Chinese Product Design

In the ways of innovation, China is a growing power with many products beginning to be developed in China, and the ones that are not, are most likely manufactured there. China’s big issue is trying to step up from its current position where everything is ‘made in China’ to one where everything is also designed in China. This opinion has only changed over the last 20 years, and places Chinese Product Design firmly in its infant years. The improvements have come about with an increase in skilled Chinese students, meaning China does not need to outsource talent, and with its cheaper production costs, it may well benefit companies to completely up stick and move to China to design and produce its product range.

Some of China’s achievements are visible: for example, a doubling of the global percentage of patents granted to Chinese inventors since 2005, and the growing role of Chinese companies in the wind and solar-power industries. China aims to push its creative thinkers further by encouraging them to replace their four ancient great inventions (mentioned below) with brand new world changing inventions;

“Electing four great modern inventions will encourage the new generations to press forward on the road of discovery,” said Wang Yusheng, former director of the China Science and Technology Museum.

Innovation in China, although heavily outweighed by manufacturing, dates back thousands of years in history. Pre 1900’s the compass, gunpowder, paper making and printing are regarded as ancient China’s four great inventions. Regarding gunpowder, China innovated several other war tools, such as the flamethrower, hand cannon and the cast iron bomb. From gunpowder came one of Chinas most explosive inventions, fireworks, which is now one of China’s largest exports.

The Beijing fireworks display.

Chinoiserie is actually quite difficult to find in modern Product Design, especially with a view to discuss it. Products that are designed to look Chinese without actually being Chinese do not really appear in many sectors, with technology, automotive industries and many other modern day sectors lacking instances of it. Products such as furniture and crockery, namely coffee tables and tea sets, are part of a vast market of products with a resemblance to the Chinese style, and may be one that proves worthy of time and investment for other industries to dwell into. A great example can be found in this posh clock shop from London… the workmanship demonstrated in these pieces really is beautiful. Chinoiserie Comitti Clocks.

The capacity for innovation is growing in China, and in many industries it is taking the markets by storm. In 2010, China became the largest producer of wind technologies, leaping ahead of rivals the USA, Germany and Spain. This rise has been led by the minds of her industry leading companies, Goldwind, Dongfang, and Sinovel. The extent of China’s renewables development is highlighted by the fact that in 2009 she had already surpassed her 2010 target of 10GW by 15.1GW. By 2020, the Chinese governments hopes to have designed and manufactured enough high tech wind turbines to push that figure up to 100GW. The initial future target set by the Chinese government was 10 GW by 2010 but the total installed capacity for wind power generation in China has already reached 25.1 GW by the end of 2009 China aims to have 100 GW of wind power capacity by 2020.

In December 2011, China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced it is aiming for the country’s installed solar power generating capacity to reach 15 GW by 2015. This is a 50% increase from its previous plan. China’s share of the global turbine market more than doubled to 32% since 2008 and its manufacturers comprise seven of the world’s top 15 suppliers.

30-megawatt solar power station in China’s Qaidam Basin, aiming to be the worlds largest.

Regarding Product Designers in China, the number of successful and recognised persons is certainly on the up, and the work of one in particular, Liu Zhili, has caught my eye. An example of his very poetic work can be seen here, called the Shrub Table.

To conclude, China has a past full of inventions, some which have shaped the world, and others, which have become an integral part of our everyday lives. Although times changed since with manufacturing becoming her key role, China is now not only a hub for production, but a world full of creative thinkers, and it is now innovating at a frightening pace. It is up to the rest of the world to keep up, or buy Chinese.