Interview on about Design Business in China 关于中国设计业的访谈

thinking design



Roger interviewed by, the Chinese Interior Design Net, earlier this month微信图片_20170727151328

Theme: Located in a city of design, how does B+SW adapt to and lead the development of design? What’s your opinion about international design environment at home and abroad?


Roger: My business has always been based on a research approach to projects and, by consequence, developing a future focused capability in the designers who work here. We design from our knowledge and experience base, and if those bases are limited, then so is our ability to design with the credibility needed to convince clients that we are worth our fee, the better you are, the more you can charge. As in any other business, investment is needed to improve and our investments are in knowledge and technology. My design teams are all researchers and have a topic of their own choice, but must also be of value to the business. We also run a design history seminar every week, topics that extend designers understanding and appreciation of many diverse aspects of design, culture and society……check to see some examples, (although we are a little behind in these two areas at the moment).


A963: Hi, Roger. It has been seven years since Shenzhen was selected as the city of design, as a representative international company in Shenzhen, from which aspects does B+SW feel the encouragement and support for the design industry in Shenzhen?


Roger: Support from who…?

Other than A963, I don’t see any support for design as a business in SZ. I think most businesses still see design as an expense, not an investment, that’s the basic problem here and that will only change when companies adopt an understanding that design assists the development of all aspects of biz from products, interiors, brand, print, web and marketing when they utilize a thinking design approach to their business, then design will flourish as it has in other countries. So if we can organize support for design and designers to help business to realize the values of design then that would be a good start, how to do this, I have some good ideas… read below…?


A: China is developing rapidly. The Chinese government has just introduced upgrades in ten key sectors of manufacturing industry before, presenting the concept of ‘MADE IN CHINA 2025′. In your opinion, what can design bring to development? Pease give examples to illustrate it.


R: I am currently promoting design led product development (DLPD) as a support to these government initiatives. All the ten areas for investment lack the benefit of an experienced commercialisation unit and that can be introduced through DLPD. DLPD is aprocess which can be applied to all products and services and through a series of evaluation stages ensures that products are ready for the market. In a globally competitive environment, if products are simply a good idea, or innovative technology, without satisfying more subtle consumer needs, then they will not be competitive with leading international products and services who’s design direction also focuses on ‘soft’ elements of development and social understanding of consumer wants and needs. The days of ‘making do’ have gone and manufacturers now have to understand the expectations of international consumers, and increasingly Chinese, who are showing preference to products that are environmentally safe, have sophisticated user considerations and are, of course well designed.


A: What’s the reason that you pay attention to the policy of design investment? Is the fact that B+SW is an international design company counted in?


R: Design investment…? Where….?


A: Referring to investments in design field in foreign countries, taking Samsung as an example, its success is contributed to design, but government’s support also plays a very important role in its success. What’s your opinion about this phenomenon?


R: I don’t agree that the governments support has very much to do with the success of design led companies overseas. The majority of companies that describe themselves as design led are simply confident, innovative and technologically advanced and understand consumer expectations. The world has changed through generational evolution, many of the current older thoughts are still rooted in the post WWII thinking of, utility rather than excellence. This is understandable, the need for economy was necessary, but now with later generations, an expectation of top performance, user centered and value added are the norm. Price is an issue, technology is another, but design is the main differentiation between products these days, manufacturers who fail to understand this will not be with us for long. The brand development of a company relies on consumer appreciation of the design approach the companies take, so the importance of design cannot continue to be relegated to ‘making things look nice’… DLPD develops the holistic approach to a company’s organizational developments and products through design thinking techniques.


A: Our designers have always kept a close contact with designers in Italy. As a leader of global design, why can they keep the edge in your opinion? What can we learn from them?


R: I would say the most important thing to be learnt from Italian design is for business in China to appreciate the value and contribution design and designers can make to organizations, especially during a period of immense change, as China is in right now. Design is not simply how things look, it is about how to develop the whole manufacturing programme, the organization required to implement the programme and then how to market it, to whom and why. In the face of massive change themselves at the end of WWII, Italy developed this perception of excellence as designers, now because they ‘walk the talk’, their economy, post war, has been based on this belief and so they have made it a reality, (perception becomes reality) I do not think that Italian design is that good, but they do, and so it works, this confidence is what Chinese business can learn from the Italian model.


