Who’s involved in the development and fostering of a club scene? The first factors that come to mind are usually DJs, promoters, and venues. But the first person to decide whether you go to a party may, in fact, be the poster designer. And when you do attend a party, in addition to the music, the VJ performance that night can also determine your experience. Music is abstract, but visuals can let you understand a certain essence of the music through different ways. In Shanghai, where you can dance every night and the club scene is growing wildly, more and more visual artists are participating in the development of local, and even global, club scenes with their own unique perspectives and cutting-edge visual communication techniques. 

This December, we will focus on various visual artists based in Shanghai, and understand them from various angles such as aesthetics, technology, social impact and business practices. Because sometimes a stellar visual artist deserves to be the headliner. 

In our first segment, we talked with the prolific Jinkui Zhou – designer, art director, and co-founder of 88kitties and Blue3prinZ. Jinkui Zhou’s design is cold and futuristic whose cutting-edge designs can be found on posters, club merchandise across China, and on the T-shirts that club kids love to wear. 

She is particularly good at typography and logo design, with a style that is both pioneering and difficult to imitate.

The following is a collection of logos she has designed for various musicians、underground labels and brands in recent years.

We are very interested in your background. What opportunity opened up your career as a designer?

Jinkui Zhou: I was born into an artistic family. I have been trained in painting and educated in the arts pretty much since I could hold a pen. 

Later, my interests moved toward design. Part of the reason was that I didn’t want to be a struggling artist. Traditional painting was a bit of a deadend for me, so I wanted to learn newer techniques for creating my vision. I think the designer looks happier and less stressed. I dropped out of college and went to the UK to study for 3 years. I learned how to be a concept-oriented designer at CSM(Center Saint Martins College of Art & Design). After returning to China, I worked in corporate for a while and started to put myself out there as a freelance designer.

How would you describe your design style? Please also introduce your evolution stylistically?

I don’t specifically look for a certain style, I just versed myself in and gave feedback on the image styles I’m interested in. I change my style preferences from time to time, and am always learning and trying to create something new. Sometimes I combine several styles to create a new one. The things I learn are also quite diverse it can be anything from ancient civilization to popular animation.

Graphic design for Phire wire, GR8, Tokyo

Typeface design for Tunica Magazine,US

You once said that your design is a “future” style. Can you tell me more about how you describe and imagine the future through design and visual art?

This is nonsense. I‘ll refute this right here now. Some people think that my style is “Y2K”. Y2K is a bit like saying that my technique is retro or saying I just didn’t do it well enough in capturing the texture of the future. But I think what I am doing is a new undertaking. I imagine that the future will be a kind of visual feedback just like the present – hybridizing, updating, and upgrading the existing visual systems. Each link can be different and the personality will be more detailed. It’s like pinching a character’s face, so it’s harder to define a name. For example, the patterns from the natural world are hybridized with metal fonts and then simplified to become more in-tuned with a futuristic technological sensibility, and this design is used as a symbol for a specific underworld of 2080. There is no wholly new visual language in the design field unless it is machine-generated or from an alien.

Filter mask “突尼卡”designed for @tunicastudio in collabration with 3D artist @chillchillshit

Digital technology is a driving force that cannot be ignored. I starting to add other technologies to my design, such as 3D, AR, VR, and more. When new technologies came out, I would think about how to combine them in, which also changes my design mindset to a certain extent. For example, I designed an Instagram filter last year. There are also some interesting low-tech attempts, such as making patterns in the Logo editor of GTA games.

I may not be able to predict the future but can only follow the development and changes of the times. It’s hard to say what the design of the future will look like, and the demand then will be different from the present.



A large number of your designs are related to club culture and local electronic music scenes in China. Tell us about your experience and perception of participating in club scene as a designer.

Cooperation is a two-way street.

Music gives people a lot of imagination, and it is very personal, it can be particularly dark or infinitely and utterly innocent and cute. The design fee given by the label is often not high. The unspoken rule is that there is no modification, and the degree of freedom is super high. After finishing it, it can be released to the young people immediately. It is very cool. There is no commercial clients, only artists and viewers. I also often watch the visuals made by other artists for clubs and get inspirations.

On the other hand, a good poster can help a party sell more tickets, and can support my favorite labels, musicians, and venues. A good VJ can also enhance the party experience, and then I feel all the visuals I made are truly worthy.

OIL 3 Year Anniversary Merch =͟͟͞͞由 Club Kid Starter Pack x Jinkui Zhou

Speaking of designing posters for music labels, how do you use visual elements, especially font design, to show the concept of a party? 

I usually doing it while listening to the music of the musicians in the lineup. It’s very relaxed and unconscious. If it’s suitable, I’ll add visual materials I’m interested in recently, for example after watching fictional alien fonts for three hours I will have some ideas. To transform my feeling or sense into a typography shape is actually quite an abstract process.

What is the acceptance of underground style in a broad sense in mainstream commercial design? As an underground designer, how do you view your relationship with the mainstream?

The acceptance of this style in China is not high. Typical requests from clients are like: I like your design very much, but can it be less alternative? To serve the client, the designer can only actively weaken the visual dynamism, and the concept cannot be too freespirited. I generally work with commercial clients who don’t make such requests. Most of them come from the fashion and music industries. I think commercial clients have a background in aesthetics, especially when their audience is young people. But this kind of education certainly does not come from the meager power of designers, it mainly comes from mainstream media and high-end brands. Because being avant-garde is not a problem, an authority with artistic perception is needed to tell them this is feasible.

I worked at Dazed China for a short period of time. At that time, I made the 3D surround fonts for Mizuhara Kiko, and some of my clients still mention about it for their reference nowadays. They trust influential cases and designers with hard resumes that are piled up by big cases. If an underground designer really wants to change the game, he needs cooperate more with big brands with open aesthetics. This path is not easy. You need post more works and socialize more.

My current relationship with the mainstream is weak. I occasionally rely on that to make money, but my ambition is to gain the right to speak in the mainstream.

Typeface “KIKO”designed for Mizuhara Kiko & Dazed China

What kind of work are you doing recently? What is your role in the agency 88kitties that you co-founded? 

Not long ago, I designed a merch set for the 3rd anniversary of OIL Club in Shenzhen. Recently, I am doing some 3D directing work, some of which are for commercial brands and musicians. There are also some confidential items.

I founded 88Kitties with two other friends. The characters have changed a lot, but the main thing is to produce concepts and visual ideas, and also do some design and directing.

The concept behind this company is to combine subculture and business, conceive new visions, change the rules of the game, expand the influence of underground culture, and monetize it.

logo design @jinkuizhou
sound @rui_hooo
CGI @yiiten
art direction @x1u.x1u

Like this post? Check Jinkui Zhou’s work on Instagram

Follow Subtropical Asia on Instagram