Waikit Chung is a true visionary. Co-founder and Editor of the wonderful Product Design Hub, it acts as a community for industrial designers from all over the world to socialize. He Graduated at the Delft University of Technology and currently residing in Shanghai, China. I jumped at the chance to not only pick the brain of a forward thinking designer but get a front row seat to learn about industrial design practices in China. We talk about a variety of topics from, cultural differences, films, to design practices. Scroll below to read the full interview…
Tell us about the Product Design Hub community and what you guys do.
Waikit: I actually started this community with a friend and industrial designer/photographer, Renze Rispens (www.renzerispens.com), in 2004 when we were students at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. We were only running a discussion board until 2009 when we got interested to develop it further with a blog, shop and jobs board. We called it a hub, where industrial designers from all over the world come together to help each others on design feedback or related questions, socialize and share useful resources. Our main job is to maintain a friendly and inspirational environment throughout the different site channels, by moderating and organizing the content in a neat way. I am very thankful for all the contributing designers in our community. Without them, our site wouldn’t be as it is now.
You wear many hats. In your line of business you must cater to both Western clients as well as Chinese clients. How do you deal with these two demographics and what is the biggest challenge?
Waikit: If we are talking about the industrial design scene, then I can tell you the main differences from the perspective of working with Chinese clients. First of all, the design in China is still in its infant stage, which means that most Chinese clients are not experienced enough to understand how to apply the value of design to their maximum capabilities and in an effective manner. Because of this lack of experience and understanding, it is huge challenge for industrial designers here to get respected and work effectively with clients.
[callout]”Globally, we are designing too much, which is sustainably wrong.”[/callout]
Secondly, speed is an important requirement. Competition is fierce in this huge market. Most of the companies are able to bring new products to the market within a very short time, because of the short product development cycles that come with small design improvement requirements. For instance, often companies are only asking for a restyling of their current products, which is the cheapest way to ‘stand out’ from the crowd. So you have to work very fast here, therefore the challenge is to keep up quality within tight time constraints.
How is the current state of Industrial design?
Waikit: Globally, we are designing too much, which is sustainably wrong. We are too dependent on commercial requests and it is a great challenge and responsibility of designers to influence in terms of sustainable product development. And too few manufacturers are willing to invest in that as they are not convinced about the value of sustainable design.
Describe the difference between a concrete thinker and an abstract thinker.
Waikit: [Laughs] You read my blog post, didn’t you? Well, in terms of design, a concrete thinker mainly thinks about how to realize goals within given constraints such as costs and available technologies. An abstract thinker is able to loosen given constraints, and therefore has the attitude to explore many different opportunities to realize the same goals (some people call it ‘out of the box’ thinking). In many design practices, you need both type of thinkers to diverge and converge design solutions to maximize creativity and feasibility.
I’m a huge fan of the design challenges that are featured on your site. It’s a great way to get people involved. Could you tell us a bit about how this came about and some of the feedback you’ve received?
Waikit: Hmmm..I actually don’t remember exactly how it all started, but it was in 2006 when we initiated our very first design challenge. I guess we just thought it was fun to organize a design contest, but in a ‘work in progress’ mode, where designers could receive feedback and improve their designs during the contest timeline. It’s like a mini crowd sourcing approach.
Whatever happened to NoodleZ? Can we expect you behind the strings of a guitar anytime soon?
Waikit: [Laughs] Yeah, I quite miss playing in the NoodleZ band. Well, we quit because we split up [laughs]. Two of the four band members are in Shanghai now, including myself. I still play occasionally at home or in our worship band for the Shanghai International Cantonese Christian Fellowship church (http://shasicf.com/).
If you’re honest with yourself, you probably already know which tools in your box need sharpening. Tell us what you hope to improve or accomplish throughout the remainder of 2011.
Waikit: My Mandarin Chinese absolutely needs more improvement, which help me better communicate with clients here. But most importantly is to become a good loving father of our first expected baby girl in the end of August!
Ok, this is a film site, so we have to ask…do you enjoy Asian films? and since you reside in China, give us your favorite Chinese film!
Waikit: Yeah absolutely, my favorite Chinese movies are almost all of the Stephen Chow comedy movies, which are actually Hong Kong made movies:
But I would strongly recommend ‘Getting Home’ to watch a real good Chinese movie that represents the interesting culture and behavior of many Chinese people:
As a designer myself, I really look up to your accomplishments. Have any advice for someone who wants to take their skillset to the next level?
Waikit: Thank you for that kind and motivating comment. Well, you have to be very passionate, patient, open minded and work very, very hard to improve yourself. And always be humble to ask for help or advice if you are stuck in progressing.
Thank you for your time Waikit, before you go, could you give us a sneak preview on what some Chinese creatives are up too? Any big projects you can share with us?
Waikit: You are welcome! It was a real pleasure to do this interview. Design in China is growing fast and become mature very soon. Chinese creatives are smart, hard working and learning very fast. I expect that Chinese designers will be more recognized by winning more design awards within the next few years.
Want to keep tabs on Waikit Chung, Industrial Design news, or even congratulate him on becoming a new father? Check out his cookie crumb trail below:
*Photo Credits: Speck Design Shanghai Design Studio