A: The postwar economic development of Italy is based on design education, but they don’t have design academies domestic and designers should first accept the education of architects. What influences does this kind of model have on designers and what’s your opinion?


R: This philosophy is based more on allowing a student to develop a personal interest and direction in design, art and architecture and as they progress through the course the focus gets sharper, but still allows a holistic approach to design decisions. It is the model I studied as a student in England, and it is the model I have adapted for my position as head of design schools in New Zealand and Australia. I totally agree with the idea that a creative individual must be given the opportunity to ‘find’ their way in a creative environment, as long as they accept the rigour of professionalism as part of it, from this comes genuine innovation. Design is above all else a business oriented profession, it is not an art where self expression is the model, design closely follows the needs and often predicts the future of business. This is what China needs if the concept of innovative economic development is to happen, you can’t just tell people to be innovators, you have to create the right structures and support to encourage it.


A: Are there any other cases promoting the design development in the world impress you? Please share them with us.


R: I am quite impressed with my own design development programmes, they are innovative and they are demanding of the students, in business though they are often a little bit ahead of client’s expectations. Through my insistence in ongoing learning and research I believe my design management rates high in comparison to any other in the world, often the problem lies in selling this to Clients, so we compromise a little. There are also notable schools of design the Architects Association in London, Royal College of Art, Art Center and many others, and there are many highly successful design led companies in the world, it would be nice to get a programme started in China to assist in the uptake in both education and business here and create links with some of these long established centres of excellence.


A: Many western countries have long historical and cultural traditions, and they have become veritable design powers. But in China, Chinese elements are frequently copied in design. Do there exist any differences in ways of thinking between them?


R: I honestly believe that design talent already exists in China, designers only lack the focus, confidence and opportunity to become a world power in design. Design is, after all, only about 30 years old in China, since the economic policies of Deng Xiao Ping, before that it was all utility and industry. I have been visiting and helping in China for 15 years and have witnessed a great change in the apparent abilities of designers here, I think that a look at design education objectives and some coaching for business leaders would strengthen that growth in ability and, most importantly encourage younger Chinese designers to develop a design culture which reflects China, not some copy of a western model.


A: How to deal with the individuality and otherness of different countries when China is learning from them? What positive ideas and thoughts do you have?


R: Individuality is the word, and an education that insists on the development of divergent thinking, rather than the linear or conventional thinking, is I believe the only way to move into the future as described by the governments Made in China 2025 policy. I believe there is a need for Business studies, Engineering and Design to work together and develop a hybrid approach to ‘design in business’ courses for emerging designers. As I said above, global business is making decisions about products and services that most Chinese designers and businesses don’t even know about yet, why…? (lack of research and development ) Those who do know, or understand the need to find out will be the ones who succeed in the new Made in China 2025 environment.

正是个性,以及一种坚持开发发散性思维而不是线性或者传统思维的教育,我相信要迈向政府在“中国制造2025”中所描绘的未来,这是唯一的途径。将商业研究、工程学和设计结合,并开发出为新生代设计师而设的混合式“商业设计”课程,我相信这种需求是存在的。正如我在上面所说,全球商业在产品和服务方面正在做出的决策,甚至还不为大部分中国设计师和企业所知,为什么会这样呢?(缺乏研究和开发。) 那些对此有所了解或者明白到需要找出答案的设计师,将成为在“中国制造2025”新环境下取得成功的那一部分人。

A: To become a country or city of design, what does China still lack? And what efforts did B+SW make?


R: I wrote many supportive articles and papers in support of Shenzhen’s application to become a city of design and I am happy to be able to tell my international colleagues that I now live and work in such a city. For the rest of china, why bother, between Shanghai and SZ that’s enough, let’s focus on education, at all levels, and see China as adesign led country not just a few cities. Develop MBA degrees with a DLPD content for existing and emerging business, provide design, architecture and engineering degrees that provoke students to evolve rather than replicate and supply meaningful scholarships or awards to younger designers and students of design so they can travel, see and experience, in context, the influences that the rest of the world of design has to offer. Travel is the most important experience a young person can have and for such a small cost the ROI would be one of the best investments the Chinese Government could make to support the 10 areas of investment for ‘Made in China 2025’.


