Fast Company杂志六月号封面故事:中国新创意阶层

[ 2007-05-26 01:56:10 | 作者Author: OUNING ]
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纽约作家Aric Chen数月前到北京和上海等地为Fast Company杂志采写的封面故事出来了,今天才在上海看到:


The Next Cultural Revolution

From: Fast Company Issue 116 | June 2007 | Page 64 | By: Aric Chen | Photographs By: Andrew Rowat

Arriving for breakfast on a recent morning in Beijing, Jennifer Wen Ma looks as self-assured as the glittering new buildings rising around her. Her eyes convey a kind of benign ferocity, a flicker of knowingness that's jarring in a 33-year-old. But then again, for all her youth, Ma is carrying an unlikely burden: the aspirations of 1.3 billion people.

A Beijing-born, New York-seasoned artist, Ma is part of the seven-member creative team masterminding China's great coming out party--the opening ceremony of next year's Beijing Olympics. Leading her group is acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower); celebrated artist Cai Guo-Qiang (New York's Museum of Modern Art, London's Tate Modern, an upcoming retrospective at the Guggenheim) is also on board. But, younger than her colleagues by a generation or so--and with an artist's résumé that includes a video work, projected onto a tousled bed, of a woman engaged in what she politely calls "self-comfort"--Ma is emblematic of a newer, edgier China. The opening ceremony will no doubt be a G-rated affair, but when the Olympic torch finally arrives in Beijing next year, Ma wants to smoke out your clichéd ideas about her country--and those of your 4 billion fellow viewers--right along with it. "We're going to try to keep the ribbon dancing to a minimum," she says. "Whatever we end up doing, the bottom line is to showcase the innovation of the Chinese people. Everyone wants to project a very modern image--one that will stun the world."

China is not content to serve as factory to the globe. Call it economic foresight, or cultural pride, but despite the stratospheric growth of its economy--10.7% last year--China knows that cheap labor alone can't sustain the boom. While a flurry of activity (and, yes, a government five-year plan) has stressed scientific and technological innovation, look a little closer and you'll see that creativity in art and industry--in design, fashion, media, and the like--is fast becoming a driving national mission.

Look past the behemoth Three Gorges Dam, past a highway system that will be larger than America's by 2020, and China is building a creative infrastructure, too, at breakneck speed. You can sense it in the trendy restaurants and slick boutiques popping up in major cities--and in the gritty ex-warehouse and factory districts where imagination-driven companies are joining the cafés and art galleries that first settled in. Newsstands are brimming with glossies such as Vision, Urban, and Modern Weekly that, joined by online counterparts like Coldtea, feature international trends alongside promising local talents. China's answers to YouTube (Tudou and Yoqoo) and social-networking sites (Douban)--along with an estimated 34 million (and skyrocketing) blogs--are bringing in digital reinforcements on a national scale.

Combine all of that with a counterdiaspora and reverse brain drain of talent, and the overall result is a kind of primordial soup thick with the building blocks of creative enterprise. Emerging from it is an army--small, but growing--that's working to reinvent how China thinks and works.

Of course, that process has been under way for some time. Homegrown corporate giants such as Lenovo (OTC:LNVGY), which swallowed up IBM's personal-computing unit in 2005, and the appliance maker Haier, have made notable strides in design and innovation. The Sonys (NYSE:SNE) and GMs (NYSE:GM) of the world are starting to get real mileage out of their Chinese design studios. Veteran filmmakers such as Zhang and Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, Temptress Moon) and stars like Ziyi Zhang (click here) are producing work that competes internationally while fashion designers Vivienne Tam and Han Feng (both long based in New York) have earned global followings as well. Judging by the country's Olympics plans--expect some of the most radical architecture the world has ever seen--even the old-guard bureaucrats seem to be getting the idea.

But does China have what it takes to become a creative superpower? At first glance, even the Chinese seem unsure. "We asked a thousand 15- to 35-year-olds in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou to rank the 20 or 25 words that best describe China," says P.T. Black, an American-born partner of Jigsaw International, a Shanghai-based trend-forecasting firm that counts major multinationals as clients. And "'creative' placed close to last."

Still, for those raised with the economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping, the world of Communist Youth Leagues and Little Red Books doesn't figure into the equation anymore--it's all about the Internet, new media, and MTV (NYSE:VIA). China's overall population may be aging faster than almost any on earth, but its younger generations benefit from one creative staple long denied their elders: a sense of possibility. "These are people who have seen nothing but growth," Black says, "nothing but China getting the Olympics, Yao Ming going to the NBA, nothing but optimism." And, for some, nothing but the tantalizing proximity of a vast new affluence: By one count, the average age of China's 400 richest people stands at 46.5, versus 65.7 in the United States--bringing a 25-year-old in China a full generation closer to the average gazillionaire. "There's a sense that creativity is where you make money," Black continues. "People are getting rewarded for it, and that's only going to inspire more."

If anyone could be called Great Leader in this new countercultural revolution, it's Ou Ning. Originally from the southern province of Guangdong but now based in Beijing, Ou, 37, is typical of the kind of frenetic multitasker you're liable to run into here these days: A writer, filmmaker, music promoter, and graphic designer, he has founded several alternative magazines to boot. His latest project is Get It Louder, a roving biennial exhibition of young creatives that's billed as the first of its kind in China--a road show for the country's grooviest generation that, this spring and summer, is having its second run in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. "In Chinese society, it's always the old people who have power," says Ou, who's dressed in a pair of pea-green Nikes (NYSE:NKE) to complement his austere eyewear and uniform of black. "We want to create a platform for young people to speak their own voice."

Packed with everything from animation and illustration to architecture, fashion, and (almost literally) the kitchen sink, the first iteration of Get It Louder in 2005 was a designer-palooza that showcased 100 mostly Chinese up-and-comers--half from the mainland, with an average age of 25. Thousands came to check out the punk and skater graphics; sound, video, and art installations; and enough cool T-shirts to outfit New York's Williamsburg, L.A.'s Silver Lake, and London's East End combined. And then there were the parties. "A lot of people drank so much they just crashed on the sofas," Ou recalls, "which is how I think exhibitions should be."

