During my time at Ziba Design in Portland, Oregon, our work with Li-Ning spanned three years and was focused on consumer research, product, retail and brand. I was the principal Creative Director responsible for the Li-Ning brand's visual expression, which included: identity research, logo development, brand story, collateral and packaging, environmental graphics, and visual guidelines. I played a more supporting CD and design role in the retail work, focusing on early experience strategy and framing, store concepts and design themes, and programmatic concepts and development.
With a program of this size and complexity, it is important to acknowledge the many exceptionally talented Ziba Design teammates involved in the success of this account. The work accomplished by others before, during and after my involvement was inspiring and of an exceptionally high standard.
The unifying design theme and concept behind the Li-Ning brand identity system is based on the fundamental belief that sport is for everyone, not just the elite few—it is "Sport for All". Sport is a part of daily life, and the two are fully integrated. The new Li-Ning visual identity represents a modern, optimistic and proud Chinese brand—one that is ready to lead China onto the global stage, while inspiring the Gen-1 Creator through inclusivity, community and individual expression.
Symbology in China is much more subtle and deeper in meaning than it is in the west, and we knew the (previous) logo was very personal to Mr. Li, the founder and namesake of the company. There were challenges in making a change, but there were even greater imperatives for doing so. With all the work that was being done from a product and retail perspective, it was important that the logo represent that in some way and to provide a canvas for new equities to take hold. Derived from the Chinese character for 'People', the logo combines strength and stability, embracing and emerging, simplicity and modernity.
A retail experience built on the Chinese approach to sport as social participation, instead of the Western notion of elite performance.
Li-Ning's top position in the Chinese sporting gear market began to shift when a change in trade policy allowed international brands such as Nike and adidas into the country. Once the most successful Chinese athletic brand in China, competition from local upstarts was also eroding Li-Ning's market share. The company's target consumer was changing, too. Li-Ning partnered with Ziba to understand its target consumer, redefine its brand promise and design a retail experience relevant to a new generation in China. Ziba's retail strategy for Li-Ning integrates story, merchandise, store layout and service into a holistic brand retail experience. This strategy and design was implemented in three stores in Beijing and Tianjin, before being applied to Li-Ning's remaining 7400 stores throughout China in 2010 and 2011.
Fast Company feature article about Ziba's overall brand, product and retail program for Li-Ning. In the partial team photo to the right, I'm on the far left.