Designer profile: Roger Billington

‘the need for designers to develop attitudes and abilities to control ‘inexperienced’ clients who think after the design rather than before it…..client control’….(you do your job then I can do mine….)

交换空间:毕以沫 CCTV- Roger Billington’s Black-and-White World

Please click above interview to see China CCTV’s special design intro on Roger Billington

Honorary President of Dongguan Designers Club

Speech for Kolani in Dongguan

Making fun of Chinese local elements-Roger Billington

Interview from Zhonghang Anniversary



Q: As a designer, pick up a word to describe yourself.

A: People see you differently from you do yourself. If only one word is allowed to describe myself, I would say ‘uncompromising’. Everyone has its own principle. Once it’s determined, don’t compromise it to surroundings so easily. Of course, uncompromising doesn’t mean go your own way. Sometimes when other people propose a better solution, you need to accept it. It’s important to leave your heart open.

Q: You have been to many places of the world. Which city would you most likely stay?

A: I have to think about it. Shanghai is good, Barcelona is not bad, New York is ok and of course Shenzhen is good too. If I have to choose within China, Shanghai is my favorite city. Shanghai is a complicated city with multi-cultural atmosphere, diversified architecture, well preserved historic culture. Internationalization gives it life. Local people are friendly and can speak English more or less, which is convenient to me.

Q: What’s your impression of Shenzhen?

A: Shenzhen is very clean. It’s rare to see such a clean city in China. Shenzhen has done a good job in landscaping, so you can see trees and blossoms everywhere. It’s a comfortable place to live. I have been living in here for 6 months and I had a good time.

Q: Pick up 3 words to describe your design style

A: First of all, integration. Each design starts with the project’s feature to make it integrate with its environment, client, and material, then each part becomes integral part of the whole. Secondly, simple but sophisticated. Finally is challenging. Each job is a new challenge from which we learn and advance.

Q: What’s your most satisfied work so far?

A: To me, there is no such a most satisfied work because I dedicate to each single project with my heart. I should say there has always been no best design, but a better design.

Q: Do you have any idol? Does any idol influence your creation?

A: The older you get, the less idol you will have, because you realize every one has its limitation. Jimi Hendirix is a great guitar player who I used to admire as young and I still do. In design industry, Norman Foster is irreplaceable to me and so is Renzo Piano, although there are few idols to me in design area. Norman Foster dedicated his life to practicing an attitude to architecture. His work has been sustainable, practical and human related. Some massive buildings are environmentally and human friendly. For instance, HK airport, before start, you have to understand and respect people. Essentially design is to facilitate people not just to look good.

Q: Which do you prefer, spatial or product design? If you didn’t choose design, what else career would you take?

A: There is no difference to me because there is something in common between interior design and product design, common approach, attitude and philosophy. To be a designer, you have to have your own design philosophy and put them into design practice. Therefore it doesn’t matter to differentiate areas in design. I haven’t thought about other careers yet because I have been interested in design since young. My mother was a fashion designer, so since I had memory, I have been living in a visual world and all I have been doing is related to vision. If I didn’t do design, I would become an artist.

Q: In Shenzhen, in a job of your interior designs—zhonghang, you created styles of ‘escape from urban, easy living and New York modern’. How did you come up with these inspirations, especially ‘escape’?

A: Show room design is to maximize the needs of potential customers, so before we started we did a lot of research, and finally we focused on 3 typical target groups: a young couple, a couple with adult children, and a family with 3 generations, each having their own character. Interior design is far more than putting followers on the table, but requires designers have clear conception before start. Every people living in the contemporary metropolises are facing the pressure of survival, so home should play a role of port where people can rest. This is where ‘escape from the urban’ came from. Temporary escape is not equal to seclusion because the contemporary youth need elegance and fashion as well. This is the core of this theme.

The most important thing is education—skylife

Q: How to vest modern function with the old style architecture? What’s the biggest difficulty? How to integrate both modern and classic?

A: Essentially this is a matter of education. To achieve this, we need to appreciate our tradition and protect it. Old architecture was the fruit of our ancient architects, and it self had its own function which we need to learn. For instance, I used to renovate an ancient village in Oxford shire in UK. I didn’t mean to touch anything, but tried to reinforce the house and add in modern facilities before the old building could be re-used by the villagers. The village kept its soul but was endowed with modern values by me. Being designers, we need to appreciate the value of old buildings and architecture, instead of negating it. This is all about education. We have to educate ourselves before teaching other people. Only when people would use it with pleasure, will the value of architecture be realized.

