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I’ve been talking to European and US innovation and design consultancies working in Shanghai and the rest of China and most are hiring Western and Korean designers because Chinese designers are not up to global standards. They say that, wth a number of exceptions, the tens of thousands of graduates of Chinese design schools yearly are not precise and exacting enough in their design skills. Reflecting Chinese manufacturing culture, the young designers want to get things done quickly, without much regard for getting it just right. It’s a quick-quick attitude. As for innovating, reframing problems and seeing products and services with fresh eyes, Chinese designers are not nearly there. They are not there in terms of the skills and approaches in anthropology and sociology that allow designers to understand consumer cultures around the world. And Chinese designers are way behind in knowing how to do brand strategy and build new brands.
This is a huge problem. The Chinese consumer is expected to take over from the American consumer as the engine of global economic growth. Understanding how Chinese consumers live and work is vital to designing new products and services for them.
It’s a big problem for Chinese companies trying to shift from OEM manufacturing to building their own national and global brands.
To its credit, China has made design a national priority and is pouring billions of yuan into design education. What is surprising to me is how much further Chinese designers, even the graduates from the best universities, have to go to rise to global par.
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