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If you are interested in the design strength in Taiwan, this article is a good read. The english translation is below the original Chinese article.

今年5月份雜誌上看到的一篇文章,介紹台灣的設計力。設計力背後的強力後盾就是創造力。台灣要如何從代工轉入品牌經營,需要創造力。法國設計大師菲利浦‧史塔克訪台時曾表示,台灣或亞洲的設計師的最大毛病,就是「沒有原創性」,這是台灣從事代工產業的後遺症。“我們不需要原創性也能賺錢。你訴求的原創只為我們帶來風險,我們為什麼要和您合作?創造力很重要,但是我們現在經費,明年在看看。”這是我遇到很多台灣產業給我回應。是的,公司的目的在賺錢,不用原創也能賺錢,為什麼要花錢搞創意?只在意如何改良原有設計,以更低廉的成本製造產品,賺取利潤,是台灣企業普遍的現象。而今品牌意識崛起,大家開始注意原創的重要性,只是願意投入的還在少數。

賈伯斯經營蘋果時的目的是要做出很棒的產品。美國知名的史丹佛大學d.school及IDEO創建者的設計理念是思考如何透過商業活動造福人群。他們的目的都不是賺錢,但是Apple和IDEO都賺了很多錢,不僅賺了錢,還得到的敬重。台灣科技產業的技術實力是舉世皆知,這也是設計力後的另一強大支柱。若是台灣企業能更重視原創性,願意投資員工的創造力或是獲得原創想法的速度力,加上台灣的強韌技術力,台灣設計真的會好美力。

這篇文章為台灣設計力做了一個完整的報導,和大家分享。

台灣設計能量遍地開花,賦予城市新面貌。圖為2010年的「好時光公共藝術節」開幕典禮。 (薛繼光)

台灣設計力發酵,揮別OEM(製造代工),轉向OBM(自有品牌),正逐漸改寫「台灣出品」的價值與定義。 今年10月,台北也從全球19個城市中脫穎而出,將舉辦國際三大設計社團組織(Icsid、Icograda、IFI )組成國際設計聯盟(IDA)後的首次世界設計大會,可見台灣的設計實力已站在世界舞台上。 有人認為,設計在台灣,已是一種專業,也是一門常識,更是一種「國力」的象徵,尤其是台灣與國際的科技落差不大,「設計」就是表現差異化的最後武器。 在國際工業設計大獎已成為台灣每年的盛事後,設計實力能不能進一步為台灣的美學經濟再開一扇窗? 每年3月,是有「設計界奧斯卡」之稱的德國iF產品設計獎揭曉的時刻,今年從43國2,756件產品中,選出993件產品,台灣有高達95件產品獲選,其中更有7件奪下全球只有50個名額的金獎,獲獎數僅次於設計大國德國與日本。細數全球四大設計獎項:德國iF、紅點、日本G-Mark和美國IDEA,台灣得獎總數從2003年的區區16件,累積至今年,已大幅躍升至1,341件;在iF公布的全球百大企業排名中,台灣就有華碩、佳世達、神達電腦等12家公司上榜,戰果輝煌。

科技製造實力加上設計想像力,是將「科技台灣」轉型為「創意台灣」的重要關鍵。 (台灣創意中心提供)

意義:得獎,是一種手段

知名文化評論人詹偉雄曾以「歷經40年幽暗,一夜間百花齊放」形容台灣的工業設計實力。不到十年,台灣設計已在國際舞台嶄露頭角,這股向前急起直追的動力是什麼?而一波波得獎熱,對產業又有何加乘效果?「得獎,是一種手段,」台灣創意中心產業輔導組長艾淑婷說,獎項對企業而言,對內可提升團隊士氣,對外則引來媒體曝光、國外買家留意,是絕佳的國際行銷管道。台創近年來也透過在全台各地舉辦說明會、工作營等方式,輔導業者轉變思維,發展設計為核心競爭能力。同時由經濟部主辦「金點設計獎」,評選優質產品後,鼓勵其參與國際競賽,並補助報名費,也讓參賽件數與獲獎率節節提升。 「不能冒然以得獎數量,做為評斷台灣設計力的唯一指標。」已有43年歷史、國內最老字號的工業設計社團——中華民國工業設計協會理事長郭介誠提醒,從得獎連連的盛況來看,台灣設計實力已具世界水準,然而整體設計產業仍屬十分青澀的起步階段。 郭介誠分析,目前有內部設計部門的企業品牌,仍以有雄厚資本與製造基礎的消費電子廠商為大宗,如華碩、佳世達。一般來說,公司成立自有設計部門,利於人才培育,建立長遠方針,未來發展系列產品時較具優勢,省卻對外尋求合作的磨合風險;但也有企業因成本考量,或需求不高,以委外方式與設計公司合作,透過專業設計師的能量激盪,產生新火花。