Q: Currently there is a phenomenon in China that many historic architectures and vernacular buildings vanish gradually while heaps of modern buildings arise. Conversely, in Europe, traditional buildings are protected very well. How do they do this? What can China learn from this?

A: it’s true. Most of old European buildings used to be the royal’s habitats which were great designs with strong functions. I was in charge of a design for a fast food chain store in UK. The owner purchased many old buildings and asked me to renovate them with modern elements. Fast food is unpopular with English people and many of them would not like to choose a fast food store for a meal. Unexpectedly, the English people accept fast food because they enjoy dining in a place with original english culture. This is ethos edification. Actually, there are many amazing ancient buildings in China. As long as our designers renovate them with heart, we can see the creativity on those buildings. Unlike invention, creativity is defined as the discernment of and adaptation to future development with technical knowledge. We must find out the future of ancient architecture.

Q: Foshan is a historic city in China which is rich in vernacular culture. Do you think about some projects here? Foshan is the biggest production base of building material in China, and how do you value the material here?

A: I have heard of the city with its rich culture and I would like to take the opportunity to visit some architectures. SW is preparing for 3 to 4 projects here so we are keen to show my design and I hope my design concepts can be appreciated.

Meanwhile, as a designer, I really appreciate the material here. In my opinion, this place is not only rich in building material, but rich in culture and designers. I think China is like a ship which is ready for the journey. The world is watching China and waits for it to march.

Interview from Modern Decoration

There’s  an old saying in university education in the west that goes…..if the students are not better than you when they leave ,you have failed to engage them….and so progress, or increase the body of knowledge.

These days this certainly depends more on the attitude of the students than the competence of the teacher, but the adage is still true in many ways.

This is the philosophy I employ in SW design, and it’s one that addresses the issues raised in the 3 questions asked , stars or teams, backstage heroes, avoidance of brain drain. These are all comments that suggest a certain lack of resolution to the management or running of the business and this is not surprising as the design business in china is still quite young. I have also noted that the standard of training in university lacks a certain future proofing, like, this is the way we do it because this is the way we have always done it and, before you can do this, you must prove you can do that. In the west the approach is significantly different but suffers a certain similarity of result although for different reasons.

To address all the above circumstances and questions, I have introduced an internship system, amongst other things, for both Chinese and international graduates and through the integration of these two groups have found a balance that avoids many of the pitfalls of either.

As each individual progresses through the company they become confident to make decisions that are based on good research, thorough knowledge of materials, a growing understanding of the history of design and architecture, (something our Chinese graduates know very little of when they arrive here), and an ability to work with the client, not for them, to achieve a design solution that extends expectation and therefore satisfaction.

Question one, everybody has had to ‘suffer’ the indignity of having their work represented by their supervisor, this is actually an important part of the business. What client wants to know that their project was undertaken by a young gun with only a year or two’s experience, equally what supervisor has the time or focus to complete all the projects that come into a busy office without substantial support from juniors. This is the way juniors become intermediates and then seniors and then supervisors and so on. I suggest that there is a certain inevitability to the first question through the process of business development, of course there are always those who claim others work as their own and that’s a different question, I suggest you don’t work in those offices if you don’t accept this situation.

Question two is one of certain commercial sensitivity as I have taken thirty years to develop the management, administrative and academic structures I am attempting to implement and apply to this Chinese context. However, the question can be discussed through general objectives rather than specific details. I believe the business of design has two levels of approach. One is the’ we do all things for all people’ because we want to be the biggest, or the richest, or whatever, the other is, we want to be the best. To develop a style and approach to design which actually changes people’s lives for the better and acknowledges the real need to understand the place of design in business, not just an addition at the back end of the project. Additionally, and rather obviously, we need to promote a respect for the environmental and sustainable issues often talked about but rarely adopted in such a fast paced society as china today. It is through constant reiteration of these principles and the advantages that they bring that I avoid, I hope, the brain drain effects of simply pushing through the projects as if they don’t have any real purpose or creative, innovative value. I believe most, if not all, of my designers understand that they are experiencing rigorous and professional questioning of the decisions they are making on the projects they work on and that through this the design processes are understood and systematically employed by them. As they progress through seniority, they begin to ask similar questions of the junior designers and so again the process continues. I run design history and materials presentations which are researched by design staff, we conduct analysis of projects and we invite comments from clients and staff on the understanding that all suggestions will be considered, but not necessarily adopted. This gives designers the confidence to be challenged and to challenge, both necessary attitudes for successful design solutions. Self value and high morale is evident with the knowledge that they are in the most progressive design company in Shenzhen, if not china, they inherit a natural self confidence, and as this develops so does my company, so it’s a win/win situation for client/designer/company/the planet.

