“First, let me start with saying that like many others in the technology & design space, I had also let some of the standard clichés about China seep within my head. Henceforth, I expected to meet some interesting people in China, see some interesting design companies, and see some good examples of Chinese design – the operative word being ‘some’. I was told – the Chinese are still grappling with fundamental challenges – how to trade in the ideas marketplace largely ruled by the Anglophone world, how to encourage creative conflict and out of the box thinking in its universities, how to get out of the “factory of the world” trap and move higher in the value chain. How can such a bounded and homogeneous and conformist communist nation be original and design and innovate?”
“One of the things about assumptions is that they have a life of their own, a self reinforcing validity, that if unchallenged, leads to the assumption becoming common wisdom.”
“The reality is that China has a bustling, vibrant and mature user experience scene. The Chinese design universe consists not only of cutting edge design teams in large established multinational companies such as Nokia, Motorola, Microsoft, Google, or Lenovo, but also scores of Chinese companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, Taobao that seek to give multinational companies a run for their money, as well as specialist research companies and catalytic government institutions. In other words, China’s design ecosystem has all the necessary ingredients to put its unique signature in the international design scene. Much as Korea did a generation back, much as Japan did two generations back.”
“So what are Chinese designers like? Once I briefly crossed the language barrier (appropriately through a savvy translator) I found Chinese designers in Beijing to be as discerning, thoughtful, and worldly-wise as their counterparts in America and India. I found a great hunger for knowledge, a tentative curiosity about the outside design world, a general humility (or conformist social behaviour?) and a vast number of opinions on how Chinese companies could more effectively compete on design with global companies busy harnessing the Yuan flowing in the Chinese middle class. I also found the design scene to be more organised, spread across the global cities and smaller ones, and government supported almost through decree.”
“In conclusion, I returned from China with more insights and questions than I ever anticipated. On the one hand, I recall my friend Kenneth’s one line “When you say digital art in China, students and parents think of animation software tools! “. On the other hand, I recall seeing more designer openings by Google and Microsoft and IBM than I have perhaps seen in Bangalore in recent years.”
Amit Pande, who manages Oracle’s User Experience practice in Bangalore, wrote an interesting post about his impressions of the user experience scene in China.