I am glad that I have a new update here that might interest you. I have launched a new blog ChinaDesignHub.com to promote quality designs and news from China. Read more HERE to learn more about the purpose of the site. I hope you like it and I’d appreciate if you could spread the news about it.
September 11th, 2011 · 4 Comments
I am very happy and exciting to announce that I have become father of our first lovely baby girl Naomi Chung.
She was born on the 24th of August, weight 3.65 kg, in Shanghai China.
My wife and I still need to get used to waking up in the middle of the night and change diapers and give her milk. It’s tiring, but it is worth every minute that we enjoy the presence of Naomi. Thank God for such a wonderful gift. Her Chinese name is ‘Tian Ai’, which means love from above. We hope she will spread the love from above to many other people. Hallelujah!
August 7th, 2011 · 1 Comment
2 months ago I had the honor and great pleasure to be interviewed by Marcello Milteer for his beautiful designed Japan Cinema entertainment blog, where he writes about Asian movies and interviews many other Asian creatives.
He was especially interested in my design experience here in China.
You wear many hats. In your line of business you must cater to both Western clients as well as Chinese clients. How do you deal with these two demographics and what is the biggest challenge?
Waikit: If we are talking about the industrial design scene, then I can tell you the main differences from the perspective of working with Chinese clients. First of all, the design in China is still in its infant stage, which means that most Chinese clients are not experienced enough to understand how to apply the value of design to their maximum capabilities and in an effective manner. Because of this lack of experience and understanding, it is huge challenge for industrial designers here to get respected and work effectively with clients.
Read the full interview HERE
Greetings to the new reader who stumbled on this outdated blog!
Another greeting to the very occasional revisiting reader of this non lively blog!
It is a shame that I haven’t touched this site for more than a year.
Yesterday, I was rechecking this site and reread my own very first posts and I was touched by the motivating comments by the good hearted folks like you.
Also it reminded me the purpose of starting this blog: sharing my industrial design career development, experience and life in Shanghai, China!
Wow, I am already living and working here for more than 3 years, since I left my little peaceful ‘kikkerland’ (read Holland). And you know what? I haven’t been thinking going back at all.
So what is my status now? Well, I am still working at Speck Design since I joined it in august 2009 and it has given me a tremendous learning boost in a very short time.
I have been working on many different projects for both Chinese and Western clients. My responsibilities are varying from researching, designing, engineering, prototyping, managing, recruiting, sales to improving company culture and process.
And the best experience of all, is to get know the Chinese clients and to learn how to serve them. They are, in general, much different than the western clients in some ways.
I have spoken about the key characteristics of Chinese clients to a group of 30 Dutch product design students who were traveling to Shanghai to have glimpse of industrial design in China.
The big difference is that Chinese are more concrete thinkers VS abstract thinkers among the Western people. This difference explains almost everything of how design works here in China.
Have you ever wondered why Chinese are so fast in detailed 2D renderings or super fast in 3D modeling?
Why are so few Chinese product designers less skilled in sketching?
No wonder why so few design studios here has their own workshop, to build quick and dirty mockups or more refined foam models.
The answer is that most Chinese clients are not able to think abstract or conceptual.
And what is the underlying reason of that? It is all about costs and afraid to fail!
Many companies do not have an innovative culture, as costs are extremely sensitive in product development decisions, so therefore clients are used to judge designs on costs in the very early phase of a design process. Consequence of this, is that designers need to provide them design drawings with as much details as possible. No way that you give them concept sketches.
Low costs means there is no time for process, so usually Chinese clients do not appreciate research work, which is in most cases too abstract for them. Also, it means there is no way to go through an iterative design process, in which different design concepts can be explored
Many company cultures and hierarchy issues create this non innovative culture, as the big boss cannot fail and lose face, and therefore his subordinates cannot try things out and innovate through trial and error.
The fierce competition between many companies don’t give them time to think about what to do next, no time for design strategy consult, at least no long term planning. This is a very dynamic economy with unexpected things that can happen in a short time.
But the next question is, does China need a lot of innovative companies now? It depends on how you define innovation. Let’s say that we agree that the iPhone is an innovative product here.
