Wang Shaoqiang is Founder and Chief Editor of Design 360° Magazine. He publishes an annual design journal called Asia Pacific Design. He is also Chief Executive of Sandu Media and the publisher for Asia Pacific Design Journal which gathers leading design works from China and throughout Asia. Here he shares his insights into the evolution of design in China. The interview is available in both English and Chinese.
The Columnist (TC): Why did you start Sandu Media and what is its purpose?
Wang Shaoqiang (WS): Sandu Media was formed in 2001. Back then, China was undergoing high economic growth and most Chinese designers and agencies were focused on creating their own designs. We started out solely as a design firm. However, I noticed that the country was in need of a platform on which designers could interact and exchange ideas. Because of this, I gradually repositioned Sandu to be more involved in the communication and publishing of design work.
At that time, Mr. Wang Xu was also actively involved in this area. He was of great influence and drove me to start Sandu Media and develop a platform for designers to exchange ideas.
TC: What is the role of Asia Pacific Design and what is the vision behind this publication?
WS: Asia Pacific Design (APD) had its roots with the founding of Sandu Media. 2012 will be its eighth year of running. I aim for the annual publication to be a platform for discussion amongst designers in Asia Pacific. Each year, we call for contributions from designers in China and across the region. The annual publication functions as a historical archive, recording good designs from each year as well as highlighting the outstanding business and cultural designs. APD also aims to demonstrate the creative abilities of forward- thinking designers and agencies. With this in mind, APD keeps its foundations with original designs from China but also incorporates the influence of design works from across Asia Pacific. We aim to create a publication that shapes the design industry in China.
Over the past thirty to forty years, design in China has taken off alongside the country’s economic development and hence is attuned to society’s trends and needs. Aligned with the current social status within China, APD maintains the intentions set when it was established eight years ago, and continue to act as a window for communication between Chinese and global designers. This should also hold for the future as APD strives to continue expanding its reach, growing along with designs from China.
TC: As an observer and curator, how do the Chinese view design nowadays?
WS: With the reforms and liberation of China, design has also entered a new era of development. Inevitably, the development of Chinese designs now face new challenges. For example, the people’s perceptions towards design, as well as its influence on the economy, culture and society as a whole. A balanced evaluation can only be made by historians further down the road.
What does design bring to the people? This is a discussion that has received varied responses over time. For example, designs used to focus on creating economic value, satisfying business’ demands. But today, it has become an active part of the people’s lives. Its impact on public policies and the development of cities should not be overlooked. In modern China, design is only at its initial stages of development. Alongside the sustained economic growth, design is bound to create a broader and further-reaching impact on society.
The Chinese are still nurturing their appreciation for design. There are a handful who have a clear idea, and some who are receptive of it but others might not yet have a deep understanding. I believe that this understanding will improve over time, and the impact of design on the community will form a consensus amongst the people. Design would bring new opportunities to all walks of life, especially in the manufacturing sector.
TC: What has changed in the Chinese design scene in the last 5 years and what can we expect?
WS: Over the last 5 years, the Chinese design scene has clearly experienced steadfast development. Heavy public spending has fuelled the progress of Chinese design. The 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as 2010’s Shanghai Expo and Asian Games in Guangzhou presented the industry with many new opportunities. It brought together designers across different fields and promoted the integration of resources. The importance of interaction and cooperation in design was also increasingly recognised.
One should note that Chinese designs are also gaining popularity in several areas of lifestyle. Upon establishing a strong economic foundation, it will progressively be possible to achieve a better quality of life through design.
TC: Can you name 2 emerging designers in China and why their work will change the industry?
WS: The first would be Guang Yu of Beijing. He is a representative of cutting edge design, and is mainly engaged in the cultural aspects of design. Beijing is the country’s centre of culture and arts, providing designers an excellent environment for growth. Guang Yu is able to tap into the city’s rich culture and incorporate it into his work.
Another would be Chen Fei Bo from Hangzhou. He has a passion for design and love for life. He is an acute observer of market movements and can be considered a “generalist”, creating designs that can be applied to multiple aspects of our daily lives. This includes diningware, fashion, furnishings and other products. His designs are consistent with life and the market’s needs. Chen demonstrates the viability of integrating different types of design.
TC: China is going through another transition in its political leadership, can design play a role in the development of China?
WS: Definitely! Currently, China is focused on manufacturing and has become a leading consumer in the world. But, in China, there is still a lack of strong brands, good design and quality products. In the future, design will become more important to this country. The government is also placing stronger emphasis on this and people are gradually becoming aware of the power of design.
TC: If you could have tea with Vice-President Xi Jinping, what would you say in order to update him about design in China?
WS: I do not think I would be given the opportunity to have tea with Vice-President Xi Jinping. But, if given the chance, there are two things I would like to share with him. Firstly, I would update him on my research data to show him the impact of design as reflected in our country’s GDP growth. Secondly, I would like to share with him the positive influence of design on the people’s lives, in terms of how it has improved the environment and raised the quality of living, making a contribution to a more energetic and positive society. These are the two things I would like to share with Vice President Xi Jinping.
This interview was conducted for The Columnist, a newsletter by Consulus that offers ideas on business, design and world affairs.