It might sound like Sino-slacker anarchy, but Ou and his cadre are on the international business radar--and getting bigger. At the inaugural Get It Louder, the German faucet maker Grohe was so impressed by Shanghai architect Chen Xudong's "Water Corridor" installation that the company asked him to come up with some new product concepts. And Chivas tapped another participant, a collective called Unmask, to design whiskey and cocktail glasses for its sponsored events. "The most interesting work is coming from advertising, PR, and marketing, because they have the money," says Shaway Yeh, the editorial director of the Shanghai-based publication Modern Weekly. Pulling out a boxed set of 13 books, sponsored by Rémy Martin's Louis XIII cognac, she flips through a tour de force of sophisticated layouts, pull-out postcards, origami-like pages, and photographs that can be rearranged as in a scrapbook. Each book pays homage to one of China's cultural movers and shakers; all are the work of Les Suen, a 31-year-old Shanghai design whiz.

The massive influx of foreign multinationals, and the growth of their Chinese competitors, has given local talents new chances to stretch and prove themselves at home. More significant, those talents are starting to find demand overseas. Last November, the People's Daily proudly announced that China had become the world's third-largest exporter of creative services and products. Granted, how creativity was defined--and how much of the country's $969.1 billion in 2006 exports was "creative"--seems a bit unclear. Still, "the last 20 years have been about the West moving East," says Philip Dodd, a consultant and BBC radio host whose London-based firm, Made in China, is helping Chinese cities develop their creative industries. "But the next 20 years will be about the East moving West."

Dodd, who's at work on everything from an electronic-arts biennial in Shanghai to an animation festival in Beijing, isn't just talking about Haier washing machines at Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) or Chinese herbal remedies at Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI). He means culture, too. He points to a contemporary rendition of the ancient tale of The Monkey King, directed by a Chinese theater impresario--and set to a score by Blur frontman Damon Albarn--that will headline the inaugural Manchester International Festival in England this month. And Dodd could have gone on: Not long ago, Cao Qiang, a young Chinese fashion designer, won the grand prize at an international competition--sponsored in part by the lofty French body that designates haute couture. From Germany to Japan, Chinese industrial-design students are also starting to rack up awards. Guest-edited by two Chinese artists, the latest issue of the global-culture quarterly Colors pays homage to the country's emerging creative gusto. And products by young designers like Lin Jing and Eddie Yip are making the cut at choosy retailers such as Milanese style mecca 10 Corso Como and "urban vinyl" phenomenon Kidrobot in the United States.

On a more monumental scale, three Beijing architects erupted onto the international stage last year when they clinched the competition to design a condo high-rise outside Toronto. Their winning scheme, set to begin construction this year with an estimated $114 million price tag, is a dramatic 56-story tower that spirals and undulates like a giant ergonomic barbell. And the units were such a hit that these young architects--who call their firm MAD Design--have since been asked to build a second tower next to the first, while other commissions have been flooding in from Denmark to Inner Mongolia. China, known as the playground for the world's most adventurous architects, is now exporting some flash-forward designs of its own.

"The young generation in China is unbelievably strong," says Stefano Boeri, who, as editor of the Italian design bible Domus (he's now at Abitare), oversaw the launch of the magazine's Chinese edition last year. Boeri is referring to China's emerging architects, but his words resonate more broadly: "They still need to metabolize," he continues, "but in a few years, they'll produce something new. Of this I'm absolutely sure."

Meanwhile, don't overlook that other Chinese characteristic: determination. "Recently," says Ou, the Get It Louder founder, "there was a series of television documentaries explaining the rise of empires. Everyone here watched it very closely." They were, he says, looking for pointers.

To get a sense of how Chinese creativity might evolve, just look across the East China Sea. "The Chinese see Japan as a role model, because it was able to modernize without losing its visceral culture," says Amy Gendler, who runs the AIGA's Chinese outpost--the design organization's only presence outside of the United States. Indeed, those who once dismissed Japan as a backwater of the imagination eventually ate those words as the nation became a global force in fashion, design, architecture, and pop culture--not to mention cars and consumer electronics.

Likewise, "there's a strong desire in China to become internationally relevant while maintaining a Chineseness," says Gendler, who also teaches graphic design at Beijing's top-notch Central Academy of Fine Arts. She's not talking about dragons and phoenixes. She's talking about people like Li Weiran. A soft-spoken 31-year-old, Li graduated from the prestigious Beijing Film Academy and went on to make TV commercials in China for the likes of Nike, Pepsi (NYSE:PEP), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). With a keen cinematic eye and brilliant wit, Li's ads spoof hackneyed scenes from Chinese life: a generations-old family feud, complete with a flying chicken (don't ask), that's finally resolved over a bottle of Master Kong green tea. Or an unwitting utility worker, perched high on a telephone pole, turned into a human basketball hoop by a group of teens slam-dunking his workman's bag. (It was part of a series for Nike called "Anytime.")

"I like to get my creativity from real life," Li says, sipping a coffee at a trendy bar overlooking Beijing's Houhai Lake. "Most of my ads are localized, about experiences the Chinese can relate to, while maybe borrowing some Western ideas," he continues. Li started off with a bang when, at just 25, he directed a television commercial for UNICEF, which won China's first-ever Gold award at advertising's career-making One Show in New York. "It was an extraordinary ad that I remember well," One Club president Kevin Swanepoel recalls six years later. "As good as any I've seen." Apparently, Sony agrees; it just hired Li to help produce some new ads for the domestic markets in China, Japan, and Korea.

In other words, as China's influence expands, and its young creatives refine their export-grade material, the notion of Chineseness is expanding along with it. After all, you wouldn't think of MAD's Toronto towers as being typically Chinese. But "there's a reason we hid the buildings' structure," explains firm partner Qun Dang, referring to their torqued, sinuous exteriors. "China didn't have an industrial revolution like in the West, so the structure isn't the main concern. Instead, it's about the beauty of the natural form, a more eastern philosophical or Chinese way of thinking." In light of the current infatuation with expressive architectural gestures--think Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid--it's tempting to argue that the world is catching up with China.

Not that China doesn't have some work to do. Overall, its education system still does little to inspire. And then there's the weight of government censorship (a heavily redacted Internet, for example), red tape, and all that nagging piracy--though Beijing is working on a national design policy that promises, officially at least, to better protect intellectual property rights while promoting new education initiatives. What's more, while the country has spectacularly leapfrogged into contemporaneity, the flip side, many Chinese will tell you, is that there's not much of a pop- or sub-culture foundation to build on.

