Product Design in China

When asked to think about products in China, many think of the idea of ‘Made in China’. This is a somewhat burden for the country. They are seen as one of the global leaders in manufacture, however, is deemed very low in the actual design aspect. China is ranked 49th in the world in terms of the growth of productivity. So in aspects of the design world, China needs to grow rapidly and actually start being a major part of the designing as well as the ‘making’.

There has been a current trend recently with large companies such as Sony, where the Chinese consumers are getting tired and almost bored of the same ‘designed somewhere else’ products. Two main reasons for this thinking is one, that these large global companies are, rightfully so, designing for the world and not just China. And two, that supporting these large international companies, takes away business from Chinese companies and therefore not supporting the country economically.

When people are ‘shopping’ or buying consumables, they seek for products that are from the country we live. The ‘homegrown’ feel is one that is very desired and sought after, whether it is for televisions or local organic food. So why should China be any different? Chinese people want the same high quality products from the likes of Sony and Microsoft but designed and marketed in China by a Chinese company.

This sort of thinking and want can help turn China intoa design driven country, that will boost the economics and put China on the map globally in terms of design. Design fields, especially product design, are one of the most popular design majors in China with a lot of fantastic students graduating. With all of the interest in design in the country, Chinese companies do not need to source international designers, where they have thousands of gifted graduates eager to work and build their careers. The positive of having thesenational designers is that they will understand the Chinese market a lot better. They know what works, and what doesn’t in regards to both actual products and the marketing behind them. However, when faced with its neighbor Japan, China is still in its infant years of its design life.

“The difference between technical skills in China and the West isn’t that great,” says Liu Guangzhong, a professor at Tsinghua and an independent consultant. “The problem is in innovation.”

One of the big problems facing the country is innovation. It is very easy for designers to simply remodel existing ideas and not actually developing ideas of their own. This bad habit has resulted in China failing to grow a global but also commercial level. Chinese companies have released very clever interesting products, however, a mass majority appear to be ‘copies’ of the western world’s work. This shows that China’s design fields need to strengthen their research and development in order to design some new and breakthrough products that can rival any of the western world.

Innovation shouldn’t be a problem for China though. China brought the world the compass, a device that changed the world dramatically when it was made. Understandably, design was different a few hundred years ago when the compass was invented, but this still proves that China has the capability and the minds to create something that will again dramatically change the face of the design world.

A fantastic example of a Chinese company that is a heavy hitter in terms of design and is well up there with the large American companies is Huawei. Huawei is a technology design company based in China with a workforce of over 110,000 workers, which is a larger number than Microsoft. The average age of the worker is 29, which puts the company in a very good position, as there is fresh young minds that can help this company explode and become one of the global heavyweights in the design world. In 2010, Huawei made a profit of 28.458 billion Yuan, which is around 2.86 billions pounds, thus proving that this company can make products that sell and have the capability to grow vastly over the coming years.

To sum up product design in China, there is a lot of room for growth. The country has the capability to grow but needs to tackle the problem of innovation and the lack of it, and with that conquered, China has the potential to become an unstoppable force in the world of design.


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