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Michael Tsang

New York, United States

Product Design

Member since September 08, 2008

  • My Design Criteria



    Aesthetics and Functionality: Form, color, texture, and material are the central elements when it comes to the aesthetics of a design. The first visual impression is crucial for the customers to be attracted to your product over the others. Apart from the initial sighting in form, the function or practicality of the products should be examined and compete with other substitutes; Consumers nowadays have much higher expectation due to a wider range of available choices. They prefer products that are not only visually attractive and functional, but also durable.

    Communication: The mass production of a design allows certain messages to be carried from the designer to consumers. For those who choose to buy the design with the messages embedded indeed resonate to the package as a whole, the buying decision would be the feedback of the messages carried. In my case, the message would be cultural awareness, as stated in my thesis. A successful product would be an effective way for its message to reach a large and diverse consumer-base.

    Usability and Ergonomics: Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their active environment, be that work or leisure. It is an important criteria that designers must grasp during the research process on targeted end-users. To create a product that stands out from the substitutes, it requires analyzing, black/white-box testing, and problem-solving. These researches and associated developments would contribute to the usability of the final product.

    Ethicality: Being environmentally friendly is a big topic. Not only does it serve the obvious purpose to the nature, but to bring environmental awareness of the users themselves. Some of the relevant issues concerning the design process include the materials used, the by-products during the production process, and the recycling when the products reach the end of their life-cycle; the materials used must conform to safety requirements to prevent harm to the users; the by-products, while do not directly affect the end-users, are considered a responsibility because someone is less likely to make a purchase if he/she knows the manufacturing process induce toxic release to the environment; and finally the degree of recycling it important when a product reaches the end of its life-cycle. Do we just have it thrown away? Or the product could be recycled and turn into something useful.

    Value/Cost: The cost of any piece of design is hard to measure; in addition to the time spent and material used, the smart concept of a designer could be invaluable. However, an idea shaped upon physical form, judged by the users, would be the ultimate test in its marketable value. A combination of all the criteria should form a basic designing structure, and the essential value of the product and its design could be enforced. On the other hand, an expensive but non-functional product sold can only mean a design tragedy starring a misinformed customer.

  • Ospop-1_177_

    It is interesting to think about why Chinese can't preserve their traditions at same time developing their own culture identity. for example, OSPOP shoes used by Chinese army way before China open up the country; now the design of the shoes become a popular in Western countries. Isn't this is Chinese design? Chinese culture? Why can't Chinese purchase their cultural goods within the countries?

    Those questions lead to another question that why the OSPOP shoes company decide not to sell this kind shoes within China and rather to distribute to other countries. Such decision involves social and economic gap, cultural behavior and much more.

    Here are interesting links:

    OSPOP Shoes

    Most popular Chinese discussion forum

    Chinese classic product design

    Chinese Design and Branding

  • In response to Chinese identity, posted by Grace Tsai,
    in the thread My Design Criteria


    You are asking some questions that I am also thinking about a great deal right now. I heard that with all of the financial turmoil and uncertainty going on in the world, one exception to the almost universal melt down is China, where there are still many problems, but it does look as if their entire economy will not be undermined by the mortgage and credit crises. I am starting to wonder if this will lead to a rise in China's status very quickly. This is going to mean many very profound changes. For example, do you think Taiwan would join China if it became a super power?

    Your observations about the OSPOP shoes are astute: by styling them like shoes worn in Mao's army, they communicate an ironical statement that people in China would not find amusing or chic, probably. But they go over big in the West, because we probably sub-conciously look down on the Chinese as being undeveloped....Now, things may change considerably, and I wonder if Chinese cultural conditions might change, too. Throughout history, China was the most advanced and central country (Middle Kingdom) except for the last 500 years. Maybe one of the implications of our current situation is that China will regain its prior position in the world.

    Whether or not this would lead to changes in Chinese self-image, is not clear. I must say that, in my travels in China, I have not observed a strong feeling of connection with the past among people I spoke to. For example, I went to the site of the Three Gorges Dam and spoke to lots of people about the project. All of the Chinese people thought it was great, and were not unhappy about losing their cities as the dam waters were rising, and having to move elsewhere. On the other hand, most of the Westerners I met thought it was a really bad thing, because they said it would destroy some very old artifacts like temples, etc. So, I'm not that sure that, even if China does become really rich and developed, people will ever really care that much about old stuff. What do you think?