Even here, however, the vacuum is filling fast. "Street culture is becoming the biggest influence in China," says a hip and prolific Shanghai designer who goes by the name Ji Ji. His branding and identity clients already include Nike, L'Oréal, and Shu Uemura, but the 35-year-old also has five stores: four for Shirt Flag, his T-shirt line known for ironic takes on Mao-era graphics, and one for Under Oath, a more architectural and conceptual fashion collection. "Right now, we're following the Western world, but we don't want to copy," he says. "I think we'll have our own street culture soon."

Or consider Da>Space. A year-old gallery and store in a former factory building in Shanghai, it has hosted everything from a life-size, apocalyptic take on an army tank to an extravaganza, called "I, China," that got more than 80 emerging artists and designers to personalize a speciallycommissionedtoyfigure. Da>Space is entirely self-funded--no corporate sponsors allowed--which makes it an anomaly in this cash-hungry milieu. Sponsors tend to want to take over, explains Lin Lin Mai,oneofDa>Space's four 35-and-under partners, and while her design firm, Jellymon/JMGS, has counted Nike and ad giant Wieden+Kennedy as clients, she and her cohorts want to "go more slowly here," she says. "It takes time to develop a subculture before it gets latched onto the mainstream."

That's it: time. China just needs time. Yet in a country where everything is happening at warp speed, where neighborhoods and even skylines are transformed overnight, waiting around isn't an option. And so, from the grassroots to the very top, young Chinese are ramping up. Just think of Jennifer Wen Ma, as she spends her days and nights contemplating how to project an ascendant China at the Olympics next year. "It's a heavy burden--not only to show the world a new side of China, but the Chinese people are expecting a lot too," she says. "Everyone, it seems, is ready for a renaissance of creativity." They won't have long to wait.

Aric Chen is a contributing editor for I.D., Surface, and Interior Design magazines and regularly writes for The New York Times, Art + Auction, and other publications.

A dynamic business-savvy generation is poised to redefine product design, architecture, fashion, and entertainment in China. Meet the nine innovators who are building the country's creative infrastructure--and making the world take notice:


The founder of adFunture, an edgy vinyl toy line, Eddie Yip is also a partner in Da>Space, a Shanghai gallery that showcases China's emerging street culture. His designs have made the cut at "urban vinyl" phenomenon Kidrobot in the United States.


The youngest member of the seven-person committee planning next year's Olympic opening ceremony, Jennifer Wen Ma, 33, hopes to roll out a whole new look for China at the inauguration of the games. Working under legendary film director Zhang Yimou, she promises a radical departure--and a minimum of ribbon dancing.


China's creatives often wear many hats, but Ou Ning, 37, has more than most. He's a writer, filmmaker, music promoter, and designer--not to mention founder of several magazines. But it is Ou's roving art, culture, and design biennial, Get It Louder, that has really put him on the hipster map.


Lin Jing's live-work loft in Beijing's 798 gallery district contains everything from curvaceous wooden stools to porcelain flashlight/lamps that would make Claes Oldenburg proud. Lin, 33, studied art in Beijing and Belgium, and her organically shaped teapots have won coveted shelf space at 10 Corso Como, the Milanese fashion emporium.


Ma Yansong and Qun Dang are two of the three partners of MAD Design, an architectural firm that beat out the international competition to design a condo high-rise outside Toronto. MAD's 56-story Absolute Tower spirals and undulates like a giant ergonomic barbell.


Fed up with music in China--he recalls meeting kids who thought hip-hop came from Korea--Gary Wang did something about it: He helped create Lab, a graffiti-splattered hip-hop venue in his native Shanghai. Now, DJs come in from abroad to teach the craft (anyone can use Lab's equipment for free) and Wang, who hones his skills in Japan's underground has even taken local turntabilists to compete in London's DMC World DJ Championships.


A fixture on the Shanghai design circuit, Ji Ji has done brand identity work for clients such as L'Oreal and Nike--and has opened five stores in Shanghai and Beijing, to sell his own clothing designs.


After leaving London's storied Central Saint Martins, fashion designer Qui Hao, 29, took a leap of faith in opening his eponymous Shanghai boutique last October. There, in what was once a tea shop that fronted a pirated-DVD operation, he produces designs that could pass the high-concept test anywhere, including coats that evoke the "wool blankets that all Chinese had growing up."


China has found its muse in actress Ziyi Zhang. A one-in-a-billion brand, Zhang looks to use that success to drive the already remarkable growth of the national film industry. She consistently ranks at the top of Forbes China's annual China's Top Celebrities list; in the 2007 survey, she was 18th in income and fourth in social influence, giving her the top ranking for a woman.



Getting Louder: Chinese Design on the March

by Rick Poynor

When someone suggested that I might I like to attend the opening of the “Get it Louder” exhibition in Shenzhen, in southern China, I had no real idea what I was signing up for. I was in Guangzhou for the opening of “Communicate”, an exhibition about independent British graphic design that I have curated. Still, this other exhibition of work by young Chinese designers sounded promising, so I joined two bus-loads of local design people making the two-hour drive to Shenzhen at breakfast time on Saturday morning.

“Get it Louder” — subtitle: “Lifexperience 2010” — is billed as the first exhibition of its kind in China. It has been curated by a team of designers for informal venues, rather than official museums, and it covers graphic design, fashion, product design, architecture, multimedia and music, showing the work of more than 80 designers. It will travel on to Shanghai and Beijing and, as its title suggests, it aims to generate some noise. The lunch-time opening was attended by perhaps 200 people. One by one the curators and participating designers took the stage. The show is the culmination of a process of assimilation and development that has been under way for some time. Its sponsors include Chivas whisky, Epson and Ikea. If not for the sticky heat, requiring steady use of the mouth-shaped “Get it Louder” fans supplied by the organisers, we could have been anywhere. The audience had the usual haircuts, shaven or spiky, and the same tastes in branded designer gear.

