Designed, and made, in China.

I have been asked to respond to these three words, inspiration, experience and enjoyment In order to this I considered a few ways to illustrate the relationship between these words. I looked at architecture, interior and industrial design, urban planning and I looked at a variety of business applications and alternative creative possibilities….. Secondly I analyzed the words themselves and couldn’t see the three of them working together, one of them is wrong. Inspiration, great we all need a little inspiration, experience, great, we gain experience every day, but enjoyment…. This seems out of context, although we need enjoyment too, it doesn’t fit the 1+1=3, it doesn’t describe the breadth of solutions that inspiration and experience together can achieve. If we change the word enjoyment to success, or solution we can cover all the outcomes of combining the first two words, inspiration and experience…. For example, if we design an office space, we don’t look for enjoyment as much as efficiency or economy. If we design a retail space we would expect successful sales and an environment that people would be able to experience the full range of products available, of course for these spaces enjoyment should be a by product but not the primary aim. And of course there are spaces and objects that we design that are specifically for enjoyment but these examples are all ways of describing outcomes that are solutions, not just enjoyable, and of course they all must be creative and appropriate for the task. So, having analysed the words and their meaning together….and having reviewed them for accuracy, what could be the best way of describing the outcomes to a group of designers and people who are interested in design. As I used business as one of the analytical tools for the words, I think it’s appropriate to use my business as a model. We use inspiration and experience as tools for the development of all our projects whatever the expected outcome and as it is a design business it should be relevant to the audience. The model is very simple, I employ both Chinese and international graduates and I coach them to become confident and capable designers. I do this in a number of ways, I coach them during the development of projects having taken the brief, analysed it and then briefed them. They then produce a number of concepts to show and we discuss potentially successful solutions. They then develop these through rigorous questioning, into design proposals and so on, the design process as we all know it. I also run design history research, materials research social responsibility issues, and a number of other additions to their base knowledge to ensure a rich and diverse platform for them to design from. What’s different is that there is a future….the purpose of integrating Chinese and international graduates is that each have strengths and each have weaknesses and by combining both I produce an internationally competitive Chinese focused designer that I call, China International, like China Modern, but they are not a style, they are becoming a movement. Why do this, I believe for the individual there is a need to express creative ideas with a commercial competence and so improve the standard of design generally and the place of designers specifically. Designers are not commonly as respected as they should be in China and that’s where the international graduates come in. They bring with them a self confidence and enquiring approach to the work they do, Chinese generally have a much less developed sense of confidence due to the education system and Chinese culture where the boss is always respected regardless of whether they deserve respect or not. I do this for China as believe there is soon to be an opportunity to integrate internationally competitive design more effectively into mainstream business here. Here I refer to the move away from China of increasing numbers of manufacturers to cheaper centers like Viet Nam and Cambodia where multi nationals produce good s for the world as they used to in China. I refer also to comments from the Obama administration suggesting that there will continue to be increasingly less imports from China even after the financial crisis. So China needs designers who have the tools of international business and the skills of international manufacturing to assist in ensuring employment and wealth creation do not stall in the next booming economy. My plan is not to change Chinese designers into foreigners, but to equip them with foreign attitudes and processes, to retain their Chinese-ness and to integrate the two components into truly Chinese designers. For instance, to be internationally competitive Chinese designers must be aware of and able employ standards of manufacture and safety, for instance, and be able to meet all compliance regulations which are becoming increasingly complex but control the manufacturers’ ability to export. We will hopefully produce the first Chinese stars of design, there are none yet, no phillipe Starkes, Ron Arads, Zaha Hadids etc etc etc and it should be these designers who lead the ‘Designed and made in China’ slogan that drives my thinking. I have been introducing this model for development for just over one year now. The two groups are maturing rapidly and I am increasing the numbers every month. The first Chinese designers are now moving into positions of responsibility; the first interns are either working full time with me or have scored top jobs in their home countries, against all the experienced designers competing for the same very limited number of jobs. Many of our clients are starting to realize that good design is a process and a business tool, not just a service industry to be interfered with by inexperienced opinions, and they are coming back with new projects. To illustrate this approach and type of client I will show you the exhibition rooms we did for Dong Peng in Wuxi and the client Yang, who has already come back to us with more interior and furniture design projects. He understands that in business to be competitive, you need design that is competitive and to be competitive in design you need……. inspiration, experience and success……with a little enjoyment too. Thankyou………..

roger b.

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