  • In response to chinese culture, posted by steven landau,
    in the thread My Design Criteria

    I disagree with you the fact that people will not really care about old stuff. However, it is depend on who are you when talking about this subject. Old stuff does not just include the traditional form or appearance of physical objects (architectures, products...etc) but it also includes the philosophy, and what people believes and built onto in the past. (such as language, and Confucianism....etc)

    Such discussion is huge issues in China right now, especially that China had already been through Cultural Revolutions. One example of issues is that should we abandon traditional Chinese or not? To people live in China, they no longer using traditional font; but it does not mean that traditional Chinese are no longer exist in Chinese culture. If you know that whatever you are communicate with is base on traditional Chinese characters and philosophy behind it, there is no way that you can abandon traditional font totally without erase what the philosophy of Chinese characters has built into people's mind.

    Therefore, after the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and all the hard time Chinese people had been through since than. I believe that there is no way for a country to abandon old stuff, old culture, traditions, and believe... even they don't care. Because people live base on the past.

  • In response to answers always dpeend on who you are, posted by Grace Tsai,
    in the thread My Design Criteria

    Very well argued, Grace, thanks for this insight. I think that you are right, that cultural memory is not only in visual or formal aspects of the past, but also in ways of thinking about the world and communicating. Good point that writing and language also contains connections between people and their collective histories that cannot be eliminated or ignored. I'm sure that you are right, and that the differences between latin-based languages like French or Spanish and Chinese lead to patterns of thinking and behaving that cannot be neutralized by globalization and international distribution of consumer products. But we are focused on product design, and I am not sure if non-visual cultural memory is as significant in this area. Lenovo came out with a PC that is specially designed to appeal to the Chinese market. I am not exactly sure what makes this design "Chinese", maybe you can tell me.

    Take a look at this article in the NY Times. It is about a new museum designed by Chinese architects. It makes reference to a very old type of Chinese building. What do you think about this? Is this what you are talking about when you say that old Chinese styles and imagery can be used in designing for the Chinese market today? Do you think that Chinese people would like the idea that a museum design is based on an ancient Chinese building, or would they prefer that the building was very Western-looking?


  • In response to Hmmm.....I think you are right, posted by steven landau,
    in the thread My Design Criteria

    Product Design is not just about the physical form, it is also about people's behavior. Because we have different nationality, our culture and ethic believes shape our characters individually; such difference affect the way we response to physical or non-physical design. Therefore, a Chinese user would have completely different response to American User. That is why we need to do a lot of research about our users, isn't?

    I have to admit that Lenovo might not have a strong branding image to tell that it is a Chinese design, however, it is understandable since China still developing. It takes time for country to find out what characteristic represent themselves at this period of time. (You got to know that Japan had been developed their unique characters in product design ever since WWII; the products that they produced in 1930-1950s aren't very Japanese at all)

    So is Lenovo has Chinese design characteristics? my response is yes. Lenovo has the design that many American companies wouldn't do. Their design on IdeaPad and ThinkPad series have a very rectangular structural form. Black is the only color choice. Most importantly, rather than redesigning the interface, the form and the aesthetic; Lenovo choose to focus on battery life, the durability of the laptop (water-proof, drop-proof...etc), and the easy of use of the red-dot tracker and keyboard. (that is why they change the enter-key into blue colors) All of those practical focus might not satisfied majority of users in term of aesthetic;but the practicality characteristic is the main reason that people chose Lenovo over other competitors. Therefore, you will never see Lenovo's design in HP, Sony, or Apple. Neither Lenovo will follow Apple or Sony's business strategies.

    In conclusion, I believe the impact of one's life experience, culture and traditions. Those factors will affect how people react differently to products, space, situations, and interaction between one and another.

    I read the article from NY times, but I cannot comment much on this. Mainly because I am not from China; moreover, I had been living in Western country for a while. In order to response to the design of architecture, I need to know what kind users is museum targeting (rich, lower class of people, or tourists?) Where do they position their museum branding in that specific area? All of those factors allow me to judge the design of museum more objectively.

  • In response to Product Design isn't just about Form, posted by Grace Tsai,
    in the thread My Design Criteria

    Grace, I do not disagree with most of what you have written here. However, I would not use the example of the Think Pad to make your point, because that is based on the old IBM model. Unless you are saying that Lenovo has made all of its improvements in battery life, etc., and that these improvements are characteristically Chinese... I think that the Lenovo design I sent you is a better example of one way that Chinese sensibility has been considered in product design.

    However, I do disagree with you about Japan. Japan has always had a very strong design ethic. In fact, in World War 2, the Allied bombers were instructed to not drop bombs on Kyoto, because of its importance as a cultural capital. If you go to Kyoto today, you can see all of the beautiful wooden buildings that are very, very old, and that capture the essence of Japanese design. It seems to me that this kind of continuity is essential to achieving some kind of national design style. In China, everything was forgotten in the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward, so I don't think that it is really possible to recapture that except through a kind of fake, Disney-like historical copying.


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My Interests

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