In 2005, the story of Minh Graphic began as An Phu Design, a Vietnamese-founded company with a vision for creative communication. Over the years, Minh Graphic has undergone a significant transformation, welcoming new Danish partners and evolving its focus.
Today, Minh Graphic stands as a dynamic player in the graphic design industry. Seamlessly blending Vietnamese and Danish influences.
ScandAsia met with the company’s Managing Director, Thuy Nguyen, at their office in District 4, Ho Chi Minh City, for an insightful conversation on the company’s transformation.
The intersection of cultures
An Phu Design’s was initially a collaboration between The Vietnamese packaging company, Liksin and Buchs, a Danish communication agency, along with IFU, a Danish fund company. A cooperation that marked the fusion of Vietnamese and Danish influences. Despite having a Vietnamese founder, Danish companies played an essential role from the start. The multicultural team flourished, with a mix of Vietnamese, Danish, and today some Finnish talent.
Thuy Nguyen has been associated with the company since its inception in 2005. She took a brief break during a two-year period, during which she worked for one of the three Danish-owned graphic companies in the city.
“I like the culture that the Scandinavian touch brings to the work environment. I have always enjoyed my work at Minh Graphic, which is one of the reasons why I came back here. Another reason why I like working for Danish owned companies is, that my husband is Vietnamese-Danish. He was born in Denmark. Working for a Danish company, and navigating the cultural nuances associated with it brings me closer to my husband’s culture,” Thuy shares.
Relocation and restructuring
In 2010, Minh Graphic experienced a significant shift in ownership. The Vietnamese company, Liksin, withdrew as a partner, while Envision, another Danish communication agency, stepped in. The company continued to thrive, adapting to changes and relocating from Binh Thanh District to District 4, for enhanced accessibility and expanded operations. The commitment to quality and growth remained unwavering until the departure of IFU in 2013. Still, the company continued to evolve, moving its office to their current location in Dinh Le Tower in 2015, while Thuy Nguyen stepped in is Managing Director of Minh Graphic in 2018.
“As the Managing Director at Minh Graphic, I consider my Vietnamese background to be a significant strength. I understand the concerns of my colleagues, which allows me to comprehend and address them effectively. Thereby contributing to their satisfaction and happiness in the workplace. My primary focus is on people, recognizing that content and fulfilled employees contribute to the satisfaction of our clients,” Thuy shares with a sincere smile.
The company’s leadership also witnessed shifts, within the board with Danish figures playing pivotal roles. Annie Sørensen, former CFO at Envision, took on the role of Chairman in 2011, and thereby broadened the Danish influence. The Chairman position is today occupied by another Danish professional, Chris Taastrup Mikkelsen, who is the Head of Prepress and Production at Envision.
Still, the commitment to maintaining Danish standards and quality persist – emphasizing Minh Graphic’s dedication to its Scandinavian roots.
The Danish design influences
Under Danish ownership, Minh Graphic has not only embraced the Scandinavian work culture but also the Danish design ethos. With an eye for minimalist and functional design, the company is behind well-known graphic for big Danish companies like Føtex, Bilka and Egmont.
“Danish graphic design leans are often more aligned and less colorful, while Vietnamese design traditionally embraced vibrant colors. However, there’s a noticeable shift in Vietnam towards a more international, subdued style, adapting to Western influences. You can see that in street advertisements. But still not at the same level as Scandinavian companies. Danish companies generally avoid bright colors, except in kid-focused media,”Thuy shares after many years of experience, doing graphic design for Danish clients.
The Danish-inspired principles of simplicity and innovation has thereby become a fundamental part of Minh Graphic’s design philosophy.
Adapting to rising challenges
Navigating through cultural design differences is not the only challenge Minh Graphic is facing. With shifts in the industry, particularly the move from print to digital the company constantly has to adapt to keep up. With a dedicated team and a focus on AI and online platforms, the company is constantly working on positioning itself as a forward-thinking player in the ever-evolving design landscape.
“In Danish magazines, there’s a shift towards reducing paper, and a focus on online platforms. The integration of AI technologies is on the rise, enhancing efficiency. Our employees are becoming increasingly aware of these changes. Previously, we lacked capabilities in banner production and animation. However, in the past two to three years, we invested in training our team, and now we have a skilled and robust team for such tasks. We are committed to keeping pace with technological advancements, learning more, and adapting to the growing online landscape,” Thuy reassures.
As Minh Graphic embraced technological shifts, the influence of Danish design principles still remains at the forefront. The company’s foray into AI, online platforms, and digital design is showcasing its agility in aligning with global trends while preserving the minimalistic elegance synonymous with Danish design.
A flexible and inclusive workplace
The company’s two-shift system, designed to align with both Vietnamese and Danish working hours, reflects Minh Graphic’s commitment to a Danish-inspired workplace culture – showing the place commitment towards being a flexible and inclusive working place for their employees. The offices open communication culture along with flexible working hours, and a friendly environment mirrors the Danish culture and creates a blend of Vietnamese and Danish influences.
“Since I have never worked in a Scandinavian country, I can’t draw exact comparisons with Vietnamese companies. But in a Vietnamese-owned company, hierarchy and approval processes are prevalent. Accessing the managing director at my previous workplace involved navigating through multiple steps. In contrast, the environment here is characterized by openness and friendliness. As the managing director, I am easily accessible, fostering a more direct and approachable culture. This aligns with a more open office culture,” Thuy says.
“I also actively seek employee feedback through annual surveys, aiming to create an optimal working environment based on their preferences. Involving employees in decision-making is definitely a practice inspired by the Scandinavian approach,” she adds.
Dedicated to talent and education
Minh Graphic not only prioritizes its clients but also invests in the development of its employees. Thuy emphasizes the collaborative effort with the education ministry in Denmark, supporting vocational schools in Vietnam. This cooperative effort ensures that Vietnamese designers receive training aligned with Danish standards. Thereby fostering a new generation of talent in Vietnam to overtake the outsourced Danish graphic work in the future.
”We get to host Vietnamese interns in our program in collaborate with the Danish Ministry of Children and Education, along with the Vocational Education Program sponsored by the Danish Embassy in Hanoi and the Vietnamese government.”
“It’s hard getting an internship here in Vietnam, so we appreciate the help to develop future graphic designers here at Minh Graphic,” Thuy explains.
Minh Graphic reflects a harmonious blend of Vietnamese and Danish culture. As the company behind the graphic design of several recognizable Scandinavian brands, Minh Graphic stands as a cultural fusion, where the minimalistic of Danish design meets the vibrant colors of Vietnam.