Hey, check this ‘Shan Zhai‘ product here. What do you think it is?
Guess what this is?
A Chinese designer told me that you can divide Chinese clients into:
- Pathfinders: very few of them are pioneers and they do invest in innovative product development, like JiuYang
- Leaders: companies like ChangHong who has a big market share, but not really developing breakthrough products. Some of them become pathfinders.
- Followers: many companies here are following the leaders, developing the same products, but with different aesthetics, extra functions, lowers costs and quality, but still making a lot of profits. And very few of them want to become leaders or pathfinders by being more original in design.
- Copycats: too many companies here are creating ShanZhai products, like the one in the picture above.
Anyways, the Chinese market is much different than the Western market (I am talking about Europe and North America), and is actually not asking too much for innovative products, like the iPhone. Be aware that most Chinese consumers are less educated or poor to buy and appreciate design products. But it has been changing very fast since the last decade.
This is also explaining why Chinese designers seem to be less creative. I am hearing and reading this statement from the West a lot, and I want to defend it. They are creative and has great potential! But it is just that they have very few opportunities to show and develop their talents.
One day, design is mature here. Companies are learning to use design in the correct ways. So be ready, build relationships and prepare yourself for a lot of real innovative design work in the near future in this huge market here!
During my 2 years stay in Shanghai, I have made 2 one day trips to two ancient water towns, both at around a 2 hour drive distance from Shanghai.
The first one was Xi Tang, which I have actually visited it twice, once just with my wife and the other time with my family who came to visit us.
Xi Tang became ‘famous’ after Mission Impossible 3 was filmed there. I remember that I had just bought my first SLR Nikon D40 camera on the day before I went to Xi Tang for the first time. We stayed over night to experience the night scenery and the quiet and peaceful night. By the way, if you go during the work week then you do not need to pay the entrance fee.
Two weeks ago, I went with some friends to another water town called Wu Zhen. We rented a 8 person van for around 800rmb. The obvious difference between Wu Zhen and Xi Tang is the size. Wu Zhen is much larger and spacier as Xi Tang is a very compact town.
I would still recommend to go both towns if you don’t have enough of these water towns after one visit. These are great places for great photo shooting, having Chinese tea or traditional Chinese food along the canals. Go there if you want to escape the crowded Shanghai.
What happened after I quit my job?
I felt that I needed to do something else to develop myself further in a different way for the time being, as I thought that it was not the right timing to find another design job during the recession.
I decided to improve Product Design Forums and Product Design Hub was born out of it to primarily fulfill the need to find the best information from the big amount of discussions, tutorials and advices that have been posted on the forums.
So I spent one month on the web design of Product Design Hub, learning and using the open source Content Management System software Joomla as the backbone. The site was launched in March and the feedback has been good so far. The blogging part of the site is not going as smooth as I wish, but I still see a potential to attract designers and companies to share their design stories and experiences with the industrial design community. If you are interested to know more about contributing articles, please visit this page.
In April I started to work on a freelance project for a Dutch company that is specialized in developing temperature control devices for the greenhouse use. Together with a Dutch friend we are responsible for the complete development from the first sketches to the manufacturing of a family of products.
The tooling started begin this month and the the first test parts came out from the molds. Here is a picture from the mold factory, in which you see a female employee working in front of a plastic injection molding machine:
But then in May I started to feel that I need to go back to work full time in a design environment, as I discovered that I am more interested to work with other designers and people in a design studio where I still can learn a lot of things and also the recession is not making me easy with my online business and freelance work.
So I started to look for job opportunities here in Shanghai, because I still love this city and I still believe that the future in design in China is bright. You can read more about my job hunting experience in a later post.
Begin January I decided to quit my job at Asentio Design, the design studio where I have been working for 1,5 years. In that period I have learned a lot about industrial design, user interaction design and how to work with Chinese designers and engineers and how to communicate with clients. I worked for international and local clients, such as Philips, Cisco, Samsung, Nokia, Infineon, Flir, Absolut Vodka, ChangHong and Lenovo.