The exhibition occupied a big warehouse space at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal. The floor was marked out as a series of rooms — theatre, living room, bathroom — a bit like the town in Lars von Trier’s Dogville and you entered these spaces to look at hanging works and projections. Again, it was striking how many of these pieces spoke in the lingua franca of young international design — the designers’ average age is 25. They showed the same concern with graffiti, T-shirt designs, doe-eyed cartoon figures, cute toys, robots and illustrations based on whimsical doodles. Although some of this work was produced outside China, its inclusion was clearly an endorsement of this imagery.

More interesting was the work that seemed to have something to say about China today and where it stands in relation to its past. A set of skateboards was decorated with images of smiling workers and the slogan “The People’s Republic of Skateboarding”. A T-shirt by a designer based in Shanghai bore the legend “Worker, Peasant and Soldier” (in English) next to a drawing of the trio. The worker and the peasant appeared to be kissing, which would never have happened under Chairman Mao, while the soldier looked the other way. In the US, Shepard Fairey’s “Obey Giant” campaign regularly parodies the heroic poses seen in communist propaganda, while books celebrating original propaganda posters find a keen audience among western ironists. The extraordinary photographs in Red-Color News Soldier have exposed the hidden history of the Cultural Revolution. It’s hard to see how the graphic allusions to communism in “Get it Louder” could be read without irony, but I’m still not sure that irony is quite what is. Earlier in the week, I saw a magazine picture showing a hip-looking Chinese film-maker posing in his home next to a large painting of Mao’s face. I asked whether this was meant ironically. My companions, fashionably dressed journalists from the magazine, seemed mystified at the suggestion. Politics remains a highly sensitive area in China and I didn’t pursue it.

Ou Ning, one of the show’s curators, notes that, “When doing the selection, we especially avoided those works that use Chinese elements on purpose.” In his mid-30s, he is the very model of a restlessly mobile, boundary-breaking contemporary design person. He works as a writer, music promoter and graphic designer — his art direction for Modern Weekly magazine, displayed in the show, is excellent. He is also the founder of U-thèque, an independent film and video organisation. Ou Ning argues that since China’s social and political reforms began in 1979, there have been three generations in Chinese design. Until the early 1990s, the first generation still created mainly handmade work as there were few computers in the country. The second embraced the Macintosh and began to absorb international design influences. The third, represented in “Get it Louder”, grew up in the age of the Internet with access to information not available to earlier Chinese designers. They have an international outlook, often completing their education abroad, and they share the “independent DIY spirit” found in young designers the world over.

In a recent article for Modern Weekly, Ou Ning draws a picture of the new China as a nation of dedicated conspicuous consumers. “Luxury goods have become the latest obsession,” he writes. “The Chinese new rich, with vanity and sheer emptiness, are exhilarated by European brands.” In the words of one recent American book title, there are “three billion new capitalists” in the east and 1.3 billion of them live in China, the most populous land on the planet. Ou Ning suggests that material seductions have diluted political passions and led to a decline in civic consciousness and a growing indifference to public affairs. It’s exactly the same complaint, of course, that we hear so often in the west.

Some of the most telling exhibits in “Get it Louder” are photographs that document the phenomenal pace of change in the Special Economic Zones where unrestricted capitalist development holds sway. Guangzhou photographer Zhu Ye’s pictures show factory chimneys in the Pearl River Delta belching smoke. In subtropical Guangzhou, a thick pall of pollution, visible even at night, clings to the city and the sky is permanently grey. Photographs by Sze Tsung Leong, a New York artist and one of the editors of Great Leap Forward by Rem Koolhaas and his Harvard students, document the “maelstrom of modernization” — as the book terms it — with a meticulously objective eye. Leong contrasts the few surviving older buildings with the new and shows the ravages of demolition alongside sleek emerging structures thrown up by the Chinese economic miracle. Shenzhen itself has grown from little more than a village to a wealthy modern city in 20 years.

If there is cause for hope, for Ou Ning it lies in the Internet, which he sees as a new form of public space, and if that sounds a little starry-eyed, look at it from a Chinese point of view. “Large quantities of information are now able to break through the traditional system of information control,” he writes. The Internet gives the Chinese an anonymous platform for opinions that cannot otherwise be expressed freely. He attributes a similar liberating power to DVD piracy, which has broken down cultural isolation by allowing the Chinese cheap access to previously unavailable films. Digital images, he suggests, are helping to create a new, more democratic order in Chinese society. While “Get it Louder” vividly reflects the aspirational “life experience” of its globally-aware young participants, it remains to be seen whether Chinese design will be able to confront social reality in more overtly critical ways. One thing is clear, though. This huge country developing at awe-inspiring speed is making itself part of the international dialogue and we will be hearing a lot more from Chinese designers in the years ahead.


Comments (9)

Thanks Rick for a wonderful report.
The design in developing nations is a rather close topic for me.

I am 23 and originally from India. I plan to move back by next year and start a project on trying to find an Indian Graphic Design Identity. More than anything, i want to start contributing to the asian graphic design dialouge.

I think its very interesting that the audiences in countries like China and India are maturing and starting to be curious about design,cinema,music etc. and many of the young designers feel like the existing vernacular needs to change.

It's very encouraging for me to read articles like these, as it only fuels my exictement of being part of a generation and from a region of the world where new questions are being asked. No one knows where it'll take us.

But I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else.

Posted by: Aashim Tyagi on May 5, 2005 01:23 PM

They showed the same concern with graffiti, T-shirt designs, doe-eyed cartoon figures, cute toys, robots and illustrations based on whimsical doodles.

It's strange that "design" has come to mean this particular configuration of things, and that when this assortment is absent we say that design is absent from a country, and when it's present we say that design is present. One virtue of Vice magazine's recent satirical guide to design was that it reminded us that everything from glue-traps to home-made weapons is design, and that design isn't just something that follows Karim Rashid around like a cloud of scent. It isn't, in other words, an index of luxury, or of capitalist surplus.

