The always amazing graphics department of the South China Morning Post has been publishing a series of stories about the Forbidden City of Beijing. It’s one of my favorite project this year. The whole package by the Hong Kong newspaper is a great combination of art, simple and elegant explanatory graphics, and engaging, well researched storytelling. It paints a vivid portrait of life inside the palace complex where 24 emperors of the Ming and Qin dynasties ruled China for nearly 500 years (early 15th century to early 20th century). The combination of rich details in the graphics, a loose hand-made illustration style, and the unusual bold color choices in a historical feature make it a visual feast. Here are a few samples. Click for larger images (˙© The South China Morning Post):
The Illustrated opened are really nice as well
The series was created by Marcelo Duhalde and Marco Hernández, in collaboration with Pablo Robles, Alice Tse, Darren Long, and Tom Eves. It has two main chapters with their own illustrated sub-sections:
- The Forbidden City’s Unique Architecture
- The origins of the Forbidden City
- The Dougong: a nailless Chinese construction method
- Protecting the City from the ravages of time, fire and the fury of earthquakes
2. Life inside the Forbidden City
- How women were elected for service
- How an army of eunuchs ran the Forbidden City
- In the Forbidden City, being the emperor didn’t equate to a life of limitless power or pleasure
It’s a good example of a well integrated package entirely created within a graphics department. The few interactive or animated elements are used judiciously, only when needed.
I’m hoping the series continues with new chapters, and I would bet the authors have thought of compiling the whole package in a book since the design and topic naturally lend to it.
The Forbidden City has always been a favorite topic ever since I created a National Geographic poster on the topic back in 2008, including researching in situ in Beijing. I researched, designed and wrote it, and the illustrations are by the great Bruce Morser, the most precise pencil illustrator I’ve ever worked with.