This week — China’s design Oscars — the Red Starawards, hold their preliminary judging in Beijing. Chinese industrial designsare definitely garnering more global attention — thanks to consumer brands like Xiaomi and Huawei. But is the industry improving in substance, as well asstyle? How can better industrial designs propel manufacturing upward?
Remember the search for the MH370 wreckage and how that painfully long it was? This flyimager, a new underwater robot, is set to make undersea searches easier and faster. And it’s 100% Chinese designed.
The man behind this design award candidate — Fang Li, is a firm believer in the winning combination of Chinese talent and research in frastructure with international partnerships.
“The only thing is not made here is the sonar,bought in US, everything else here. If I test in US, cost a fortune. Here sovery easy. When I do test, go in Uni test pool, or pressure vessel, they allow us to use it for free,” Fang said.
Feng, who heads up digital innovation research at China’s top arts institute — says designing for the world’s workshop –need scooler heads.
“For Chinese companies there’s too much temptation,they try to cover all bases, the brand, users, awards, products, so they’re notvery dedicated. In the US, some people are still doing more focused, verticalthings,” Yan said.
“This will be next step, china diff reality, have toproduce so many things quickly, no time to think. Beautiful to look at. But inEurope, social or environmental impact. This is the big potential for China.Something to better society,” said Fabian Furrer, president of Int’l Department, Dongdao Design.
The love affair between Chinese companies and design awards is blossoming. 10% of this year’s red dot awards are won by Chinese companies. Submissions to the 2016 red star awards are at a record high of 6000 works.
“Now the awards go to more Chinese companies,they’re needed by Chinese companies, to attract more consumers, it’s also good for the Chinese manufacturing industry. It’s a two-way relationship. The red star award also comes to us, for judges. We see more judges from different disciplines. The trend is towards flattening out, decentralization,” Yan said.
The downside to winning awards is more pressure from copycats. Dongdao design uses legal protection.
“Big legal dept. designers cautioned, not to go nearor get into trouble. Every company should think like that,” said Furrer.
“IPR is a troubling issue, we often see ourstudents’ works are copied, even prototypes for factories or design houses getcopied in under a week. This for China is a long journey,” said Yan.
Tech veteran Fang Li has an unusual attitude to othersstealing his ideas.”My team, patent here and there. To me,it’s meaningless. If I have idea, someone recognizes my innovation, make ithappen, thank you, save my time,”said Fang.Fang Li may be an outlier, but it speaks to the tough manufacturing environment in China — which is forcing companies to innovate or die–and design has to catch up.