Countries emerging from communism often go through a period in which they parody capitalism, and I suspect China may be doing this now. Personally, I think countries emerging from capitalism, countries in which a "post-capitalism" can be seen, might have more to tell us about the future. I'm talking about "Slow Life" Japan, for instance. These countries are interested in exactly the kinds of sustainable design, low-tech, cheap, elegantly simple, which are being abandoned in the glitzy showcase design conferences of India and China, although they survive in daily life, particularly away from the cities.
Posted by: Momus on May 6, 2005 02:40 AM

Actually, having looked at the Works featured on the Get It Louder website, I'd like to qualify that rather sweeping statement. In fact, most of this looks remarkably similar to what you'd see in Japan at similar events.
Posted by: Momus on May 6, 2005 03:15 AM



i understand how you're interpreting this because i've thought about the same issues a few years ago when a designer friend in taipei started 'cutting edge' designs, 'personal' designs -- which unfortunately dated itself from the moment of inception.

however, how can you cut short the discovery of rock and roll? it's very much an identity factor and by assimilating into the onedotzeros, the tokion magazines, the shift magazines -- what's wrong with that? it's like watching a foreign film, and as a teenager, you want that, you want to be there, you want to breath it -- but you can't because you are not them. isn't that your relationship with japanese culture? just because you teach, fuck, eat, sleep, see with nippon senses doesn't really make you a part of them. i think your journal entry speaks more about you than these post communist rockist designer kids.

Posted by: 3rd world on May 7, 2005 02:59 AM

Well, that's an interesting point. I think the perception of places and their predominant styles as glamorous and also elsewhere is a powerful one. It's certainly my relationship with Japan, with design, with women... they are all in some sense exotic for me, and my continuing failure to merge totally with them maintains their power over me. But I think this kind of glamour (and if we wanted to be pompous we could name it something like "exoticism cathexis") is a self-fulfilling prophecy: it is often embraced by its targets and recipients and becomes part of their self-image.

The "image" of a city like Tokyo or New York might well come from star-struck arrivistes rather than locals. I mean, we might associate New York with Andy Warhol, but he wasn't born there, and his status as the ultimate New York insider rests, paradoxically, on his continuing to see New York throughout his life with the eyes of an outsider.

So I certainly wouldn't say the Chinese don't have as much right to, say, skateboarding imagery or manga mascots as anyone else. They might one day be seen as the guardian curators of this imagery, and we might all forget it started somewhere else, just as we forget that hamburgers and skyscrapers are German!
Posted by: Momus on May 7, 2005 06:36 AM

It's rather arbitrary to conclude a Country's design overall from one event, especially one which in fact only represents a part of it. The curators stated that this event embraces different kinds of 'noises', and also noted their favor of young designers and not being picky in selecting items displayed. It's meant to be 'rebelious', 'diy' or even 'amateurish', in contrary to being elite oriented. One of the curators critically expresses his opinion on the 'master' complex in China, which is thought to be not only conservative and stale, but design being a kind of art exclusive to a small group of people.

Another thing to bear in mind is that contemporary Chinese design is merely out of its primitiveness, its total exposure to the modern design scene beginning not more than 20 years ago (Bauhaus did influence China to a certain degree prior to WW2 though). Mixed with the reminisence of its unique history, the rootedness of traditional art and design, and dominant western design influence, it is still exploring and experimenting with new ways in design.

The conclusion that countries emerging from communism tend to mimic capitalism sounds politically biased. I see a sort of stereotype being stigmatized unto the 'communist' countries. Isn't design a cross-cultural and cross-ideological thing, and doesn't that which belongs to one part of the world also belong to the rest of the world? Or... is it?

To me, it's just a matter of those falling behind in design trying to catch up by assimilating existing international design heritage or trash in a much globalized aworld, not to a level of sharp difference between idealogies or the narrow-mindedness of 'countries emgerging from communism'. It's only part of a process toward integrating good international values and regaining cultural confidence. And in that process, trial and error are often inevitable, and price has to be paid to learn lessons.

Get it louder. Probably make some grating noises. Go for it, countries/designers emerging from whatever society.
Posted by: Du Qin on May 8, 2005 02:45 AM

Du Qin raises an interesting point about the possible influence of the Bauhaus on Chinese graphic design before the Second World War. Information about the history and development of Chinese graphic design is hard to come by. Only one historical survey, now out of print, has been published in English, Chinese Graphic Design in the Twentieth Century by Scott Minick and Jiao Ping (Thames & Hudson, 1990), a husband and wife team then based in Paris (Ping was born in Shanghai).

They note that Chinese works of the 1930s were particularly influenced by European photographers and by Russian Constructivist Alexander Rodchenko. "Chinese photographers resolved that their medium should play an active role in the transformation of society. Their collaboration with the graphic designers of the Progressive Movement helped create compositions that broke with the academic traditions of the past." Designs for publications such as The Central China Monthly and The Ark, a magazine about family life, show a dynamic modernist integration of type and image quite different from the socialist realism that came later.

How much of this historical material survives today? "The speed at which such aesthetically significant materials are being lost is alarming," writes Minick. "As China lunges forward in an attempt to modernize, it is routinely disposing of many fine examples of its cultural heritage, much of which is unrecoverable."

For anyone interested in Chinese propaganda posters, Dutch sinologist and poster collector Stefan Landsberger's site is a superb resource, with excellent commentary on the images.
Posted by: Rick Poynor on May 8, 2005 07:11 AM

Thanks for all the details of covering this great show! Seems it has been ages such event is waited in Mainland China, but are more casual in HK, especially thanks to idn (international designers network) who want to develop events across Asia : Singapore, HK with Fresh Conference (since 2001), inviting international graphic designers and web designers.

The real revolution in this event, is it will take place in Shanghai. The first time this city, more famous for its business development. But the graphic designers in China still live with low ressources, it is bad considered and not very well-paid.

As French art director working between Paris and Shanghai, I really appreciate such event but hope it would also welcome more foreign webdesigners for lectures. When will can be able to hear Joshua Davis or even Japanese webdesigners such as Yugo Nakamura, in mainland China ? This will be the next challenge.

Posted by: gabyu on May 8, 2005 03:28 PM

Very excited to see everyone's feedbacks and arguments. Thanks much for your interest in this event.

And nice to meet you here, Gabyu.

In my opinion, Shanghai once established its unique aesthetics of design in the 30's, which marks one of the most important graphic design references of modern China. The other would be the Mao's style that was invented after the founding of PRC, whose influence and heritage can still be seen at this 21st century's Get It Louder. It is a classic piece that built up in a total fantasy of communism, which still sometimes serve as an image and dream of China in many western people's mind.

