Happy New Year! The 12 Chinese Zodiac Characters, Designed by SOM

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Celebrating Chinese Culture

For more than four decades, SOM has been working in China, where it has honored the country’s rich history while creating buildings and master plans that embrace the future. To celebrate the Chinese New Year, the firm has illustrated the animals of the 12-year zodiac calendar, with each animal featured in an annual greeting card. Click through to learn how our Graphics + Branding studio approached the design of each unique character.

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According to lore, the Rat is considered quick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind, and smart. To convey this mix of intelligent and friendly qualities, the figure’s lowered, oval face works in tandem with its eyes to communicate a direct, bright, and calm gaze.

Recent Years of the Rat:
2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936, 1924

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The Ox is diligent, reliable, honest, determined, and ambitious. Strong, arcing lines in this illustration frame weighty negative space, capturing the animal’s self-assured, sturdy, and dauntless posture.

Recent Years of the Ox:
2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937, 1925

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Brave, confident, adventurous, expansive, open, and independent, the Tiger is a natural leader. Together with its broad, solid features, the Tiger’s upturned ears, sharp eyes, and unclosed form project tenaciousness and fearlessness.

Recent Years of the Tiger:
2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938, 1926

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The fourth animal of the Chinese zodiac, the Rabbit is gentle, quiet, clever, elegant, alert, and patient. The light, bounding form of the Rabbit communicates its graceful and amiable nature, while its direct gaze suggests a bright and attentive presence.

Recent Years of the Rabbit:
2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939, 1927

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Enthusiasm, confidence, intelligence, and diligence are the Dragon’s main attributes. The creature, portrayed with flared nostrils and fiery breath, projects intensity. Its aggressively arched, flowing form displays its energy and ambitiousness.

Recent Years of the Dragon:
2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940, 1928

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The Snake is intelligent, wise, calm, courageous, lively, and communicative. Its winding, forward-facing position projects a studied and educated deliberateness, while its outstretched tongue captures the animated quality of the serpent.

Recent Years of the Snake:
2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941, 1929

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Active, energetic, kind, rational, and optimistic, the Horse is sculpted through a sequence of powerful strokes and bowed lines. Its straightforward yet muscular assembly speaks to its spry and levelheaded nature.

Recent Years of the Horse:
2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930

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The eighth animal of the Chinese zodiac, the Goat is polite, elegant, creative, calm, and dependable. Its dignified stance and steady footing communicates its poise and composure, while curved antlers suggest an inherent charisma and creativity.

Recent Years of the Goat:
2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931

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Renowned for its clever nature, the Monkey is also frank, optimistic, mischievous, and adventurous. Composed entirely of arcs, this drawing highlights the simian’s sly and cheery side.

Recent Years of the Monkey:
2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932, 1920

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The Rooster is perceptive, hardworking, confident, courageous, talented, and honest. Its raised leg and expressive tail feathers speak to the animal’s bold and valiant qualities, while its turned head and keen eye are symbolic of its powers of observation.

Recent Years of the Rooster:
2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921

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Amiable, kind, cautious, loyal, and sincere are the characteristics that define the Dog. Many of these traits are communicated through the shape of the brow, while the proportions and relative proximity of the snout lend an affability to the illustration.

Recent Years of the Dog:
2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934, 1922

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The twelfth animal of the Chinese zodiac, the Pig is compassionate, generous, easy-going, earnest, responsible, and modest. The figure’s relaxed, prone positioning exhibits its serenity and humility. Its rotund features and cernuous head communicate the Pig’s friendly qualities.

Recent Years of the Pig:
2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935, 1923