紡織所的LED單車風衣 (台灣創意中心提供)

「金字塔」的設計業結構

根據文建會出版的2009年台灣文化創意發展年報統計,全台各領域(包括產品、平面、網頁等)的設計公司共有2,470家,營業額合計712億元。其中營業額超過1億元的有41家,僅占1.66% ,卻包辦了全台設計公司83%的營業額;而營業額在500萬元以下的公司有1,904家(占總家數77%),營收卻僅占2.8%。 台灣設計產業的結構就像一個金字塔或一隻雷龍,也就是有規模的設計公司少,中小型的設計公司多;而在營收表現上,卻成M字型,集中在最大與最小的兩端,非常不均衡,也可看出企業和社會對設計需求的多元性不足,尚未能孕育多樣環境。 漢堡藝術學院工業設計碩士、曾於德國家電大廠百靈任職的郭介誠進一步說明,iF設計大獎,最初是為了促進產業的正向循環與市場行銷而設立。1953年,由德國漢諾威展覽公司與德國工業協會以「優良工業設計」為名,於全球最具規模的漢諾威工業展期間舉辦設計競賽,讓優良產品透過選拔贏得世界信任,爾後規模逐漸擴大,二十世紀末的韓國三星,就是在此一獎項中快速崛起,從代工成功轉型為品牌。設計開啟了三星的品牌密碼,1997年,三星重金禮聘美國的頂尖設計師來改造三星的設計部門,讓設計融入企業文化與基因裡,建立起國際視野,成為品牌價值高達150億美元的全球前20大企業。 郭介誠強調,獎項加持有助行銷世界,消費者得以享用精良的設計,廠商也因此獲利,能再投資開發新產品,形成環環相扣的正向效應,「我們目前只停留在仰賴獎項自我肯定的階段,卻少了後續量產、行銷的能力與配套政策。」

「小綠人」交通號誌燈。 (薛繼光)

有了得獎力,還要行銷力

究竟獎項對台灣企業來說,發揮了多少實質效用? 今年奪下紅點首獎,以專賣蘋果電腦周邊配備的「Just Mobile」品牌,打進歐洲市場的「唯光科技」總經理黃趙光說,獎項對提升品牌名聲、形象,絕對具有加分效果。成立7年的唯光,自3年前改推走設計路線的自有品牌,結果不到1年時間,就完全由代工轉入品牌經營,營業額以倍數成長,效果驚人。 2007年以一只網路通訊軟體Skype專用電話free.1,獲得當年德國iF、紅點、日本G-Mark三大獎的「愛比科技」總經理洪裕鈞則認為,參賽證明有得獎能力足矣,且愛比科技以美國為主要銷售市場,獎項效益不大。得獎效益也許很難具體量化,但對企業形象絕對加分,只是中小企業在參賽之前,得先評估一下成本。 以參加紅點競賽為例,今年報名費是220歐元(約為新台幣9,000元),得獎後需再繳交包含專刊年鑑曝光、官網宣傳、現場展覽、商標權使用在內的2,250歐元(約為新台幣9萬元);首獎則需繳交4,740歐元(約為新台幣20萬元)

通德興業的捕手頭盔。 (台灣創意中心提供)

得獎大國=設計大國?

