China's efforts in Shaping their Design Agenda

Great write up by the people at Core 77 on how the “The Best Design Policies Are Local” which includes a great collection of speakers reflecting on their efforts of Design in their home countries. What struck me was the presentation by Song Weizu and how China is using design to shape the growth of their manufacturing industry. I have long respected China’s attitude towards design and their hunger to learn. Check out the Song Weizu’s excerpt, which also very much reflects my thoughts on Chinese Design.

Design as a Lubricant for Industrial Growth
Song Weizu is the secretary general of the Beijing Industrial Design Promotion Organisation. Weizu is not a designer, but a very committed civil servant, and that defined his entire presentation.
His vision was the state vision — design is a lubricant for industrial growth — yet it was strangely refreshing to have it spelled out so clearly and to hear a detailed overview of what is actually going on in the Chinese design world, purely in terms of implementation and numbers.
His talk was also revealing. The economic crisis has demonstrated to China that simple production for Western countries is not enough. China wants to create its own products and industrial design is therefore more crucial than ever. They now have 500,000 design graduates, but “we still need to learn.” China is working on a design policy and design centres are sprucing up all over the place.
Weizu was not hiding the facts. The good stuff was there, but also the bad: “We are still behind”. His honesty was appreciated and made his talk — given the big numbers of Chinese demographics– even more powerful.
“We are heading for a quantum leap in the next five to ten years.”
The West is inundated with cheap Chinese design, but China has a wonderful and deeply historically engrained design sensitivity. We just dont see it very often outside of China.
This will change. The Beijing Olympics were a striking example of what the Chinese can do. Take a look at the website. Check the opening ceremony again. The design was spectacular.
We in the design community often tend to think of the world as consisting of a Western sphere that is superior in design, and China/India as the factory. Weizu’s discourse highlights how wrong we are.
How do we engage with the Chinese design culture? How can it become a win-win for both? How can a design policy relate to this?

Check out the full review of the “Shaping the Global Design Agenda” Conference on Core 77.

1 Comment
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