Get It Louder is here to say and show that we are now in a totally new and unique situation where the new generations are creating, and hopefully establish a new China's image after quite some time. This image is not merely a graphic one, but moreover an image of culture, people, and a nation. It is almost a huge re-build project after the ruins of the Revolution. Now the image is so blurry, ambiguous, but passionate and even aggressive with expansive influences from all sources.

Personally, I feel a bit dazed besides much excitement, therefore "noise" became the subject . Hopefully, Get It Louder can be a good compilation record of what's happening now and serve as a great reference for the future.
Posted by: Qian on May 10, 2005 04:33 AM

China - still not creative?

by Jacob Bøtter

I have no clue what-so-ever of what I am doing wrong. I keep ending up in this discussion everytime I engage in a conversation about design and innovation. The question of whether or not China (sometimes we also discuss Asia at large) will be able to compete with us for real. By saying for real I mean competing in making original products and developing those. Most business execs see Chinas a place where you can outsource your manufacturing of original products for 2 bucks an hour. Not that many understand that China will grow and be able to make original products - heck, they're already there!

Today Rick Poynor from the Design Observer blog came to my rescue. He posted a piece about a new exhibit in China called "Get it Louder". I am a fairly interested in arts, so I went there to look at what they had to offer. And now I have a confession to make: I just sat there.. looking.. for 10 minutes or more.. literally.. 10 minutes is a long time! I kept thinking that we were doomed if China already was this far. And they are!

It's not that it's such a big surprise for me, as I have researched this field for a long time now. It's always fascinating to have your point of views based on something like that. Art might not be directly connected to innovation, but looking at art you can somehow always connect commercial products with some pieces of art. Art is somewhere in the middle between design and innovation. Most inventors (and perhaps also most innovators) understand art and the value of it. So does China.

Some might argue that I am still way out. That China is in no way of competing directly with us. They may base their arguments on (macro) economics, cultural differences and the like, but a fact is that we have no chance of winning the battle of globalization (and there is a large battle going on!) if we keep undermining our opponents. No successful sportsman would argue that they won because they didn't know who their opponents where, and where they had their strenghts and weaknesses. Same thing goes for innovation and globalization in my opinion.

Bottom line: Do you still dare not to think of China as a competitor? How "developed" does a country/company have to be in order to compete? Try to think of South Korea (a growth in BNP larger than any industrialized country) or Google (everyone kept undermining their importance when they were small).

Posted by Jacob Bøtter on May 5, 2005 in Rants


Anyone who thinks that China is not creative as a culture or cannot be creative and competitive in the contemporary globalized business environment is naive.

Sure there is the traditions, the cultural baggage and language of Chinese business practices and beauracracy. The residue of the cultural revolution - a massive blow to Chinese creativity and culture. But this is the past - China is waking up!

The reality from my own perspective as someone who has lived in China for some time is that it is already extrodinarily creative as evidenced by the dramatic and overwhelmingly sweeping changes it is implimenting at every level of it's society. The acceleration of the pace of change and innovation [within the context of China] is amazing to witness first hand. It's very exciting actually.

Chinese designers are eager, quick to learn and full of hope and optimism for the future. Their passion, committment and drive toward the future is admirable and infectious.

I'd recommend a trip to Shanghai to anyone who disputes this... get with the program.

I'd also say that sure this may seem pretty intimidating - but it also presents some incredible opportunities as well.

Posted by: Ian McArthur | May 17, 2005 7:45:05 AM

I agree with you Ian. Actually I don't just agree, I think it's brilliant what you just wrote here.

But facing a real-world business life, and real-world businessmen you have to realize that life isn't that black and white. These are the types of human beings that thinks making their products into commodities will make them successful and the same types of people that fires their employees for blogging. This kind of human being is actually pretty close to our own ranks. Take a close look at Jonathan Ives boss. Take a really close look. The guy that saw the potential in Pixar and Apple is now going mad, shooting at everyone doing buzz marketing for him (the blogging lawsuits).

China is there, I agree. They are already creative. Now tell the european (and american) CEOs this before it's too late. Richard Florida is trying. We are trying. Hell, we need more troops don't you think? :-)

Posted by: Jacob Bøtter | May 18, 2005 5:28:34 PM

I do agree that more people need to open up [as China is doing] to the massive potentials that are inherent in the fact that around one quarter of the world's population exist in mainland China. So yes, "more troops" are definitely required :)

You are right to point out that things are not black and white. That kind of thinking cannot be applied to China and is not natural to the Chinese way of seeing the world.

I would go so far as to say, that how the process of integrating awareness of design, and design practice itself, unfolds in China has profound implications for the whole planet. In addition to the challenge Western business models have in addressing Chinese markets and the competition factor etc., the is the huge issues associated with China's uptake of technologies we take for granted. The automobile, and it's associated resources and outcomes, is but one example.

It is [I think] vital that China leapfrog many technologies that currently encumber us globally today to embrace advanced systems, products and services. Design as a profession and by inference design education has a significant role to play in this process. Recognising and utilising the existing and upcoming talent there is the way forward in what is a long and complex path ahead.

Posted by: Ian McArthur | May 31, 2005 5:50:33 AM

If anything I think that china would possibly hold more creativity than many countries.

Compare their position to a personal one you might have been in. If you're given a blank piece of paper and freedom to do anything often the piece of paper could be filled with rubbish. When you are put in an environment which constricts your creativity like a monotonous job (or in china's case government control) you feel creative and compelled to out think your environment.

Well that's my 2 cents.

Posted by: Rich | Aug 1, 2005 11:21:52 PM

China Design
How the mainland is becoming a global center for hot products

Business Week
NOVEMBER 21, 2005

Sony had a problem in China: The company was seen by many young Chinese as Daddy's brand. So in August the company opened a design center in Shanghai. The three designers there quickly set about trying to understand the lives of young Chinese, giving 50 of them digital cameras and asking them to document their daily lives in photographs. By September the designers had tacked dozens of the pictures -- people in their bedrooms, hanging out with friends, playing basketball -- onto the wall and divided the group into seven categories, such as "Cheerful Next Generation" and "Try Hard for Life." Then the team set out to design a line of MP3 players that would appeal to the trendsetters in these groups. The devices, in muted colors with a smooth river-rock-like appearance, are scheduled to hit the market in China early next year. "If we understand [young Chinese], we can design better products for them," says Katsumi Yamatogi, the veteran Sony Corp. (SNE ) designer who heads the studio in Shanghai's trendy Xintiandi district.