值得進一步思考的是,當我們的得獎數量幾乎稱霸全球之後,台灣是否就成了世人眼中的設計大國?」郭介誠提問道。倫敦設計博物館館長迪耶‧薩德奇在《被設計淹沒的世界》一書中,引述1950年代興建米蘭最富特色的維拉斯卡大樓的義大利建築師厄內斯托‧納森‧羅傑斯的名言:「只要仔細檢視一支湯匙的設計,就可以看出創造這支湯匙的社會建造出什麼樣的城市。」薩德奇認為,這句話雖然略顯誇大,但是點出設計在當代世界的重要性,即使區區一只湯匙,也能見微知著,看出城市設計基因的符碼。 郭介誠舉例,為什麼一提到「出國取經看設計」,我們馬上想到得去日本、歐洲?因為自走下飛機那一刻起,舉目所見處處都是設計元素:大至建築、都市景觀,小至店面招牌、海報,一個國家的設計力,必定與當地的先進程度、生活品質成正比。他以德國的公共交通系統為例,當地滿街跑的公車、計程車都出自德國百年歷史品牌的賓士,當一般人不需花大錢即可享受賓士的精緻工藝與創新科技,顯見設計不分階級,已融入社會建設,服務普羅大眾。

低底盤公車讓乘客上下車更便利,也是設計力發揮社會公益的例子。 (薛繼光)

願景:設計力、社會益

反觀台灣的設計力仍多停留在消費產品的階段,因此近年工設協會大力倡行「設計力、社會益」的觀念,希望設計界能更有建設性的「設計為公」,發揮台灣人的良善本質,考量環境友善與人文關懷,以「善念」為設計出發點,進而改變社會。 譬如1998年由科技公司經理張銘順發明,台灣從北到南,街頭隨處可見的「小綠人」倒數紅綠燈,提醒路人加快腳步過馬路,也吸引美、德、日等國仿傚,正是設計力發揮社會益的最佳例證。去年底落幕的「台灣國際創意設計大賽」,也以「善念」為競賽重點。奪下金獎的台灣科技大學設計所學生黃筱媛,因常騎單車上學,觀察到台北巷弄間常有隱藏危機,十字路口的急彎處雖安裝有反射鏡,但僅靠鏡面反射,易因視覺死角或受景物影響,反而看不見來車。她以此發想,設計出改良現有反射鏡的「安全進鏡」,加裝可偵測引擎的雷達或其他感測裝置,一旦左右路段的20公尺內有來車,鏡框上的LED燈號即會依據來車方向閃爍,提醒行人與駕駛注意。 過去,設計師只需計畫產品生命週期內的需求與方針,現在則應重視延長產品生命週期、謹慎選用材料,並以使用最少材料為目標等三個基本要件,而非大舉濫用天然資源,出口破壞生態環境的產品。當國外工業設計界逐漸重視能源危機、環保生態、高齡族群等議題,開發老人購物車、穿衣輔助器等產品,例如以無障礙設計為基礎,強調各年齡層及多數人皆能使用的「通用設計」。郭介誠說,台灣也應運用善念設計的理念,推動不分貧富、族群、性別,皆能均等共享的社會建設,例如專為少子高齡化設計的產品,「才能從富裕邁向文明,贏得世界對台灣的尊敬。」

知名設計師謝榮雅與紡織所合作,以廢棄的寶特瓶為材質,設計開發出立體雙面織物,創造出讓植物生長的「布花園」,應用在花博夢想館裡的幾米繪本實景「躲在世界的角落」的植栽牆,呈現出嶄新的植栽面貌。圖為布花園示意圖。 (奇想未來公司提供)

思考:再設計>原創

以童心未泯的世界觀走紅全球的法國設計大師菲利浦‧史塔克訪台時曾表示,台灣或亞洲的設計師的最大毛病,就是「沒有原創性」。設計師若缺乏創新的自信,只能不斷拷貝西方或歐洲的設計外型,一味跟隨主流;此外,若企業老闆沒有給設計師足夠的空間,只是拿一本雜誌告訴他:「我要這樣的產品,你來設計就對了!」都沒有辦法激盪出原創力。有20年業界資歷的台科大工商業設計系副教授鄭金典說,這與台灣獨特的代工產業有關。過去老闆普遍不要求創新,更認為「原創等於風險」,只在意如何改良原有設計,以更低廉的成本製造產品,賺取利潤。而今品牌意識崛起,大家也都肯定原創的重要性。

問題是該從何著手?

