2, 1990

What was your experience and what were the challenges, particularly the method of digitizing fonts at Adobe Systems in 1986, given the technological spread of the personal computer?

It was a great time at Adobe in the mid to late 1980s when Alvin Eisenman was on the typographical advisory board and Sumner Stone was the Director of the Typography Department. They, along with the best type designers, spearheaded the effort to bring fine typography into the desktop age. Their dedication to high standards of typography and their contribution to the revival of classic typefaces into digital forms stimulated the desktop publishing revolution of the 80s. As a young graduate student from Yale, I was having a free hand and great time in applying these new typefaces to create designs on the computer. Most of the work that I did stays with me in my office as I changed work from place to place, but it recorded an exciting period in our lives, combining art and design with new technology and making an impact in the world we are living in now.

Min Wang
Book Cover series, 2004

What did Adobe Systems think it’s mission was then and what do you think they are doing now buying up most of their competitors and making the applications bloated with auto features?

Adobe started as a company that put its technological innovation and application in a very focused field that was the 80s and the early 90s. As the company expanding over the years, with the fierce market competition, the demand of growing as a public company, and introduction of new technologies, the company moved more towards the direction of new markets, and new industries. There is nothing wrong with the company, especially for its stockholders, but for typographers, for type designers, for designers, people like Sumner Stone and me, the golden age of the 1980s had passed.

Do you think Adobe Systems are producing better quality fonts now?

I wouldn’t use the word “better,” but I can say that Adobe always has produced high quality fonts to meet the market needs and remain in the forefront of combining high technology and design, or the other way around.

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