Join our network of non-profits, companies and individuals who believe social change can happen through design.

Become A Member
avatar

Michael Tsang

New York, United States

Product Design

Member since September 08, 2008

  • Presentation Review.

    Arts & Culture

    Michael_s_board2_432_

    larger version

    The majority of people really liked my slotting furniture concept and the idea of using flat pack for easy mass production. However, they weren’t convinced that my designs would be marketable in China. The critics felt that I am not designing based on what the people need and want. At this point, I need to start looking at Chinese furniture stores in China, not only traditional ones but also modern furniture. This will give me an understanding of the users’ taste. In other words, I need evidence to show that my designs are based on the users’ preferences and not mine. My next step is to conduct market research by contacting as many Chinese furniture stores as possible in China. I have already started to contact some in Hong Kong and hopefully that will directly me to some in China. Since I am focusing on Chinese Ming style, I need to select a list of Ming furniture characteristics that I would like to include in my designs, such as the very linear structures, the ornamentations, etc. I also need to conduct surveys to find out what type of furniture the Chinese middle class buy for their homes. My project has to have a major connection with the Chinese consumers and I have to remind myself that I am designing for them but not designing for myself.

    In terms of the location, I have decided to choose Beijing and Shanghai as my major provinces. People repeatedly asked me which part of China I was focusing on, as saying “China” is too vague and general. I decided on these two areas because I will be there during the Christmas break, so it will be easy for me to do research on the people, their daily routine, their sitting style, and so on. I DO have to come up with a list of questions and examples to ask them.

    I was lucky to get in touch with a Chinese design and history teacher at the New School. He is willing to help me in terms of my ‘Chinese’ design; he has the knowledge to tell me if the data that I collect is accurate or not. I had a meeting with him this past Thursday and he gave me some feedback that will help me expand my thesis topic more.

    1. Find the difference between modern and contemporary design.
    2. I did not know that 80% of the Chinese are still living in rural areas, and only 20% of them are in the cities.
    3. When I mention “Cultural Awareness in China”, the term culture has to be more specific.
    4. Define what is middle-class- I need to come up with a user profile that shows this is the average Chinese middle-class and I also need to mention which part of China I am looking at. Then I need to find detailed information of that specific province. He also gave me a list of readings that provide useful data.
    5. He also shared an interesting fact that although Ikea furniture is very expensive in China, it is still a popular trend.
    6. CONSUMPTION (What kind and where do the Chinese middle class purchase home furniture.)
    7. I need images and numbers to support my arguments, such as how many people move from villages to cities each year.

    In terms of my design brief/research, I received positive solid feedback, but there are also things that I need to consider and questions that I need to ask myself.

    • Many critics asked me to be more specific when saying “cultural awareness”- It is important to explain what part of the culture that I want to focus on. Basically, I want to focus on the aesthetic of traditional Chinese design elements, not specifically furniture, but also other recognizable Chinese features.
    • How am I going to use my furniture design to educate the people?
    • Understand my target group and know what are their needs.
    • Research similar Chinese furniture designers, e.g. Hans Wegner and more.
    • Find Chinese furniture production / manufacturers in China.
    • Find more research of how manufacturers mass produce their products in China.
    • Investigate other materials such as recycled materials and local materials (Bamboo).
    • Research typology, motifs, joinery, patterns and other contemporary Chinese furniture.
    • Emphasize on how/what I am doing is original Chinese design.
    • Find out different ways of how Chinese people sit. (The modern lifestyle.)
    • Explore more on how to build the slotting furniture idea.
    • Contact traditional Chinese furniture stores, ask them what they think is the distinct elements of Chinese furniture.
    • In terms of design, it is important to design something that represents the future instead of just picking Ming style elements and placing them in my design.
    • The idea “DESIGN FOR TOMORROW!”
    • What are the new materials, which exist and also represent Chinese design?
    • Give people a feeling of “very Chinese, but also very new”.
    • Not only mixing all the Chinese elements together, but find one specific feature and explore it.
    • Focus more on the chair design first, rather than doing three at the same time, because chairs require more research and experimentation.
    • Find the difference between the rural areas and urban areas; what drives the people to move from the villages to the cities?
    • Make a comparison between the rural floor plan and urban floor plan.
    • Explain why people are losing historical and traditional values.
    • Be clear about the target group; find out what is the approximate age group of the Chinese middle class who are moving to the cities.
    • Explain that I am creating a design opportunity- designing home furniture to avoid losing one’s cultural values.
  • Michael,

    Unfortunately right now here in mainland China, most middle class consumers are interested in western style furnishings rather then traditional Chinese designs. Our own business is in fact driven by the fact that people in the countryside can't wait to rid themselves of their "antique garbage" (in their own words) and replace it with cheap Ikea style designs - often poor reproductions of Ikea with additional bad taste elements added in. Mainland Chinese taste can be quite quirky sometimes.

    There are some exceptions and we do sell a fair number of reproductions in our local shop here, though again, these are more contemporary interpretations of Chinese designs, if anything. Traditional Ming styles are simply not particularly popular and what does sell is items like tables and TV stands which are really just contemporary items with some Chinese elements.

    For those that DO buy traditional style furniture (like Ming style) normally the emphasis is on the woods used (Chinese are connoisseurs of different hardwoods) more then anything else. These tend to be people with cash to spare, rather then the average city dweller.

    Your idea is still very interesting and holds a lot of possibility but I would focus less on the traditional aspects of the designs and more on making them a bit more contemporary.

    Also, there are some interesting designers her doing funny things like making wedding cabinets and horseshoe back chairs out of other materials stainless steel rather then wood. The effect is quite interesting

    Insiders guide to Chinese antique and reproduction furniture


  • In response to Interesting Idea, posted by Roger Schwendeman,
    in the thread Presentation Review.

    Roger,

    I agree with you that the Chinese taste on furniture, which apparently is in a stage of rapid development, could be quite “quirky” as you put it. I believe it is important to understand the reasons why contemporary furniture is preferred over the traditional counterpart, and from that I can adjust my design to avoid the existing pitfalls that push away the potential furniture shoppers.

    The current course of my design would be to repackage the traditional Chinese style into a more marketable and fashionable direction. For example, the use of alternative material might elevate a seemingly dull Ming-style chair (imagine mold plastic and bright color). My principle would be to maintain a prominent Chinese framework with a touch of western spice.

    It is important that my piece can be instantly recognizable as Chinese furniture, and it should stand out from other existing offers through a different approach on material selection or presentation. This way, my design can maintain a strong cultural present while the western element will provide the trendy taste sought by the potential buyers.

    Thank you again for your comment and I hope my design will make a strong impression!

Leave a Response

Fields marked * are required


No file selected (must be a .jpg, .png or .gif image file)


Once published, you will have 15 minutes to edit this response.

Cancel

My Interests

  • Industrial Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Communication Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Audio/Visual Design