鄭金典認為,培養原創力,得從設計教育開始做起。以美國知名的史丹佛大學為例,全球頂尖設計公司IDEO創辦人大衛‧凱利2004年擔任新創立的史丹佛大學設計學院院長後,就把他過去數十年來從設計角度思考解決問題的經驗,萃取成一門跨領域的碩士級學程「設計思維」。 簡單來說,就是將設計領域提升到以「人」為本的創新思維,不像過去單單考量設計美學、機能,而是包含源頭策略、後端生產技術,甚至思考如何透過商業活動造福人群。隨後這套方法風靡全美,哈佛大學、麻省理工學院等頂尖名校也爭相借鏡,美國「彭博商業週刊」稱它是「未來即將取代商學院教育的創新思維」。 例如一門名為「發射台」的課程,便要求學生在三個月內從無到有,構思一個可發展成商業模式的點子,付諸實行。 一名修課學生艾瑞卡,回憶起在印度貧窮小鎮旅行時,當地沒水沒電,寄宿的女主人每天都得摸黑打著煤油燈到牧場餵牛,一旦煤油用完,只能摸黑工作,十分危險。 於是她利用既有的光電科技知識,加上隨手可得的現成資源,用可樂罐做出一個成本不到10美元的LED燈,短短一年內就賣出200萬盞可樂燈,隨後她成立了公司,繼續研發價格低廉又環保節能的太陽能照明設備,目前已銷往全球四十多個落後國家。這門課堂上,不乏像艾瑞卡這種創業成功的例子。

以技術創新為後盾,設計再上一層樓

設計鬼才史塔克曾高度肯定台灣科技產業的技術實力對設計力的支撐說,「如果你有很棒的想法,就去找台灣幫你做出來。」台灣數十年的製造和研發技術的產業資源,正是設計力再上一層樓的堅實後盾。 2010年底起,經濟部技術處委由工研院、資策會與紡織研究所共同執行名為「Dechnology」的「科專成果設計加值計畫」,結合「設計美學」與 「科技創意」,透過國內產業各擁競爭優勢之核心技術,形成更具創造力的團隊組合,加速新產品與市場開發。以今年奪得iF金獎的「布花園」為例,正是由紡織所與前「大可意念」總監,現為「奇想未來」創辦人謝榮雅聯手開發的產品。 「布花園」為全球首見突破平面植物栽種的限制,以立體雙面織物創造有機植物生產的綠色模組,具有可承重、柔軟延展等特性,可隨不同空間變化形成永續的環保花園,凸顯坊間植栽牆難以達成的藝術視覺效果,也符合全球環保意識的潮流。目前已應用在台北花博夢想館的建築外牆,也寫下台灣研究機構在德國iF獎首次摘金的紀錄。從MIT走向DIT,台灣企業已認知到「設計是商品的靈魂,設計是企業重要的策略。」在得獎已為平常、設計已為企業價值翻身後,台灣設計的下一步,是設計能量在各角落開花結果,讓美力台灣成為幸福台灣。

Not only is this year the centenary of the Republic of China, it’s also Taiwanese Design Year! Taiwan’s design industry is waving goodbye to the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) -model and moving toward the OBM (original brand manufacturer) -model, and in the process is redefining and revaluing the concept of “Made in Taiwan.” The International Design Alliance-composed of the three main international design organizations Icsid, Icograda, and IFI-has selected Taipei from 19 competitors to host the inaugural IDA Congress this October. Clearly Taiwan’s design skills are already taking their place on the world stage. To many, design is not only a specialist job, but also essential to manufacturing, and a symbol of a nation’s power. This is particularly so for Taiwan, which is such a competitor in the international technology industry, and for which design could be the ultimate weapon for distinguishing itself.After taking home award after award at the international level over recent years, is Taiwan’s “aesthetic economy” about to enjoy a new boom? The International Design Alliance-composed of the three main international design organizations Icsid, Icograda, and IFI-has selected Taipei from 19 competitors to host the inaugural IDA Congress this October. Clearly Taiwan’s design skills are already taking their place on the world stage. Every March, the design world is lit up by the “Oscars of design,” the iF Product Design Awards. This year, there were 2,756 applicants from 43 countries, of which 993 were selected for competition. Those 993 included 95 from Taiwan, and out of the 50 products chosen overall for the gold award, seven were Taiwanese, behind only design giants Germany and Japan for numbers. Since 2003, across the four major design awards-iF, red dot, G-Mark, and IDEA-Taiwan has accumulated a massive 1,341 wins. On top of that, of the top 100 companies listed by iF, 12 positions are held by Taiwanese companies, including Asus, Qisda, and Mitac. As you can see, Taiwan is more than holding its own internationally.