At Asentio Design I participated in different kind of projects and I was given different responsibilities that helped me to improve and develop a variety of skills, which are:
Research: analysis, interception, interviews, market research, trend research
Conceptualizing: brainstorming, organizing & selecting feasible ideas
Sketching: pen sketching and marker renderings; Delivered hundreds of sketches that communicate principles, forms, functionality and manufacturability
2D rendering: learned to do 2D renderings in Photoshop, here in China it is usual to communicate with 2D illustrations, but I was more used to use presentation drawings in the Netherlands
3D modeling: regular 3D modeling in Rhino 3D for presentation and prototyping purpose
Prototyping: defining CMF of designs, realizing mockups and prototypes (semi functional)
Client communication: communicating design decisions in a clear and efficient way to client and team
Project management: managing a small team of 3 designers (+ researcher in initial stage of project)
Internship coordination: responsible for recruiting and guiding international and local interns
Company’s representative: representing company’s design work and philosophy at a design exhibition in QingDao
After an half year working for Asentio I was given the opportunity to be a project leader for a project commissioned by a large American corporate client, named Cisco, who asked us to help them developing a design language for their first series of surveillance cameras and to create user friendly designs in terms of installation. That project is my successful highlight as a designer and project manager so far, as Cisco realized our design into a real product with a brand new design language and user friendly installation method.
Cisco's first surveillance dome cameras
I am sure one day you will see the design in public spaces, like the airport, bank, office, hotel, etc..
You can read more about the product at Cisco’s site
Furthermore my Chinese language skill has also been improved a lot, which is a very important skill here if you want to communicate efficiently with your local colleagues, clients and vendors and it comes really handy in your daily life. I feel much more home here in Shanghai when I am able to communicate well with the local people. Understanding the local humor is also a joyful plus. I always try to speak Chinese as much as possible, without being afraid that people may laugh at me, which happens all the time.
So what happened after I quit my job? You can read that in the next blog post
If you are a foreign industrial designer in Shanghai, then you are specially invited to join the ‘Designer Gathering’ on next Friday, July the 3rd. It’s been a while that this gathering has been held. Previously organized by German industrial designers Anke and Lars, but they both left to their homeland.
Fortunately, there are 3 German (again) designers, Boris Brawer/Jonas Vollmer/Tim Richter, who have taken the initiative to continue the ‘Designer Gathering’. Thanks guys for organizing! Man, seems like German designers are ruling in Shanghai
We are going to meet on:
July 3rd 2009, 7:30 pm
45 Yueyang Lu, near Dongping Lu
Oh yes, please add your comment if you want to join, as the organizers need to make reservations. I make sure that you will be put on the list of participants. And if you are local Chinese, then you are also welcome of course.
Shot at the Bund in Shanghai
If you are reading this, then you have probably followed my profile link from Product Design Forums or LinkedIn or you found me through Google because you are interested to know more about design in Shanghai or it happened that you have discovered about my blog through a design site that is linking to me.
I hardly believe that you have bookmarked my site and just came back to here to check if I finally have a new post. If yes, please let me know in your comment.
Anyways, I am back from a busy and difficult time and I am planning to continue blogging about my journey in Shanghai. I will, yes I promise I will at least update you about what happened in the period of time that I haven’t posted at all. Since October 2008 this blog was basically ‘dead’ and now I want to put some life into it, because from the statistics I still see people visiting this place.
I have finally bought my first SLR camera, a Nikon D40! It is the smallest and lightest and probably the cheapest SLR camera on the market and I love it.
I was looking for an affordable and good SLR camera to start learning photography on a higher level and I think I have found it. The D40 comes with a very good 18-55mm lens for nice portraits and landscape shots. I have purchased an additional 70-300mm Tamron lens, which allow me to zoom in a far distance object and create macro shots of bugs and flowers. Very sweet lens for again an affordable price.
Okay, here are some newbie shots I have made in the Shanghai Wild Animal Park from yesterday’s visit:
There are some more photos made with this camera when I was in Xi Tang a few days ago:
If you are interested in the camera, check out some good reviews here: