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.
- Find the difference between modern and contemporary design.
- I did not know that 80% of the Chinese are still living in rural areas, and only 20% of them are in the cities.
- When I mention “Cultural Awareness in China”, the term culture has to be more specific.
- 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.
- He also shared an interesting fact that although Ikea furniture is very expensive in China, it is still a popular trend.
- CONSUMPTION (What kind and where do the Chinese middle class purchase home furniture.)
- 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.