Awards as strategy

Renowned cultural critic Chan Wei-hsiung has described Taiwan’s rise in industrial design as “an overnight blossoming after a 40-year night.” In less than a decade Taiwanese design has taken its place on the international stage. Where did the impetus for this rise come from, and how has the wave of awards boosted the industry? “Accumulating awards is a valuable business strategy,” says director of the Taiwan Design Center’s industrial con-sult-ancy team Nina Ay; for a company, awards can raise morale internally and exposure externally, as well as attracting attention from potential clients overseas, making them an excellent avenue for opening international marketing channels. “We musn’t make the mistake of looking at awards as the only indicator of the success of Taiwanese design,” says Kuo Jieh-cheng, chairman of the Chinese Industrial Designers Association, which with a 43-year history is Taiwan’s most venerable such organization. While the string of awards means that Taiwanese designers have the potential to compete internationally, the design industry itself is still relatively embryonic. In Kuo’s analysis, among companies with their own internal design teams, the majority, including Asus and Qisda, are in the well resourced and well founded consumer electronics industry. Generally speaking, companies that set up their own design departments can provide a better environment for fostering design talent and help their com-pany with its long-term direction. Product lines designed internally are often more competitive, and by following this path companies are also exposed to less risk than if they work with outside teams. However, if expense is an issue or demand for design work is low, working with outside companies can add new vitality to product design by tapping the creative energies of specialist designers.

The pyramid of design

According to statistics on Taiwan’s cultural and creative industries published by the Council of Cultural Affairs in 2009, there are a total of 2,470 design companies-including product, graphic, website, and other forms of design-with a total annual revenue of NT$71.2 billion. Of these, 41 companies make NT$100 million or more a year; despite accounting for only 1.66% of the total number of companies, their revenues make up 83% of the industry total. Another 2.8% of the total revenue comes from the 1,904 companies-77% of the industry-making NT$5 million or less. Thus we see that the design industry in Taiwan appears to be a pyramid, with a few large companies at the top and a large number of smaller companies at the bottom. Revenues seem to follow an M-shaped curve, with the majority of the money being split between the largest and smallest companies, but a small percentage going to those companies in between. From this, we see that there is little diversity in what companies and communities demand from design companies, and thus the current industrial environment is not particularly conducive to diversity in the design field. The holder of a master’s degree in industrial design from the Hochschule fur bildende Kunste Hamburg and a former designer with German electronics com-pany Braun, Kuo Jieh-cheng notes that the iF Design Award was originally established to encourage innovation and marketing in industry. In the late 20th century, Korean brand Samsung was able to move from OEM to building its own brand thanks to the boost given to them by receiving the iF award. Design was the crucial element for Samsung building their own brand, and in 1997 they hired a leading American designer to overhaul their design department, helping integrate this side of the business into the overall corporate culture and pointing Samsung toward international success. The company went on to become one of the world’s 20 leading enterprises, with a brand value of US$1.5 billion. As Kuo notes, such awards are particularly helpful for marketing, as companies enjoy the benefits of consumers’ desire to enjoy well-designed products. This then enables the company to invest more in developing new products, creating a virtuous circle. As for Taiwan, Kuo says, “We’re currently stuck at a stage where we rely on these awards for affirmation, but don’t really follow them up with strong production, marketing, and administrative policies.”

