China in your hands _by Philip Dodd

這篇文章也是從 The London Design Festival Guide 抽出來,因為在這全球中國熱之下,我個人覺得極之有意思,所以放在這裡與大家分享的,其中作者探討了英倫設計業怎樣籍中國設計崛起尋求另一番的出路,而他認為最好最有效的方法是 Collaboration (協作)。

不單止是英國設計業,香港設計師們也要好好問一問自己究竟應該如何自處?在這「中國」設計崛起的情況下,我們作為香港設計師,總不能置身事外;香港設計正被「威尼斯化」、邊緣化,我們還有未來嗎?我們還白痴的以為自己高人一等嗎?還經常在緬懷昔日的好風光,發港英時代的舊夢嗎?清醒下啦!水浸眼眉仲唔識死!

英國人隔岸還懂得為自己設計工業的未來籌謀打算,那我們呢?自知一人之力單薄,但如果出動整個設計工業一同努力,希望我們還有一線生機、能在絕處逢生。因此,請借鏡這文章,重新再思考我們的方向,逆境自強!

Products and services are no longer just being made in China. Increasingly they’re being designed there too. So should London’s designers be fearful of the emerging powerhouse? Collaboration is the key, according to Philip Dodd.

Philip Dodd is chairman of Made in China

Let’s not begin with the mind-numbering facts and figures: that there are between 500,000 and one million mainland Chinese designers, mostly in their 20s and 30s; and that China already has a design-hungry middle of 7.5 million, estimated to rise to 600 million by 2020.

If signature buildings are now an essential ingredient of any global city, then Chaoyang has made a fair start

Instead, let’s begin with a specific place as an index of the rise of China’s creative economy. Not with strutting Shanghai, but with Chaoyang. Now if you haven’t yet heard of Chaoyang, you soon will. This eastern district of Beijing, with a population of 2.5 million, has more than a fair chance of being to the 21st century what Manhattan was to the 20th: the iconic global urban destination. If signature buildings are now an essential ingredient of any global city, then Chaoyang has made a fair start, with the Herzog & de Meuron ‘bird’s nest’ stadium recently on display at the Olympics, and OMA’s freshly opened and extraordinary building for China’s national broadcaster, CCTV, likely to be to Beijing what the Empire State Building once was to New York. Certainly the district has much of what made Manhattan such a compelling destination in the last century – shopping, a beautiful park, the city’s major business and financial district – and contemporary culture, all the way from the annual Chaoyang Music Festival which last year pulled in 300,000 visitors to thriving cultural quarters.

The best known Chaoyang quarter is 798, a very large 1950s Bauhaus-style electronics factory complex; 798 is to Beijing what Soho was to Manhattan. There are now nearly 150 cultural enterprises there, from contemporary art galleries to restaurants, from fashion boutiques to advertising companies, from design studios to a serious art bookshop, Timesone8. One of the world’s most powerful galleries, New York’s Pace Wildenstein, has just bought a space there. In the way that the success of London’s Hoxton has driven up rents, a similar fate has overtaken 798, however all that has happened is that another art and design district has been born, Caochang-di in (where else) Chaoyang.

This growth of cultural quarters in Beijing is not something Chaoyang – specific, of course. Between two of Beijing’s other districts Xi Chen and Hai Dian is a design quarter, the DRC Industrial Design District, with over 200 design businesses – and to mention 798 and DRC isn’t even to scratch the surface of ‘creative’ Beijing, never mind cities as diverse as Chengdu, Shenzhen and of course Shanghai. And if such ‘quarters’ smack too much of supply side economics, then as supply side economics, then as an example of the demand-side creative economy, take just one object: the mobile phone, of which there are 500 million in China, and rising.

In a quite serious way, mobile phones are to modern China what the cinema screen was to the last century – the source of cheap urban entertainment. Yet the demand for mobile content – everything from ring tones to music and games – far outstrips supply. It’s not an exaggeration to say that whoever designs the content for mobile phones may win the battle for China’s mind, hearts and money – hence the massive investment by the Chinese state in animation design and games fro handheld mobiles. The power of the mobile phone in China is that it is a defiantly private space – where political jokes can be read and dating agencies accessed.

If this seems unremarkable, it’s crucial to grasp just how recent is this ‘invention’ of private life. Until the late 1970s, one had to ask that Party whom one could marry. The rise of interest in design in China – the Klondike-like scramble by the world’s companies to access its market and the mushrooming of Chinese companies and agencies – is both cause and effect of this extension of private life. Everything from interior design to design magazines flourishes to meet and stimulate the hunger of those Chinese who can afford this new (private) life.

Now I often draw a blank when I ask London designers to name ten Chinese design companies. But Chinese consumers do know them, all the way from fashion design companies such as White Collar to digital technology design companies such as Crystal Digital Technology Company – and there does seem some evidence that the Chinese have a loyalty to local brands, which has more to it than mere price sensitivity. Of course such design companies, if they are to thrive, need to be promoted and the city governments of China as well as the national one are beginning to understand the need for events which ‘stage’ design to the domestic and international audiences. Events such as 100% Design, which opened in Shanghai in June of this year, or the Shanghai eArts festival, already the biggest digital arts festival in the world and this year showcasing young Chinese talents, or Shanghai Contemporary the annual art fair begun in 2007, are already in place. Compared to the West, such events are often not as slick, or as well marketed but the catch-up is only a matter of (a short) time.