Question three is a natural follow on from the above, there are no world stars in Chinese design. There are no phillipe starckes, ron arads, Philip johnsons, marc newsomes, zaha hadids, ross lovegroves, yet. I think question 3 suitably illustrates my first points, that design in china is still very new. It has not had time or opportunity to address the issues that promote real stardom, if that’s the appropriate word for a socially responsible leader, as top designers are. The policies and practices I am introducing are likely to lead to truly world class thinkers and practitioners of and about design. My strategies at SW are not just about developing a successful business but are geared to the future of Chinese manufacturing and the Chinese economy. When, as is the case, there become cheaper places for the world of manufacturing and designers send their production to viet nam or wherever, china will need innovative, creative and thinking designers to fill the gap and so become the first truly top chinese designers on a world stage where stardom comes as a result of talent and responsibility not just wealth or reputation.

My business is geared to engage designers in a process that recognises all these issues and the place of team work to promote quality, people centered designs for our clients. Within this office, the issue of stardom or teamwork as options does not exist, we have both………

Roger B.

The balance producer – a interview from Mangazine

Q: In terms of clients, how do you make a balance between clients’ taste and your design concept?

A: I believe the clients come to me and my design studio due to my ability and competence. When they disagree with my concept, being a good designer, I usually tell them the reason why we do this and why we don’t, and the implication of this. After they realize you have all supportive reasons behind the design, they will respect you. After all, you are more professional than they are. A designer, who does whatever he is told to, runs counter to the real art.

Q: how do you refuse the clients? You think of yourself a ‘bad tempered’ man.

A: Well, I have bad temper indeed, but I know how to respect my client. ‘Persuasion’ is always my first choice. Actually I persuade my students in the studio as well. They are happy to work with me because they don’t only obtain knowledge but have fun.

Q: Students? Haven’t you finished teaching career?

A: It’s far away. One of main reasons that I came to China is to see whether I can teach Chinese even international students with my knowledge and skills. Currently, there are many young designers and fresh design graduates. I will focus on educating them both theory and practice, which is totally different from Chinese education. I lead them to do the projects and research; therefore each one can learn some knowledge, like latest material, architecture technology, etc., and then they can share these knowledge in a weekly presentation. An individual can never learn all in any industry by themselves, but by sharing, our studio has accumulated lots of valuable knowledge, so you can even say see this is a new university.

Q: What’s the difference between Chinese students and international students?

A: Chinese students are very good; they are passionate about learning and have talent. However their thinking is a bit ‘rigid’, and they are not used to challenging the tradition and text books. Therefore what I’m going to do is teach them to get used to asking ‘why not’ by practice.

Q: We know you have got a home in Chengdu which is a quite different from Shenzhen, so why did you come to Shenzhen?

A: Business is the main reason to lead me to Shenzhen, besides; there is a good atmosphere of design here. Shenzhen impresses me by modern, clean and simple and efficient urban plan. Unfortunately, there is little old architecture, which is a shame to the local residents more or less.

Q: Is the old architecture so important?

A: Yes, it is. It’s the invaluable cultural legacy to human beings. Without it, it is very hard for our offspring to understand and experience their ancestors. In London, you can see many ancient buildings maintained very well, which reflect the cultural details of London and remind people of old times. It’s sad and disappointing to see many old buildings vanish overnight while China is growing.

Q: Finally let’s talk about Mao Bar.

A: Mao Bar is a theme bar which was run by my wife and me. I like Chinese culture, Mr. Mao and Chinese ancient philosophy. I made the bar on my own to show a concept of combination of dining and fashion. To me, Mr. Mao is a symbolized fashion element. Any product influenced by it gives a special feeling.

