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Q: As a designer for more than twenty years, what changes have you witnessed?
What impact have the changes had in the design profession?
A: Twenty years ago, I pessimistically predicted that it would be another twenty years before
the Chinese design industry blossomed, basing that assumption on the neglect, at that time,
of industrial design in society. I was right; it was 2006 before we saw the real turning point.
Six major changes have occurred in the last twenty years.
Design practice by academia to design practice by the professionals. The demand for 1.
modern design in the early 1980s did not come from industry. It was introduced in
design schools with a focus on design history and theory, rather than on practice. The
first design firms emerged in the early 1990s in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. A
few years later, in-house design departments started to emerge in companies such as
Midea, Lenovo China, and Haier, along with more professional design firms.
A move from innovation led by design firms to innovation led by in-house design. 2.
In the twenty-first century, in-house design departments have demonstrated better
design capability than most of the consultancies. Large Chinese enterprises now rely
mainly on their design departments and only consult with international design firms
for conceptual designs.
Design activities have become increasingly international. There are more international 3.
designers active in China and more design events. Chinese designers are now winning
international awards, and more design schools are building international connections.
A rapid improvement has occurred in design quality. More Chinese products offering 4.
unique quality, not just low prices, are entering the international market. More and
more Chinese designers have been promoted to managing positions in design centers
of top international brands, and these designers are now sweeping international
design competitions.
HUIMInG To n G, Dean of the College of Design, Guangzhou
Academy of Fine Art and Vice Chairman of the Guangdong Industrial
Design Association
Huiming Tong is dean of the College of Design at the Guangzhou Academy
of Fine Art (GAFA) in Guangzhou, China; a member of the Industrial Design
committee at the China Artists Association; an executive member of the China
Industrial Design Association; and vice chairman of the Guangdong Industrial
Design Association. Huiming has been active in both design education and design
practice and is the author and editor of six books and more than 200 articles.
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