Firstly, 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.
A Design Charette with Tao Huang He is a professor from China who teaches product design at Columbia College in Chicago. He looked over my design brief and gave me his opinion on the trends of Chinese traditional furniture and provided some feedback. He agrees with me that traditional Chinese furniture needs to be re-designed to shred the uncomfortable, heavy, and clumsy old image. He also thinks the ideas of folding furniture and DIY have a lot of potentials if it is used in Chinese furniture. He notices a new shift in China; many middle class families search for and collect furniture that has a traditional aesthetic. He visited many manufacturers this year and they are very proud of the Ming dynasty furniture, which means they are still producing a lot of this type of furniture in China. Also, he disagrees about the identity crisis, but he thinks the FUNCTIONAL aspect is a big issue.
Things that I need to consider:
- When you talk about traditional Chinese furniture, do you mean Ming Dynasty furniture specifically? That will help you narrow your topic down significantly.
- Have you thought about putting human figures into your sketches as an indication of human scale? Because apparently Chinese furniture have a lot of ergonomic problems.
- Have you thought about the materials that will maintain the traditional look and provide new comfort?
- Have you made the decision of which traditional decorative graphs you will use? That might affect your design (corresponding with the shape and colors).
A Design Charette with Johnny Sha He is a graphic designer at peppercom in NYC and was recommended to me by my NFP. I sent my design brief and initial sketches through email to him in order for him to have a better understanding of my topic before we meet. During the meeting, he suggested that I explore my design ideas more. He thinks that my design proposals have not taken into account the real needs and wants of the user, but instead I have come to my own conclusions about their taste. He felt that I need to study in great detail what it is that this growing group of individuals really needs/wants; how can I mass produce my product while at the same time satisfying the needs of the diverse consumer group? Perhaps a Chinese version of Ikea-like furniture that has traditional elements is a way to attract more customers, as they will be able to afford such types of products. He encouraged me to study and observe the living habits of the Chinese as he felt that this would help me get a better understanding of what they need; how they eat, how and when they use their furniture, do they really care if they have furniture in their home? He also gave me some insight about how concrete is being used in building homes, which is similar to the furniture that is hard, stiff, and rigid. I want to introduce softer materials such as inflatable furniture that will create a balance between the harder elements in the home.
Critiques of my design sketches were also given; he believes that weight is an important consideration as one needs to be aware of how people transport their furniture to their apartment from the store. It is impossible for them to carry a bulky product that can not be disassembled. In this case, flat pack allows easy distribution and transportation.
Lastly, he suggested that I make a mood board about how “I” feel about China. This will allow more self-analysis and involve more of my own style/perspective in my design process.