Internationalisation of Design in Shenzhen

 The question could be asked, why should Shenzhen consider the need to internationalize its design professions, indeed what does the internationalization of design mean. In order to address these questions I will define my understanding of the necessities in order to become a centre for design and the economic and social improvements that this can bring to a city or a region.

I believe very strongly in on-going education and see it as a compulsory part of my practice and all the designers who work in it. This is more than looking at the latest design trends it is an methodical and structured approach to the acquisition and application of new information. Through this rigour we can expect a development in attitudes, one of which is the confidence to perform new tasks or to perform existing tasks at a higher level. Additionally we support the notion that innovation is the source of new ideas and to develop an innovative culture is crucial in the development of a new design practice. I define innovation as the implementation of existing knowledge or technology to new applications or methodologies. These are the underlying processes and actions of internationalization of any business and my talk today is about how at SW these processes and actions are being implemented.

I have been living and working in China now for 12 months in two different design offices, both looking to employ graduate designers to increase capacity in this rapidly growing area of practice. This has been an interesting opportunity for me to compare the standards and direction of western and Chinese university education. As a student in UK and a recent university professor in NZ and Oz, I know the system in the west intimately and have applied the same knowledge to my assessment of the local systems, and more importantly, the results.

Interviewing graduates from China, I have noticed a number of common skills and attitudes. To do mainly with the approach to developing design concepts, standardized forms of drawing on paper and a standard reliance on CAD to present work. Commonly there is little evidence of broader knowledge for example, history of design, related studies, materials technology, sustainability and ecological issues, business skills and most importantly a confidence to challenge convention and review or question why we do things in a certain way and not another. It could be argued that the many of European based schools have encouraged too much liberal, divergent thinking and challenge to normal practice and the statement, “it is our job to teach the students how to think and the professions job to teach them how to work” is a theme I have often heard from some of these schools of design and architecture. Often the presentations, while very clever, seem to be only for the academic staff and bear no resemblance to the world of clients and building reality and so reinforce this philosophy.

I think there is a middle road but few schools have managed to maintain this balance, academics tend to be passionate about their subject and teach it in a way that is one extreme or the other often depending on how they were taught themselves and so perpetuate the two systems. This distinction between the two systems is what I have found to be the case as a professor in the west and through the interview/employment process here. This assessment is what has triggered the concept I have installed at SW to correct the deficiencies in both, utilize the advantages and so increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the graduates we employ from both systems. I have developed relationships with 3 university’s in NZ and 2 in the UK and from these schools have recruited a number of interns on the basis that they give and take benefit to and from our systems. The girls here today are our latest 2 and they arrived yesterday for 3 and 6 months employment possibly leading to F/T work at SW.

Intro the girls

The simple concept is to integrate the thinking and abilities of these graduates with those of our Chinese designers. In this way each experience a form of approach to design and construction that is different but necessary to good internationally based design practice. The often prescriptive approach of Chinese graduates whilst technically sound, lacks the investigative creativity of the more historical and research based Western graduates. This is not to say either is right or wrong but that both are inappropriate in a world market where innovation and creative solutions are what differentiates products, places, materials and systems. When we place these multi-national graduates in our team working environments we put them into a world of support for creative solutions and a world that expects those solutions to be buildable. This world challenges them to be innovative in approach and expects them to include all the issues a truly international office must consider, environmental, legal, social and economic.  Perhaps the most important challenge of all for the future is that we also expect them to grow their confidence, to be able to confront their supervisor or the boss by having a compelling idea that is well resolved, considers all the issues and supplies a creative and appropriate solution. In this manner we are insuring that our business can grow in size and complexity and can with confidence compete on the international market and not just say we are. As these designer relationships grow and the results more transparent, I can fine tune the process and include more preparation for each side of the equation. For the Chinese graduates I have introduced a series of design history seminars, currently we have 55 topics being prepared for presentation, I have introduced SWOT analysis of the company as a tool to be used in the assessment of design briefs and opportunities and real client requirements, I have introduced drawing classes and film appreciation to acquaint them with international stage and set design, style and approaches. For the western graduates I have run competitions in their home countries introducing the scale, complexity and speed of work in china by running live projects with faculty staff who I have worked with before.

