When Zhenxing Shi was in elementary school, his mother asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “At that time, I didn’t know what designer meant,” he recalls, “but I replied to her that I wanted to do mental work [and blurted out] ‘inventor and designer.’ Both my parents are manual workers, and their jobs are very hard. I really did become a designer when I grew up, which is inseparable from my longing for this occupation since my childhood.” As he had an aptitude for visual art, Shi chose to pursue a university degree in visual communications but found the curriculum simplistic, so he began to voraciously consume websites, magazines and books on design to flesh out his philosophy on design. He found a kindred soul in Kenya Hara, the chief of design at Muji, whose perspectives on details and patterns within design resonated with Shi. “Influenced by him, I decided to name myself Liubai,” he says. The term liu bai (“to leave blankness”) refers to the practice within Chinese art of leaving blank space within work to heighten the crucial elements within the composition. “The term bai doesn’t indicate being less or more concise but means being purer with a unified visual language,” Shi explains. “This is also the design concept I adhere to in my practice.” Upon graduating, he worked at L3Branding in Beijing, creating large-scale commercial projects and winning various international design awards. “This inspired me to go further into this career,” Shi says. Now, he works one-on-one with clients, seeking to deepen their brands through his minimal, purist style. “People are paying more and more attention to [a brand’s] aesthetic value, and design has become an important factor that influences how we feel and determines our views and actions,” he notes. “I dig for the core symbols that accord with the soul of the brand in my design, consider their visual malleability and let the brand form a visual ecosystem.”
Stark, dark and surreal, the art of this Los Angeles–based illustrator commands the attention of viewers immediately.