Marketing trumps award winning

But just how useful are awards to companies in real terms? This year’s winner of the red dot award was the brand Just Mobile, which makes Apple peripherals. Managing director of Just Mobile Erich Huang says that the award helped improve the brand’s reputation and image, and has certainly been a help to them in breaking into the Euro-pean market. A seven-year-old company, it was only three years ago that Just Mobile began working on developing their own brand, and within their first year they’d moved entirely away from OEM work, accompanied by a boom in their revenues. In 2007 Free-1, the first telephone device to allow Internet calling via Skype, earned its makers IPEVO the iF, red dot, and G-Mark awards. CEO Royce Hong says that having won one award is enough to prove the quality of their designs, and as far as he’s concerned, winning more wouldn’t help much. The exact effects of these awards may be difficult to quantify, but they certainly provide a boost to corporate image. However, any small- or medium-sized enterprise looking to compete for them may want to consider the expenses first.)。 Participating in red dot this year, for example, required a €220 (approx. NT$9,000) registration fee, and winners must also pay for being included in the yearbook, promotion on the official website, presence at the exhibition, and for use of the red dot trademark-a total of €2,250, or about NT$90,000.

Award winner = design powerhouse?

「 “What we have to consider is this: even if we won more awards than anyone else, would Taiwan then really be considered a major design location?” asks Kuo Jieh-cheng. In his book The Language of Things, Deyan Sudjic, director of London’s Design Museum, quoted Italian architect Er-nesto Nathan Rogers, who is best known for his work on the Ve-lasca -Tower in Milan in the 1950s: “Take a close analysis of a spoon, and you could tell the language of design which a society would use to build a city.” Sudjic notes that while at first this may seem a sweeping claim, it is important to modern design, because it shows us that even through something as small as a spoon, some degree of knowledge and information is being imparted, and we can begin to understand the genetic code behind the spoon that could also be the foundation of an entire city’s design. Kuo Jieh-cheng asks why it is that when people think of going on “pilgrimages” for design inspiration, they immediately think of Japan and Europe. His answer is that it’s because from the moment they step off the plane, they see elements of design everywhere, from buildings and urban landscapes right down to shop signs, posters, and the like. A nation’s strength in design must be congruent with its level of development and quality of lifestyle. By way of example, Kuo points to the German public transportation system. Many of the buses and taxis that shuttle along the roads of Germany are Mercedes-Benzes, a German brand with over a century of history. With such vehicles operating as public transport, anybody can enjoy the design and engineering of this luxury brand without having to pay a fortune. This provides a valuable example of design transcending class and becoming part of the community, serving the public.

Strong design, community benefit

With regard to Taiwan’s design industry being stuck at the consumer products stage, the Chinese Industrial Designers Association has begun promoting the concept of “strong design that benefits the community.” Their hope has been to encourage more constructive “design for the public,” which can show the quality of Taiwanese design together with a concern for society and the environment, and thus help improve society. One example of this approach to design was developed by Zhang Ming-shun, a tech company manager. His invention was the kind of pedestrian crossing lights seen throughout Taiwan, with a numerical countdown and an animated “little green man” who runs faster when the light is about to turn red. This simple little design has since been emulated in the US, Germany, and Japan, making it an icon of the power of design to benefit the community. Last year’s Taiwan International Design Competition also focused on this concept. The gold medal winner, student in the Graduate School of Design at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology Huang Xiao-yuan, was inspired by her regular cycling to school and the unexpected dangers of Tai-pei’s lanes, alleys, and intersections; with only convex mirrors on some intersections to rely on, she found it was easy to miss oncoming vehicles thanks to blind spots and environmental obstacles. Building on this, she adapted these mirrors into the “Safe Convex” mirror, to be mounted at intersections with alleys and lanes, including radar and other sensors that can detect oncoming objects at a range of 20 meters, as well as incorporating LEDs to indicate the direction from which the vehicle is coming. In the past, designers only had to concern themselves with the demands and direction of the product being designed over its planned lifetime. Now, though, they need to focus on extending the lifetime of the product, being careful about materials, and minimizing the materials and resources used, rather than pumping out products that waste natural resources and may harm the environment. The response of industrial designers abroad to this growing environmental consciousness, along with the problem of aging societies, was to develop accessibility products such as shopping trolleys and devices to help the elderly put on their clothing. Such “universal design” focuses on designing for a range of age groups and creating products everyone can use. Kuo Jieh-cheng says that Taiwan should emphasize this concept and promote things with a positive impact across socioeconomic, gender, and ethnic boundaries, such as these products that are aimed at addressing the aging society issue. “Only this way,” he says, “can Taiwan shift its focus from wealth to society and earn the respect of the world.”