To supplement the graduate relationship system I have introduced, we also have an international group of respected designers from UK, NZ, OZ,Thailand, Korea, India and you have just heard in the previous talk from Guiseppe Scarre who comes here from Italy. From this list of incredibly talented people we can draw on expertise in architecture, landscape, interior and industrial design on a project basis, and obviously these professionals influence our graduate designers immensely

Additionally I have introduced my own research topics in the area of sustainable materials and building practices and these have become an evident part of our ‘culture’ at SW. I consider these areas of research and application to be of utmost importance in the development of my business and also that of china, not simply a fashionable after thought. These issues are comprehensively dealt with in western university’s and these influences are necessary for Chinese graduates to assimilate and able to implement in their design solutions in order to reflect international design directions and demonstrate a concern for environmental policy in china and the world generally.

These are the minimum expectations of an internationally focused design client and the above is how we are going about achieving this status. I believe this to be a necessary activity not just for SW or our Chinese graduates, but for china as a whole. The extraordinary economic boom of the last 20 years has left a void in the practice of design here. Much of the energy of china has gone into production of goods for other countries and their designers. The social and economic emphasis has been on the production and individual acquisition of wealth and the consequent spending of that wealth on goods and services designed and considered to be of value in the west. I predict a changing of direction in increasingly growing proportions away from western brand products and towards products that reflect Chinese culture and history. Products that will need designers to be aware of all the issues I am introducing at SW, history, culture, crafts, sustainability of materials and processes, and an innate confidence to approach design with an ability to challenge convention, to change the attitude that we do it like this because this is the way we’ve always done it, or that the boss is always right, transparently in the design world, the boss cannot always be right or that things should be done in this or that way because this or that is the way we’ve always done it…..this is a paradigm shift for the Chinese graduates, but, like riding a bike or swimming, once you have gained the skill, you never forget it.

At SW we are also strong supporters for the concept of Shenzhen as a ‘Design City’ within the Creative Cities Network, a UNESCO initiative from 2004. The concepts are international cooperation and the development of creative practices through membership of the network. There are 7 types of practice types listed and design is a major one of the seven.  A feasibility study is currently being conducted prior to an application to UNESCO to have the city declared an international, “City of

Design”. I believe that the type of activities I plan for SW, if replicated in a similar manner in other offices will enhance an application to UNESCO and add a further value to this philosophical direction. For example, one of the initiatives I am implementing is the employment of a research assistant to develop a data base of all building materials and to rate them in ecologically sustainable order, thus eliminating the need for all designers and architects to ‘learn’ for themselves the environmental impact values of specified materials, their costs and performance characteristics. I would like to think this will assist a Shenzhen application to join the Creative Cities Network by creating a commitment to an international design issue. In such a fast paced and complex building environment this lack of information for designers seems to be the single biggest difficulty in specifying materials and systems that comply with the growing international trends of sustainable practice. My hope is, that through activities like this, Shenzhen may become a leader in china in this area of global responsibility and not only influence designers but also manufacturers of materials as they realize the shift towards eco products.

So, SW is not only developing a reputation for innovative, challenging design which fits an increasingly discriminating market, we are preparing for our future and the future of design in china. I have been quoted before as saying that,”the world is waiting to see Chinese design” and I firmly believe that what we are doing at SW is a positive move to assist in the maturity of modern design culture in china. To encourage Chinese designers to stride out with individuality and confidence into a world that is waiting to see what they can do. Internationalization of design in Shenzhen does not mean turning young, or old, Chinese designers into copyists of European or American designers, more the internationalization of the process of design thus promoting Chinese culture and society through modern design practice in the global markets of the world.

In summary, it is inevitable that, as in Shanghai, international design practice will become the norm in Shenzhen, I believe it is increasingly so at a faster pace than many realize. In order for Chinese designers to face this increasingly global market and to compete successfully at this international level, it is vital to refocus our training and educational systems and to implement management and quality standards that are of a similar level to those of our international competitors. In this way we will give birth to the modern stars of design from the biggest population on Earth, so far there are no: Philippe Starkes, Zaha Hadids, Marc Newsomes, Ron Ards, Kareem Rashids….and if you don’t know who these names are that supports my talk today….?


 Roger Billington