What are the Differences between Chinese and Western Form-giving?
“An introduction to formgiving in Chinese product design” is a research article, written by Vigleik Norheim from the Department of Product Design from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. It gives some interesting insights on the cultural influences that impact the form-giving methodology in Chinese Industrial Design.
The article is a holistic and cultural introduction to formgiving in Chinese product design, both theoretical and practical. Observations were made during a 4-week stay in China in a university and two design offices. Introducing and comparing various Western approaches to form in product design with the Chinese approach proved to a certain degree unfair, as their tradition in the field is yet very young. The aim of this text is thus to explain why form in Chinese product design is where it is today in a cultural and social context. The article concludes that Chinese designers need more freedom and authority, much like the early Western designers at the dawn of our own industrial revolution.
Interesting elements such as their Confucius influenced culture, their very thematic approach to design, and their difficulty in stepping out side the collective are explored. Furthermore it also provides an insight on why there a proliferation of emulating or I dare say “copying” what other more established products and designs have done.
Overall, I do feel the research is a little skewed as the Chinese Designers that I have met really don’t fit the article’s description. Perhaps the sample size is too small, and the researcher did not really get in touch with the top Universities in China such as Tsinghua, to really see how the top schools are doing it. Regardless a lot of observations on culture, and the emphasis and delivery of education content are accurate. This is perhaps a reflection of how the smaller design schools are actually doing it.
At the end of the day, this reminds me of a discussion that I had with my old mentor: In today’s global economy brought closer by air travel and the Internet, cultures easily transcend borders. So, does this mean our traditional western based design education, a reflection of western culture, may not be appropriate or the best way in teaching creativity and design to other cultures (Asian etc.) that are not as open or liberal?
Link to Original PDF.