The Story of Bao Bei’s Beautiful Neon Sign

Bao Bei’s neon sign on a cold winter’s night in 2015 | Photo: Scout Magazine

Branding Vancouver looks at some of the more interesting logos and icons that appear in Vancouver’s food and beverage scene. Some of the explanations will be long and others short, but the goal of deeper understanding will be constant. If you want the backstory of a particularly compelling local brand revealed, let us know via @scoutmagazine and we’ll try to figure it out.

The Brand: This week we’re getting a bright dose of neon via Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. The iconic sign that hangs above the entrance to the award-winning Chinatown restaurant was a collaborative effort by the creative team at Glasfurd & Walker and Bao Bei’s owner, Tannis Ling. The work of art was inspired by many things, including Chinese medicine, delicious dumplings, and the many neon signs that Vancouver was once upon a time internationally famous for.

Bao Bei sign on paper — Autumn 2009 mood board | Photo: Andrew Morrison

Here’s the story, as told by Tannis…

“The idea came from, well…I always wanted to have a neon sign. It just fit in with the neighbourhood. There were a lot of neon signs before in Chinatown and I wanted to bring that back. We also got a grant from the city, which helped. I would never have been able to afford it had they not given it to us. It was an empty storefront grant that the city was giving to new business owners to fix up the fronts to make them look nice.

Once we secured the funding, the idea just kind of fit with the restaurant concept itself. It was a Chinese Brasserie and a lot of the branding kind of looked back at this book I found which was called Hong Kong Apothecary. So a lot of the graphic motifs and a lot of the fonts and a lot of the little graphics you see everywhere are from that book.

Then we looked at old signs as well. I always wanted the sign to say “dumplings”. You know how the old signs used to say “cocktails” or something with an arrow…you know…pointing at the restaurant. We just took a lot of the graphics from that book and old signs, then Phoebe Glasfurd worked on the design and I just tweaked a few things here and there.

I don’t remember it being a drawn-out process. We talked about it, then they came back to me with a few ideas and then we came to the final version after about three different versions of it had been worked on. It was a natural and fun process.”

Here’s a visual history Bao Bei, from blank canvas to busy room:

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  • Bao Bei | Scout Magazine
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  • Nudies in the boys loo | Bao Bei | Scout Magazine
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  • Tannis Ling, owner of Bao Bei, on the night before opening night
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  • Pintxos | Bao Bei + Edulis Eat Vancouver Dinner
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  • In the kitchen at Bao Bei
  • Salade Gourmoande - Wild Dandelion, Fresh Porcini, Salt Cod Vinaigrette, Cider Poached Foie Gras, Smoked Crab Apple Puree, Wild Onion | Bao Bei + Edulis Eat Vancouver Dinner
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  • At the end of the night, the staff at Bao Bei gather for their family meal
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  • | Bao Bei + Edulis Eat Vancouver Dinner
  • Valrhona chocolate mousse, sesame candy, banana | Bao Bei + Edulis Eat Vancouver Dinner
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  • Table #1 at Bao Bei
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  • | Bao Bei + Edulis Eat Vancouver Dinner
  • Tannis serving Haywire Pinot Gris | Bao Bei + Edulis Eat Vancouver Dinner

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