There's a lot of that going on in China these days. As Chinese companies seek to build global brands and foreigners aim to boost sales in the mainland, they're transforming the country's design business. Chinese manufacturers realize they need better products if they want to break out of China and beef up their margins on sales abroad. And foreign companies such as Sony are starting to see that as Chinese consumers get more discriminating, they're no longer content with the tired, designed-somewhere-else models that many overseas-based marketers once sold in China.

This is powering a boom in design on the mainland. The best Chinese companies are building their design staffs or hiring outsiders to help them make more products of their own. Design is one of the most popular majors at Chinese universities today, and hundreds of design consulting firms have sprung up in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. "Large companies [in China] are saying: 'We can't catch up fast enough,"' says Craig M. Vogel, a professor of design at the University of Cincinnati who has worked as a consultant to several companies in China. Even young designers from abroad are flocking to Beijing and Shanghai to try their luck in the world's most dynamic consumer market.

That's a dramatic change from just a few years ago. Although China manufactures the bulk of the world's electronics, shoes, and much more, those products typically have been designed in Europe, the U.S., or Japan. When Chinese companies did make their own products, as often as not they copied designs from abroad. Today, in contrast, just about everyone in China seems to want to be the next Samsung. A decade ago the Korean conglomerate was a second-tier brand that made me-too consumer electronics. But after years of focusing on design, Samsung today earns more awards for design than even Sony or Apple Computer (AAPL ), and it's one of the world's most valuable brands. "Design is the way companies improve their competitiveness," says Yu Zida, a vice-president who oversees design at appliance maker Haier Group Co.

As locals get better at design, multinationals are realizing that they need to develop products specifically for the Chinese. So Sony, Samsung, Motorola (MOT ), Nokia (NOK ), General Motors (GM ), Volkswagen, and many others have opened design shops in China to research local tastes. Not so long ago, General Motors Corp. made few changes to models sold in the mainland, figuring that consumers buying their first cars wouldn't be too choosy. But as competition has picked up, the carmaker has built up its Chinese design team. The staff has nearly tripled -- to more than 80 people -- since 2002, and at the Shanghai Motor Show this year the group showed a concept sedan called the ALA, which looks something like a pagoda when viewed from the rear.

Most of the Chinese design staff's time, though, is spent tailoring vehicles developed elsewhere to the Chinese market. In one case, GM took a family minivan sold in the U.S. as the Chevrolet Venture and restyled it as a car for executives, calling it the Buick GL8. To boost its appeal to big shots who get driven around by chauffeurs, the designers gave the GL8 a tonier interior and a longer hood, with a more pronounced grille and headlamps. "The front face of the car becomes a big part of the design inspiration," says James Shyr, gm's chief designer in China. "One of the key requirements of an executive car is you have to see it from far away."

Some Chinese designers call that sort of ostentation "gold teeth design." It's a hit in China, where it's more important to appear rich than to have a fat bank account. That means companies both foreign and local often trot out products that sell well in China but might not have much resonance in other markets. Lenovo Group Ltd. (LNVGY ), for instance, has had fabulous success with a cell phone that holds a few drops of perfume, filling the room with sweet smells as the battery heats up. And Volkswagen designers in Shanghai have for the first time been permitted by the company's design bosses to use artificial wood in a car. While customers in Germany would turn up their noses at a car with fake wood -- even if "real wood" is just a veneer that's less than a millimeter thick -- Chinese car buyers want it because it makes their autos stand out. "Understatement in China is a no-no," says Stefan Fritschi, chief designer at VW's Shanghai operation. "You want to impress your neighbor."

One problem faced by domestic companies and foreigners alike is a lack of trained designers. Fritschi, for instance, asked that the names of his designers not be published lest they be poached by rivals. To some extent, that gap is starting to be filled. Since Hunan University opened China's first school of design in Changsha 23 years ago, the discipline has taken off. Beijing's Tsinghua University is opening a new 60,000-square-meter design building, and in Guangzhou the Academy of Fine Arts just moved to a new eight-story facility with enough space for 3,000 industrial design students -- five times its current capacity. Today, China has some 400 schools offering design classes that together graduate some 10,000 industrial designers annually, up from just 1,500 or so five years ago. "Design schools are popping up like bamboo shoots," marvels Yan Yang, chairman of Tsinghua's industrial design department.

Design is even seeping ever deeper into Chinese society. Beijing has introduced into the national curriculum a new course called Technology and Design in which students learn about the history of design and what constitutes good design. "Traditionally, Chinese people are very good at design," says He Renke, dean of Hunan University's design school, who helped develop the curriculum. "Now we need a renaissance."

Is design in China at the same level as in Japan or Korea? Not yet. The level of instruction can be spotty. While the schools are good at teaching the creation of pleasing forms and using computers to render new products, they need to give students more guidance in what is usable as well as pretty. "The difference between technical skills in China and the West isn't that great," says Liu Guangzhong, a professor at Tsinghua and an independent consultant. "The problem is in innovation."


The other issue: The best Chinese companies know design is crucial. But others still haven't learned the lesson that it's worth spending money on design to distinguish their products in the marketplace. "Manufacturers don't think about what makes good design," says Zhou Yi, president of S.point Design, a Shanghai consulting firm that has done work for Siemens (SI ), Intel (INTC ), and many Chinese companies. "They really just focus on looks rather than functionality."

Then there's piracy. Just about any successful product in China quickly gets knocked off, which is a powerful disincentive to invest in design. GM, for instance, is suing Chery Automotive Co. for its QQ compact, a dead ringer for the Chevrolet Spark. And Motorola Inc. noticed copies of the A780, a PDA-phone combo its Beijing staff developed for the Chinese market, within eight months of the phone's debut. "I'm amazed at how efficient they are," says Kumo Chiu, who heads Motorola's Chinese design operations.

