Clio-winning Chinese graphic designer in pursuit of happiness

Just as the film industry in the US has their Oscars and the television industry has their Emmys, the advertising industry has their Clios.

At a press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel at the end of Rodeo Drive, famous for being where the Pretty Woman movie was shot, Chinese graphic artist and art director, Fong “Captain” Huang, proudly displayed his second Clio Award last Friday, a Silver award he won for the poster he created for Warner Brother’s upcoming release, Wonder Woman 1984.

To date, Huang, described by himself as an experienced advertising and design professional rooted from both Chinese and US culture, is the only Chinese artist to win Clio Award twice.

Huang, whose first name is Fangqiu in Chinese, was born in China’s southern city of Guangzhou and graduated from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

When asked how he felt to have won the award for the second time in an exclusive interview with Xinhua Sunday, Huang joked that he felt like Don Draper, the lead character in a hit American TV show called Mad Men about New York’s Madison Avenue advertising industry in the 1960s.

“In the show, Draper’s the top creative professional on Madison Avenue, and he wins a Clio – only his was just fiction and mine are real!” he laughed, raising the golden Clio Award statuette aloft in victory.

Founded in 1959, the Clio Awards are named after the Greek Goddess and mythological muse described as the glorifier and celebrator of great deeds and accomplishments.

The award is bestowed to recognize superior talent, creative excellence and innovation in the advertising, design, marketing and communication industries. It is the world’s top international advertising award and receives tens of thousands of submissions from all over the globe.

To be eligible, entries must appear publicly during the year they are nominated, then are judged by more than 110 judges from 62 countries and regions who bestow Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in each category, as well as the highest prize, the Grand Clio.

Huang explained to Xinhua that the competition was so fierce every year since film studio clients looking for the best poster to market their film routinely hedged their bets by having multiple designers from multiple ad agencies. That can result in hundreds of posters all vying to be the one chosen to market the movie.

“To win an award, you need to be the best. The creative director thought my design had the potential to win, so they sent it to the Clio committee,” Huang said.

But every year, just in the United States alone, 700 to 800 movies are released, and each one can have 10 or more posters, so there are thousands of competing posters from all over the world.

He added, “So, winning is really exciting ‘cuz it’s really hard. There is so much competition. It’s my second win and this time it’s the Silver, not Bronze, which was 100 times harder,” he told Xinhua.

“I’m very lucky to work with the best talent in the world, like Wonder Woman 1984 and Star Wars, etc.”

In his poster, Huang placed Wonder Woman dead center with her fists clenched in defiance, and two abstract-looking “W”s behind her, stacked vertically.

But far from being your run-of-the-mill “W”s, they are vibrant, eye-catching, psychedelic slashes of color that frame her perfectly – like iridescent mylar on steroids.

When asked how he arrived at his winning design, he told Xinhua he did a lot of research to find out what was good about the 1980s. “I saw everything was very rich in color. So, I tried to catch that vibe without making it feel too retro, so it’s still modern.”

“When the client saw it, their jaw dropped,” he grinned.

When asked if he had achieved the American Dream, he chuckled. “The China Dream and American Dream is the same dream. We all want to be happy and do what we love to do,” he told Xinhua.

“It’s not just about having a big house or driving a fancy car. To me, it’s the pursuit of happiness, like it says in the Declaration of Independence.”

“So, I’m super happy to win. In China we have a saying that compares it to ‘adding embroidered flowers to silk fabric that is already beautiful.’ But even if I didn’t win, I am doing what I love to do and I am happy and lucky to live in this peaceful world,” he added, philosophically.

The only other thing he thinks would be interesting to try is film directing. “I haven’t directed yet, but I’ve watched so many films as part of my job, I feel like I am halfway there.”

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