Technology and tradition – old meets new in modern-day China
SHANGHAI 18 APRIL 2013:The 2013 Interior Motives China Conference got off to a great start last week at its new home at the Hilton Hongqiao in Shanghai. The theme of this year’s event – the sixth hosted by Car Design News’ interior-focused print magazine, Interior Motives – was ‘Technology and Tradition; old meets new in modern-day China.’ Held over two days, it attracted an audience of more than 400 senior designers and automotive media, who were invited to take part in vibrant – and sometimes heated – discussions around a range of compelling topics.
Over 300 multinational delegates were in attendance
Session One: Chinese design in context
Session 1 Gustavo Guerra, chief designer
of the Volvo Group Design Center Shanghai
The first session, chaired by Euan Sey, editor of Interior Motives, examined where Chinese design fits into the regional and global markets and what single trait will define it in years to come. Gustavo Guerra, chief designer of the Volvo Group Design Center Shanghai, put forward the opinion that the sheer scale and diversity of China makes the prospect of establishing a ‘C Factor’ almost impossible to imagine. “China does not need a design ‘C Factor’,” said the Brazilian designer, “China needs brand values, communicated through design.”
In his presentation, Mike Ma, vice president of the Geely Technical Center, explored how design is presented within his company from traditional renders and clay models to new CAD techniques. “We, the designers are living in the great age to create new products with wonderful tools and materials,” he added.
Next to speak was Chen Zheng, vice director of the Changan Design Center. He began by discussing the nature of Chinese design, arguing that it was still “innocent” because the environment is generally immature. On the subject of whether Chinese carmakers should focus on creating international or distinctly Chinese products, he asserted that “design should not be defined by national borders,” but rather is a reflection of the self and a projection of human emotion.
Session Two: ‘Back to Basics’
Session 2 (l-r) Bumsuk Lim,
Xiao Ning, Ren Zhiguang,
and Shao Jingfeng
Session two was chaired by Art Center College of Design’s Bumsuk Lim and followed neatly on from the first by delving deeper into the question of how designers can cater for the needs of Chinese consumers. First to speak was Xiao Ning, co-design director of the Guangzhou Automobile Company (GAC). He stressed the importance of proper research in helping to understand who the consumer really is, and the central role that designers should play in this research. He also pointed out that the results of this research seem to diverge greatly between domestic and foreign brands.
Shanghai Haima’s director of styling, Ren Zhiguang, followed that up with the provocative statement that “home-grown brands are suffering from joint ventures”. His presentation examined the relationship between management and the design team, exploring how designers must help decision-makers move the brand in the right direction. In terms of catering to customer needs, he posited that carmakers should focus on reflecting their personality – particularly on the interior – by blending together inherently Chinese properties such as quiet reflection and moderation.
The final speaker of the session was SAIC design director Shao Jingfeng. During his frank and entertaining presentation, Jingfeng said that the days of trying to apply clichéd Chinese graphic elements such as the Beijing Opera mask into the design of vehicles were over, and that for local brands the most pressing need was not to cater to Chinese consumers but to ask the question “Who am I?” If anyone has an answer to what constitutes Chinese design – let alone good Chinese design – he said, please come and find him, as he would be very interested to hear their thoughts.
Read the full report on the conference on Car Design News: Day 1 and Day 2.
The sponsored Eagle Ottawa cocktail reception was
the perfect time for students and designers to network