Still, the situation is improving fast. As Chinese companies face the same piracy problems as foreigners, Beijing appears to be more willing to crack down. Li Yiwen, a professor of design at Shenzhen University and an independent designer, came up with a basic Web camera design that has been branded and sold worldwide by the likes of Samsung, Yahoo (YHOOO )!, and Lenovo. Shortly after the camera hit the market, a factory in Shenzhen started churning out knockoffs. So Li hired a lawyer to talk to the factory and eventually settled for a payment of $63,000. "I was pretty satisfied with that," says Li.

Other Chinese designers are succeeding in international competitions. A student from Hunan University last year earned the top prize in the biennial Nagoya Design Do! competition for young designers. The project was a milk carton that has the day's weather printed on top -- which gives milk drinkers useful information and spurs dairies to keep their milk fresh. A graduate of the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts studying in Germany was one of five finalists for the prestigious BraunPrize this year for a portable shelter that can be constructed quickly -- almost like a tent -- for a concert or sporting event.

The renaissance can be seen at the best Chinese companies, too. Lenovo has doubled its design team, to 80 people, since 2002. The computer maker -- which bought IBM's (IBM ) PC Div. in May -- this year won an Industrial Design Excellence Award for its ET960 smart phone. Yao Yingjia, Lenovo's chief designer, has broken down much of the Confucian hierarchy that hobbles innovation at Chinese enterprises and employs many of the same management techniques used by industry leaders worldwide. Every year, Yao takes team members on a two-day retreat where they bond by building rafts from scrap materials and sailing them across a lake. And when designers are working on, say, a new cell phone or laptop, they take over a "war room" for the duration of the project. There, team members paste photos of competing products on the wall, brainstorm about the attributes of the device, carve clay mockups, and immerse themselves in the project for weeks or months. "Asian culture is very top-down," says Yao. "But if you give your people too much direction, you won't get any surprises, and as a manager I like to be surprised."

Some of the best surprises, Yao says, come when his designers combine traditional elements of Chinese culture with today's technology. In one instance, a designer charged with developing a speaker phone modeled his proposal after the traditional Chinese "hot pot," a serving dish that families place in the middle of the table and share. The phone, which looks like a red and black dish, includes a remote control that balances on its tip in the center of the "dish" and automatically rights itself when it gets pushed over, like a wobbly doll. "This is a great example of a product that combines culture, style, and function," says Yao.

The best Chinese companies also are showing a commitment to getting designs right if they don't work out the first time. Appliance maker Haier Group, for instance, discovered through its research that people in Saudi Arabia like extra-large washing machines to hold the bulky robes that are common there. So the company started shipping a machine with a wash tub that could hold 6-kg loads, but it didn't sell particularly well. Two years later the company increased the size of the tub to 9 kg. It sold a relatively disappointing 6,000 units. In February, Haier tried again, this time with the biggest tub it makes -- 12 kg. The product has been a hit, selling 10,000 machines since its launch.

That's emblematic of the kind of attention that Haier Group pays to design. The company has 120 industrial designers and 25 more people doing consumer research. Product managers for each model line are responsible for following trends in various countries. So besides the Saudi machine, there's a tiny one for rural China that costs just $38. One for India, where the power supply is iffy at best, can handle dramatic fluctuations in voltage and will pick up where it left off if the electricity goes out. A dishwasher for the U.S. market features the controls on the top surface of the door rather than on the front so you can choose the cycle you want by pulling open the door a bit and looking down at the machine from the top. "[American] consumers complained to me that it's not convenient to control the machine from the front," says Shen Weibin, the machine's designer. "I realized I could put the controls on top of the door."

Even small companies are starting to understand the benefits of good design. Guangzhou exporter Soleil China Ltd. has been selling toys for pets since 1994. By 2000 more than 200 factories in China were making pet toys. So that year Soleil hired a packaging designer to give its goods an edge, and soon added a product designer. "We immediately saw better results when we started designing our own products," says Kate Feng, Soleil's general manager. Today she has four people creating toys and a half-dozen others helping make molds and control quality at factories. From their small corner of Feng's Guangzhou headquarters -- a jumble of pink leashes, squeezable rubber steaks, and plastic doggy Santas for Fido's stocking -- Soleil's designers come up with at least five new products a month. Each can be sold at margins of 10%, vs. 2% to 4% for items designed by foreign customers but made by Soleil.

Since Soleil's wares regularly show up on the shelves of U.S. chains such as Target (TGT ), Wal-Mart (WMT ), and PetSmart (PETM ), its success raises the question: Will the Chinese start doing design work that once would have been done in the West? That idea has designers from London to Los Angeles abuzz, fearing that their jobs could migrate to less-expensive shops in China or India.

In some instances that's happening already. Taipei-based Nova Design opened a Shanghai branch in 2002. Now it employs 130 people, even as the head office has shrunk to about 50 people from 70 a few years back. Designers in China earn about $350 a month to start -- less than half what their counterparts in Taiwan make. While other Taiwanese and Hong Kong outfits have struggled to get high-quality design out of Chinese staffers, Nova and others are plowing ahead in hopes of grabbing a piece of the growing mainland design business. To give their designers a boost in that race, both Hong Kong and Taiwan are pouring millions into design education and training. "This is a huge market," says Wen-long Chen, president of Nova, which has designed everything from cell phones and blenders to motorcycles and buses for Chinese manufacturers.

Will U.S. companies follow Nova's example and employ low-cost Chinese designers to create products for the American market? GM's James Shyr calls his designers "foot soldiers" who understand Chinese culture and therefore can help the auto maker sell more cars in China. But Shyr doesn't expect his foot soldiers to start helping their Detroit colleagues with the styling of cars made for U.S. drivers anytime soon. Designers in Detroit "know exactly what's going on in Springfield, and we don't," says Shyr.

Still, the Japanese and Koreans figured out what's going on in Springfield, and their designs eventually succeeded worldwide. Many Chinese designers have already started working overseas. Once these people have spent a few years in Milan, Tokyo, or New York honing their skills, some will doubtless return to China to help the mainland reach the next level. It may be many years before the design skills of Chinese companies equal those of a Samsung. But as China develops, plenty of mainland companies will surely be trying.
[最后修改由 OUNING, 于 2008-12-25 12:44:59]

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引用 Cami*
[ 2011-08-07 00:52:10 ]
I'm not wrtohy to be in the same forum. ROTFL

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