Biculturalism is a body of work Hamazaki Wong has promulgated over the past couple of years.

To us, it describes the melding of the Vancouver marketplace (and others too) where English-speaking Vancouverites become exposed to the Chinese language, hearing and adopting utterances that express emotion, emphasis, or, to their ears, comedy. Many of these expressions have found their way into common usage (such as the ubiquitous ‘ai-ya’) but what exactly do they mean and how are they used?

What We Did

At Hamazaki Wong, we set out to bridge that gap by producing a series of t-shirts that address this language issue in an approachable and delightful way while providing some education, modest as it may be. While English speakers are learning, Chinese-speakers, to whom these phrases are second nature, are presented with tidbits of their own cultural idiosyncrasies, providing opportunities to laugh at themselves if only for a moment. Most importantly, these t-shirts are a creative manifestation of Hamazaki Wong’s thinking on biculturalism and help to explain this concept in a way that’s simple, tangible, and compelling.

Challenge

The greatest challenge for the bicultural t-shirts was a creative one. Producing the t-shirts was easy. Crafting the creative was more difficult since it needed to fit within the narrow band of understanding that could resonate with both English and Chinese language speakers. Further, we wanted to elicit ‘aha’ moments with a tone and voice that forces a smile and a chuckle. Finally, we recognized that we were doing something that’s not been done before, and this obligated the creative to be simple and effective in a way that truly communicated.

Solution

At Hamazaki Wong, we believe the greatest book of all time is not the Bible, but the Dictionary. Hence, we used this as a device to help define the creative. By using Dictionary notations, the creative took on familiarity while allowing a playfulness that encouraged engagement with the messages. Like the Dictionary, the design of the t-shirts was deliberately monochromatic but punctuated with typographic flourishes to emphasize words and characters for greatest effect.

Results & Takeaway

The first person we showed the t-shirts to make this exclamation: ‘Sick!!!’ Based on that initial reaction, we knew we had a hit. Since then, the t-shirts have garnered positive compliments, smiles and curiosity whenever they’re worn. Even better, it has inspired others to suggested new words and phrases that could find their way into future t-shirt iterations. Exactly what we had hoped! It seems biculturalism, at least in Vancouver, is here to stay.

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What’s in Store?

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