Due to globalization and a rapid development in China, urbanized Chinese seem to have less appreciation in their cultural, and historical design values. For example, the destruction of the rural villages, the debate of abandoning Traditional Chinese characters, and new westernizes architecture, without given careful consideration in cultural value preservation. The associated traditional designs have also been forgotten and neglected, because the major trend in contemporary Chinese design is to conform to ubiquitous “modern” aesthetics and such phenomenon is a crisis of identity.
As urbanization takes place, people naturally expect their standard of living to improve. And China’s rate of urbanization is astounding; China must build urban infrastructure to absorb 120 to 150 million people migrating from rural areas to cities in the next four years. The explosive multiplication of middle class has created huge demand in quality design, where luxurious foreign imports have captured the initial interest, and furniture is no exception. According to “Furniture Today”, China’s furniture imports rose 33% during the first half of 2008, the demand for foreign imported furniture in China has been increasing in the middle class.
My mission is to promote cultural awareness for new urban dwellers in China through household design. I plan to focus on furniture design because this is an area where a design has to be personally experienced in order to be fully appreciated. Furthermore, furniture in China has gone beyond a household necessity; it can also be a fashion statement, which allow people to be aware of the current issue in China.
My NFP-AIGA|XCD is a well-connected community of professionals who promote cross-cultural design. The organization acts to create a strong connection between me and China. This is important as my thesis is focused on China and it is important for me to communicate with other knowledgeable individuals in China to find out more relevant facts from their point of view.
Buying habit would also be an important factor to consider. Furniture buyers in China tend to purchase a complete set from the same design rather than a mix-and-match approach. In research, an increasing number of the younger Chinese now prefer to buy modern western-style furniture rather than traditional Chinese furniture. I believe it is important to instill the concept to appreciate their own cultural value through a personal experience. The younger Chinese would be my target user, the idea of creating an exciting design that allows users to see something new but also reminds them of their deep tradition.
When traditional Chinese furniture is mentioned, people tend to think of stern, uncomfortable but highly ornate elements. Through modern process, form, materials, and finishes, I would like to bring forth the traditional Chinese aesthetics to the 21st century, while keeping it practical, affordable, and functional. It is important for people to acknowledge their roots and to understand China's cultural identity. Home design would be the medium in this case. It is important to allow the users to recognize my work as a Chinese design. It is crucial that furniture would provide comfort to the users while a traditional form is maintained. I also need to study more facts to strengthen my knowledge in authentic Chinese designs that would be usable in my product. My approach will be to explore on household products such as cooking ware design,etc, to get inspiration from the form of Chinese design. Also, the study of sitting / resting behavior and living / storage space would be part of my research. This will allow me to better understand their living style.
In my furniture series, it is important that my product is produced in China because China has the expertise in mass production, and this would provide an opportunity for them to manufacture their products locally. The investigation of craftsmanship and working technique are also part of my Chinese furniture consideration. According to Trade Council of Denmark, China has encouraged customers to engage in Do-It-Yourself and home improvements activities, this would be a great opportunity for the users to get involve in building furniture. My design goal is to allow the users to pay attention and respect Chinese furniture; not only from experiencing it but also to appreciate it through the process of assembly. When considering packaging / distribution method, flat-pack allows to save transportation storage and easy to distribute the pieces. In terms of materials, hard wood would be a priority because wooden furniture has been used for a long period of time throughout the Chinese history, but it is also important to explore other soft materials to improve the comfort level.