Redesign to new design

When Philippe Starck, a French design guru known for his childlike perspective, visited Taiwan, he remarked that the biggest problem Taiwanese designers, and designers throughout Asia, face is a “lack of creativity.” If designers lack confidence in their creative abilities, they will continue just copying Western designs, blindly following the mainstream. And if entrepreneurs and management don’t give their designers creative space and instead just wave a photo at them saying “I want one of these!” then there is no room for inspiration. Cheng Jin-dean, associate professor of industrial and commercial design at National Taiwan University of Science- and Technology and a 20-year design veteran, says that this problem is rooted in Taiwan’s OEM history. In the past, management generally didn’t want innovation, and in fact believed that innovation meant risk; instead, they only cared about how to improve on others’ designs in order to profit with minimal expense. Today, though, with the rise of brand consciousness, everyone is aware of the importance of creativity.

So the question is, how do we move forward?

Zheng believes that fostering creativity must begin with design education. For example, in 2004 founder of leading American design company IDEO David Kelley was hired by Stanford University to lead the creation of their Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. In the process, he brought to bear his decades of previous experience and the perspectives that they granted him, distilling them into the creation of a leading graduate course entitled Design Thinking. Put simply, designers should look at their projects from the perspective of ordinary people, rather than simply focusing on aesthetics and functionality. As such, designers should also be encouraged to think about the sourcing of resources, downstream production techniques, and even how to improve lives through commerce. For example, one of Stanford’s courses, entitled Launch Pad, requires students to design a feasible commercial product from scratch in three months.One student, Erica Es-trada, remembered seeing the poverty in small Indian villages during her travels, and that many lacked power and water. The woman in charge of her homestay there would have to fill up a kerosene lamp to go out in the dark to feed their cattle, and if the lamp ran out, she had to grope her way home in the dark, putting her in a dangerous situation. Using her knowledge of opto-electronics and the resources she had available, Es-trada used a soda can as the base of an LED lamp costing less than US$10 to make. In just a year, she sold 2 million lamps, and now she has founded her own company and begun developing low-cost, environmentally friendly solar-powered lighting, and selling products in over 40 developing countries. And Estrada is far from the exception as far as students in this course and commercial success are concerned. This approach has been sweeping through American colleges, with leading schools like Harvard and MIT following Stanford’s lead. Bloomberg Busi-ness-week referred to this as a new and innovative way of thinking that could replace the traditional commercial perspective of business schools.

Supporting design with technology

Starck has also had kind words for the technical skill and support for designers in the Taiwanese tech industry, saying, “If you have a great idea, Taiwan can help you make it real.” Taiwan’s decades of manufacturing and R&D experience may also prove crucial to taking Taiwan’s design industry to another level. At the end of 2010, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Department of Industrial Technology worked with the Industrial Technology Research Institute, the Institute for Information Industry, and the Taiwan Textile Research Institute (TTRI) to form the Dechnology alliance, a project promoting the combination of design and technology. Using Taiwan’s industrial and competitive strengths, the alliance is aiming to foster creative groups and accelerate the development of new products and markets. The winner of this year’s iF gold award, “Fabric Garden,” for example, was a joint effort between the TTRI and founder of Gixia Group Hsieh Jung-ya.Fabric Garden marked the first time gardening broke free of the old limitations of flatness, creating a double-faced, modeled garden out of green modules of organic plants. These modules can be stretched or compressed, and can be molded to fit any kind of gap to create a sustainable garden, as well as creating an artistic effect and fitting in with conservationist ideas. Fabric Garden is not only already in use as the outer wall of the Taipei International Flora Expo’s Pavilion of Dream, it is also the first iF gold medal winner for Taiwan’s research institutions. From “Made in Taiwan” to “Designed in Taiwan,” Taiwan’s industrial world has already begun to realize that design is the soul of a product and a crucial element of corporate policy. As receiving awards becomes less of a novelty and design begins to be recognized for its industrial value, Taiwanese design has already begun to blossom, making Taiwan happier and more beautiful.

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