For many people in Western countries, talking about Chinese design can put a sarcastic smile on their faces or raise the question of, “is there such a thing?” We, as westerners, tend to judge under the stereotype that all things are “Made in China” and designed somewhere else, but this is about to change.

Having the opportunity to experiment in a very close local economy while having access to the entire Chinese giant manufacturing infrastructure has put Chinese design in a very privileged position. Also, due to rising labor and living costs, Chinese manufacturing will eventually decrease, and this will push local companies to generate competitive products for global markets to survive. This could potentially globalize Chinese design, bringing it to a worldwide stage. To achieve this, here are 5 things that could help Chinese product design become a global power.

“illustration by Diego Meneses

1.        Realizing that it is possible.

Let’s remember that things here in China can appear suddenly out of nothing or they can evolve at unimaginable speeds; design shouldn’t be the exception. Even manufacturing wasn’t always as good as it is today. This concept reminds of the 1990’s when I was arguing with a friend that my Sony Walkman was more refreshing than his because mine said “Made in Japan” but he said, “Made in China.” Now all of our iPhones and MacBook’s are made in China and no one is shy about this fact.

2.        Having access to production and technology.

Extensive manufacturing can also result in excellent design, as designers have the opportunity to practice and improve their skills with each new product, as well as having easy access to new technology. Similar situations have happened in other countries like Germany, Italy, Japan, and even the US, where at some point in their histories, these countries tried to copy someone else’s products, striving to make them cheaper, and eventually became high-quality manufacturing hubs and then later, design hubs.

Eventually, their design capabilities evolved into something more complex, where companies started to consider more aspects of the products, not just functional and production aspects.

3.        Workforce diversity.

In contrast to countries like the U.S. where new immigration laws are making it tougher for foreign experts to work inside the country, China encourages foreign talent to come to China, providing significant economic incentives to local governments and companies to provide attractive wages. Also, the government has begun providing long-term visas and green cards to foreigners with higher qualifications.

This means for in-house or consultant design studios, having the opportunity to hire a more diverse international staff with different perspectives, knowledge, and experience while training local designers at the same time. This practice can provide significant advantages for Chinese companies that are looking to design for a very complex global market.

4.        Increasing local market competition and the value of copyright.

As producing in China is becoming more expensive, the number of foreign buyers has started to decrease. Local suppliers have thus moved their attention towards creating their brands to sell directly to consumers. This has created a highly competitive arena for companies who want to cement their position in China and later experiment abroad. Until recently, copyright laws in China have been a bit vague, but now, as companies do not want other competitors to take advantage of and copy what they have put on the market, they pay a lot of attention to patents to make sure that the law is protecting their inventions. Abiding by these rules creates an entirely different design culture, where companies will now be obliged to hire more talented and creative designers who can help generate more innovative and unique products. We can take as an example, the fierce competition between bike-sharing companies for Chinese market domination.

5.        Not being afraid of trying something new.

This is something more noticeable in the last 2 years with a couple of Chinese phone manufacturers. While many phone brands were producing the typical smartphone, to the point that it was becoming boring, Xiaomi dared to design one of the first, or the first almost bezel-less phone, even if the camera had to be placed on the bottom. Recently companies like Vivo have released a concept phone with an on-screen fingerprint reader and almost no bezels, making use of a pop-up camera.

This type of innovative behavior put Chinese companies in the global spotlight and helped attract the attention of consumers and increased consumer confidence in their brands.

As a matter of fact, places like Shenzhen have become one of the most prominent startup incubators, where makers experiment with new ideas and forms of technology; the design is playing a significant role in this development. The whole Pearl River Delta is also going to play a significant role in future economic development in China, without even mentioning the significant opportunities that Chinese companies will have with the new Silk Road.

Also, some western companies like Electrolux, Harman, and Microsoft have started to build their in-house design studios in cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. These studios give them the opportunity to bring together experts from around the world to work on designing a whole variety of products while winning international design contests. 

Note: This article was taken from LinkedIn, written by Mr. Diego Meneses. 

About Diego Meneses

Diego Meneses is an experienced industrial designer who has successfully worked for brands such as Samsonite, Alcatel, Blackberry, TCL, among others and he has been working as a design manager for the last 3 years, leading teams of product designers and CMF designers for a variety of design projects.

Throughout his career, Diego Meneses has accumulated broad experience in design for consumer electronics, bags and luggage, computer accessories, mobile accessories, packaging, graphic design, branding, and retail design.

He is fascinated with everything related to design and he is always enjoying meeting like-minded people.
For more information visit Diego Meneses official website


Shenzhen Blog Editor