30 April 2006

China needs design that sells [Business Week]

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Chinese mobile phone user
In an editorial for Business Week, Patrick Whitney, Director of the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, argues that companies designing products for the China market should have a design strategy that is more than just creating “either cheaper versions of Western designs or slightly modified versions of local products”. Instead, he says, design has to be “used at the front end of the development process to help discover what [Chinese] citizens need.”

“First, they will [need to] adjust their design process to reflect the fact that there is no “China market.” Rather, the country has 30 markets, each one influenced by its own climate, economy, language, history, geography, and culture. China’s consumer needs are as complex as Europe’s.”

“Second, they’ll realize surveys, focus groups, and other standard tools of market research don’t cut it. Not only is China as diverse as Europe, it is made up of novice consumers unaccustomed to such a variety of offerings.”

Ethnographic user research will help companies “understand the granularity of the Chinese markets and develop products that won’t languish in the warehouse.”

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