There is also the impact of the ‘Olympics factor’ on China’s creative economy. There are now more than a few signs that design and brands from post-Olympics China are beginning to be globalised, in the same way that Japan’s design visibility rose after the 1964 Olympics – think Sony and Toyota – as did Korea’s after the 1988 Seoul Games – think Kia, Hyundai and Samsung.

The V&A’s China Design Now is just one straw in the wind; the global presence of Lenovo another; and the launch in London of Chinese lifestyle designed brands such as Sen yet another. So with the rise of Chinese art and design at home, within the region, and more widely, what are the opportunities for British and particularly London design companies in this ‘Chinese’ world, at a moment when power is moving eastwards and China is no longer willing to play ‘manual’ to the West’s ‘mental’ labour? Here are eigtht thoughts (eight because it’s a Chinese lucky number: hence the Olympics began on 08.08.08.):

  1. Don’t expect immediate results. Foreign designers charge on average around six/ eight times more than mainland designers. Find a Chinese design partner and offer to help them enter the UK market in exchange for help to enter the China market.
  2. Sustainable design is a major growth area – both in b-2-b and b-2-c terms: Shi Zhengrong is the seventh richest person in China through designing solar panels with his company Suntech. London has a serious opportunity in this area, not only because Britain’s eco-design is strong but because the Chinese view Britain as a ‘green and pleasant land’ (we are not seen as innovative in comparison with the Americans or Japanese). It’s possible to ‘work with’ this Chinese perception of Britain.
  3. According to the WTO, by 2020, China will be the biggest tourist destination in the world. This is a key growth area, especially in the areas of cultural tourism and eco-tourism and needs everything from design of contemporary souvenirs (the first serious souvenir shops have opened at the Summer Palace in Beijing) to service design. Service design is generally growing in importance, not only in the tourist arena, but also in health, education and transport, which are undergoing their own cultural revolutions. (It’s worth remembering that London’s Oyster card is modeled on Hong Kong’s long established Octopus card).

    Britain needs to imagine and then develop new kinds of collaborative strategies to engage with China – at an institutional level

  4. UK design education is dreadfully parochial. Is there a university which offers courses in the history of ‘eastern’ design (outside SOAS)? If London design companies are to succeed in China, they need to understand the role, look, feel and philosophy of design in a society 5000 years old. After a period of ‘imitation’, the Chinese are beginning to remember their own extraordinary heritage. London companies need to have some grasp of that heritage if they are to thrive there. By the way, don’t be complacent about China’s copying the West. In the mid-19th century, the US copied everything and did not respect patents or IP. The word Yankee comes from the Dutch word for ‘pirate’.
  5. There are 90,000 Chinese students at any one time in Britain – around 25,000 in the sphere of creative education. These are an invaluable resource, yet one that Britain largely ignores other than as a ‘cash cow’. Why are all China-sensitive London design companies not looking to employ the best of such students? In the autumn I’m setting up a club for Chinese creative students to network them in London.
  6. The design companies in China are mostly young and the level of professionalism and quality is not always predictable. London has an opportunity to offer to increase their skill base in exchange for help in understanding the China market. Be generous in China and the gift is returned with interest.
  7. Research what is actually on offer in China rather than assume that West is best. There is a Chinese Wikipedia on Baidu; UGC sites such as Wangyou.com; strong industrial designers such as LKK; film studios such as the Huayi Brothers and so on, and so on. Part of the problem is that the most creative companies in China are often private sector, not the kind often invited on the European tours offtered to their public sector peers.
  8. Don’t confuse Beijing and Shanghai with China. The opportunities in second and third tier cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing and Dalian are enormous. Don’t go with an official UK delegation but take a space in one of those cities – explore the quarter in Chengdu around the Wenshu Temple, with its tea shops, boutiques, design stutios and galleries. These quarters are inexpensive and residence there proves to the Chinese that you are not a carpet bagger just want to be ‘in and out’. Employ a couple of local – a designer and a business development person.

Several years ago I was sent a speech by a British minister to comment on. It was full of martial words about Darwinian competition between China and Britain’s creative economies. I suggested that references to ‘competition’ be deleted, replaced by ‘collaboration’. I still hold to that view.

Britain needs to imagine and then develop new kinds of collaborative strategies to engage with China – at an institutional level, but most importantly at the level of informal networks between companies with shared ambitions. It is not too late. But it is late.

Advertisements

0 Responses to “China in your hands _by Philip Dodd”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Contributor

Hei Shing
chanheishing@gmail.com

書就是… A Book is…


一片紙不但表現時間,也表現空間。而一片片的紙張組合起來的書就是一個高深的容器,盛滿文字,既能從中不斷汲取智慧,又能裝入無限的智慧。

A piece of paper reflects not only time but also space. Books are formed by binding papers together to become containers of words that serve as a reservoir as well as a spring of wisdom.

October 2008
S M T W T F S
« Sep   Nov »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

  • 122,824

%d bloggers like this: