The Roger @ TD+

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the TD+ WeChat Platform, designed to background events and people in the design world and to offer a platform for interactive debate in the creative fields.

To begin with, the title, “Thinking Design”, we all are, or should be, familiar with the phrase “Design Thinking”. How design is integrated into business culture and assists in formulating processes for product development. It has become a studied and applied area of research, quite academic. I wanted to make our blog more accessible so this platform is for everybody who thinks about design, ‘thinking design’ seems more appropriate as you don’t need to be a designer to appreciate good design.

The title also operates on another level, thinking design (clever design) also implies a certain quality of design, design that considers issues, provokes alternative solutions and, perhaps most importantly, understands its role in society and the business world equally. Design is about creating solutions that work on many levels too and so the title is quite important to explain our purpose.  To help designers to perform at higher levels, clients to understand the potential of a project and society as a whole to improve as a result.

No simple task, but we are good at complex thinking and as a result of some integrated thinking design, I have selected as my first topic for discussion a sensitive one. One that has so many players it will beyond doubt prove the above explanation of the title as being for all people interested in design, but not only designers, so welcome to the blog, and don’t forget, I want your thoughts too, more about that later.

Why China Policy needs to consider the place of design in business and society.

I recently read a very compelling paper by an eminent Scottish professor who contends that Chinese business is, generally, more future proof than many of its Western counterparts because it is not restricted by the age old conventions and habits that have evolved over the last 300 or so years and currently dominate many aspects of business performance in the West. Not looking to the past and constraints that restrict growth and development,Chinais ready for the future, but how to define that future is the big question facing the Chinese Government now.

I recently read another paper, and it is the integration of these two papers that establish the theme of my article. The second paper was from a meeting of the State Council,’ Made in China 2025’, it announced the 10 directions for Government special funding and support to the future.

Those directions are:

Info Tech, High end numerical control and automation (mechatronics), aerospace and aviation, maritime and high tech vessel manufacturing, advanced rail equipment, energy saving vehicles, electrical equipment, new materials, biotech and medical equipment, agricultural equipment.

No doubt these are all good choices for development but I see a gap, I see one area of development and support which has been traditionally left out of the mix in Western business thinking too, Design, and it seems to missing from the State Councils thinking too.

Some of the most successful economies and corporations in the world are, or are becoming design led. Germany’s rise from the Second World War based on principles of design and quality, Italy’s rebranding of itself as a design culture has led to its place at the top of the design, fashion and manufacturing world,  Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway and Finland all have a history of design led productivity, Samsung Corporation has designers involved in all levels of decision making, as do BMW, Dyson, Apple, and the list goes on.

Each one of the industries to be supported by Government would benefit from the inclusion of design thinking people, not to see design as something you apply at the end of the development process (see: Tim Brown, IDEO). Design thinking assists in exploring not only technological or scientific but also more esoteric and humanistic aspects of the development processes. In an increasingly demanding and concerned consumer world, Designers can assist in defining user experiences and expectations and integrating these ‘soft’ elements into the development process.

While living inNew Zealand, a good friend of mine, the President of the Labour Party, asked if I could help their Department of Commerce to develop marketing and industrial design solutions for the some products they had been working on. It seems there were these ‘boffins’ or nerds who had invented numerous world beating products but none of them had any market potential because they were not usable due to a lack of parallel design development. In other words, let’s pop design in at the end to make it look ‘nice’, not the way to meet the market of the future.

I used to run the design department in theSchoolofEngineeringatMasseyUniversityinNew Zealand. My responsibility was in the area of Product Development and it here where I strongly advise the Chinese Government to look into assisting the ten areas by committing to design led product development support for them. I worked on a variety of projects that cover many of the ten areas and it from this experience that I make the suggestion to instigate product development at university level.

The process of product development is applicable to all products and services, the research types, materials testing, design and prototyping and consumer evaluation create the parameters for decision making and so lead to successful integrated manufacturing. The post production/implementation evaluation processes lead to ever increasing quality and market approvals and this informs further development and innovation.

So here’s the first one, a complex topic, but one which demonstrates my belief in the importance of design. It shows the possibilities of how design can be so much more important once you start to integrate diverse information into the project and how the project will benefit from that. Hopefully in the future we can discuss how to gain that information, what to do with it and when best to use it to advance the designers profile inChina.

And if you share my belief that design is not just a job, but a way of life that can help people and society to understand their living environment better and enjoy the benefits of “Thinking Design”, I would appreciate your feedback. This helps produce talks which fit the reader’s profiles and hopefully help in extending your understanding of design more globally. I am also interested in what you think would be good topics for discussion, so if you have issues you would like me to explore, send the suggestion along to me on this blog.

(I suggest you Search the comments I make in brackets as these are for your research.)

roger b.


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